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City installs $100,000 walkway under Ray Gibbon Drive

New walkway bridges oft-flooded path

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 06:00 am

(REALLY) LOW BRIDGE — Public works officials assemble a new $100,000 walkway under Ray Gibbon Drive Wednesday afternoon. The walkway, which was open to the public as of Wednesday, is meant to give residents a way to get to Big Lake safely during the spring when this section of the trail is flooded.
(REALLY) LOW BRIDGE — Public works officials assemble a new $100,000 walkway under Ray Gibbon Drive Wednesday afternoon. The walkway, which was open to the public as of Wednesday, is meant to give residents a way to get to Big Lake safely during the spring when this section of the trail is flooded.
KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

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City residents will no longer need their hip waders to get to the BLESS viewing platform this spring thanks to a new bridge under Ray Gibbon Drive.

City crews assembled a new temporary walkway along the Red Willow trail under the Ray Gibbon Drive bridge Wednesday.

The trail under the bridge is the one of the only legal ways to get to the John E. Poole Interpretive Wetland and the Big Lake Environment Support Society’s viewing platform.

The trail has become impassable for months during the last four years due to flooding, frustrating frequent visitors to Big Lake such as Pat Collins of BLESS.

“Those people have to either turn back or in a number of cases cross Ray Gibbon Drive,” Collins said, placing themselves and drivers at risk. Without the trail, the only way to cross Ray Gibbon legally is to make a four-kilometre trip to the crosswalk at LeClair Way and back.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places in St. Albert, and it’s a shame to be prevented from going there,” Collins said.

BLESS members asked council to put in some sort of walkway over the flooded section of trail back in 2012.

Council agreed in order to give residents a safe, easy way to get to Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park, said Mayor Nolan Crouse.

This is an area to be celebrated, Crouse said. “It’s an area that has so much to offer in terms of beauty, recreation, photography, bird watching (and) animal preservation.”

Public works originally planned to install the walkway at the end of this month, but moved up the schedule due to this week’s warm weather, said Sue Howard, the city’s manager of capital projects.

“There’s still a chance that the weather could get cold (again), but if it doesn’t, at least we’ve got it in there and we’re not trying to set it up while the trail is flooded.”

The city had the walkway custom-built from galvanized steel and aluminium, Howard said. It consists of 21 modular sections each weighing about 136 kilograms (about 2.9 tonnes total).

It’s not tied down, but it should be heavy enough so that it won’t float away, Howard said. The city did consider using a floating bridge, but rejected it as too expensive.

The walkway is about 65 metres long and 1.5 metres wide, and has on-ramps at either end, Howard said. It’s also about a metre high, which is as high as it can be without having people’s heads bumping into the bottom of the bridge.

The walkway should be long enough to handle the worst floods, but it can also be moved or expanded (with the addition of more modules) if needed, Howard said.

Crews have positioned the walkway so that about half the regular path under the bridge is still useable (provided it’s not flooded).

Temporary solution

Howard said public works would likely leave the walkway in place from April to June of each year, as that was when this part of the trail usually flooded. The exact set-up and take-down dates would be weather-dependent.

Howard urged cyclists to dismount before stepping onto the walkway, as it was narrower than a regular bike path, and asked pedestrians to give way to oncoming traffic.

Crouse said the city continues to lobby the province to build a permanent walkway over Ray Gibbon Drive. “We’re doing our part, and the province needs to do its part.”

Collins said he was pleased by the city’s decision and called it a good move. “People will be able to enjoy the BLESS platform all year round.”


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