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Uncertainty surrounds how replacement reservoir will affect Salisbury Park

"We want them to realize that it is such an essential part of the Sturgeon community," resident says

Residents are concerned that plans to replace the Sturgeon Heights reservoir and pump station will drastically change a well-used neighbourhood park.

Constructed in 1957, the current reservoir is located along Sunset Boulevard next to the Vital Grandin school. The oldest structure of its kind in the city, the reservoir needs a full replacement. The city has its eyes set on building the new facility in the adjacent Salisbury Park, though a specific location has yet to be determined. 

Kate Polkovsky, director of utilities and environment, said the reservoir is basically at the end of its usable lifespan. The city is asking council to remove the reserve designations on two lots spanning across Salisbury Park to build the new facility. This would also give the design team and residents some flexibility to pick out the most "realistic location" and "provide as much useable space as possible", Polkovsky explained. 

For example, the facility building could be on one parcel, but the reservoir itself could be built underground on the second parcel.

"It doesn't mean that you can't have a soccer field above it," she said.

To remove the designations, council will need to pass three bylaw readings and host a public hearing. Once that's done, the project can move on to selecting a location with work on the design taking place this spring. The design is expected to cost $720,000. Construction is expected to begin in 2022, with removal and remediation of the old reservoir set for Spring 2023.

The new reservoir will be built before the old reservoir is decommissioned and torn down to make sure water services aren't disrupted during the process, according to the city.

The project is in the early stages, but residents are worried about what this will mean for the future of Salisbury Park. 

Christine Jeske lives right door to the park, closest to the outdoor ice arena. Her family has lived there for nine years, and said they bought their house because of how close it was to the park and school.

"Knowing that they are going to move it somewhere within the park is just a little bit worrisome for us, and disappointing because we see so many users of the park. We use it every single day," Jeske said.

She said the city's request to remove the reserve designation is concerning, as residents don't know what will happen to the ice arena, soccer fields or the baseball diamond there once construction starts.  

"We're waiting on what they have to say and do, and we understand that it's a process. But we want them to realize that it is such an essential part of the Sturgeon community," she said.  

Even though she lives minutes away from the park, Tracey Mitford said she wasn't notified because she lives outside the 100-metre radius required. Instead, she heard the news from a friend. Mitford said she is worried the Sturgeon neighbourhood will only see more green space and recreational options cut back with this project. 

"It's not just going to be the properties in that vicinity of the park. It's going to be all of ours," Mitford said. She has taken her dog Charlotte to the park every day for the past 12 years with neighbours. "We were all just devastated." 

Polkovsky said part of the engagement process will be to ensure the integrity of the park is protected once the project is done. Parts of the park will likely be closed during construction, but other sections will still be open for use, she said. 

"The intent would be that we rehabilitate the park, and we leave it in a better situation than we (found) it, and a very similar use would be in place going forward." 

Does the new reservoir have to go in Salisbury Park? Polkovsky said yes, because it's the location that makes the most sense when looking at the bigger picture.

St. Albert's water pressure is based on how the city's three reservoirs work together, and Sturgeon's reservoir is a "very unique one," she explained. The existing reservoir provides input pressure from Epcor to the city, which then works in partnership with the Lacombe and the Oakmont reservoirs to provide reliable water and ensure all the city's hydrants are functioning properly. 

"You change the location of your reservoirs, and you have to change everything downstream in terms of the other two reservoirs and how they function."

Polkovsky said council could see first readings of the bylaw on June 8. A date for the public hearing will be set after first reading. 

Brittany Gervais

About the Author: Brittany Gervais

Brittany Gervais joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2020. She writes about city hall, business, general news and features.
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