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Third Big Lake subdivision planned

Another 4,800 residents will come to the shores of Big Lake under a proposal for a third neighbourhood near Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park.

Another 4,800 residents will come to the shores of Big Lake under a proposal for a third neighbourhood near Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park.

The City of Edmonton is holding an open house on the proposed Big Lake Neighbourhood Three development at the Glendale Golf & Country Club this Wednesday at 7 p.m. The development is the third of five neighbourhoods proposed under the region's area structure plan.

Edmonton approved Big Lake Neighbourhood One in 2008. Now known as Trumpeter, it is located between Big Lake and the Glendale golf course. Construction has begun, says Peter Cavanagh, the project proponent with United Communities, and show homes will be ready in about a month. When finished, the area will house about 4,500 people.

Neighbourhood Two is east of Trumpeter, and was proposed last November by the Rohit Group of Companies. A wedge-shaped site bordered by 137th Avenue, 199th Street and Anthony Henday Drive, it will have about the same number of homes and units as Trumpeter.

Neighbourhood Three is west of Trumpeter and has been proposed by Walton Development and Management. Few details are available, but plan documents suggest it will house about 4,800 people.

The Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) is keeping an eye on all three developments, said member Dave Burkhart, especially their effects on deer and moose habitat. "Habitat for ungulates in the area has been steadily decreasing, and they're being squeezed."

Moose and fern concerns

Neighbourhood Two is a tough place to develop, says Charles Richmond, spokesperson for the Sierra Club of Edmonton. Not only does it contain two provincially protected wetlands, it also features a creek that is part of a major moose and deer corridor between Horseshoe Lake and Big Lake.

That creek will be the only way for ungulates to move through the area once it's built, Richmond notes. His group is concerned about plans to leave as little as 7.5 metres of land on either side of it for moose. "We need far more than that," he says. "When you mix people, bikes and moose, 7.5 metres is not going to cut it."

Rohit plans to use constructed wetlands, municipal reserve, and existing forest to make this wildlife corridor as wide as possible, says Russell Dauk, the company's vice-president of land and communities. The reserved zone should be wider than 7.5 metres in most spots. The company is working with BLESS and the Sierra Club to identify points in the corridor to widen.

That creek also feeds a patch of fiddlehead ferns in Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park, Burkhart says. "If they start disrupting the flow ... it could impact those ferns and they are a significant feature of the park." He called on the developer to work with others in the region and create a common stormwater management plan that would protect water flows to Big Lake.

Engineers are studying the creek to determine its natural flow rate, Dauk says, and will work to maintain it. They are also thinking about using natural vegetation in the form of bioswales to filter stormwater and create animal habitat — a technique also used in Trumpeter.

Richmond applauded the developers for building just one crossing over the stream, as it would make for a more continuous wildlife corridor. Still, it and the other neighbourhoods would build over habitat, which would mean fewer moose and deer in the area.

Big Lake is a beautiful area, Dauk says, and its rolling hills and tributaries will be an essential part of Rohit's development. "It will create a beautiful neighbourhood." He hoped to hold a public hearing on the plan this spring.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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