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LETTER: Regarding Sturgeon River's safety

"That day last winter, my youngest son, at two years old, was toddling behind me. I am so grateful he listened to and took the hand of my eldest and walked to safety. I am so grateful I was able to get myself out of those hypothermic waters."
letter-sta

I have lived in St. Albert since 2012 and I really appreciated Brittany Gervais' article in the Gazette about ice safety.

I frequent the paths along the Sturgeon River weekly and each winter myself and my family have often walked or gone snowshoeing on the surface. Most summers, we have joked at how slow and lazy the river moves. I too feel like it is a matter of public safety for the City of St. Albert to place clear signage along the banks to deter people from walking on the frozen water.

Last winter, I had a very traumatic experience with my three young children right at the point where the river meets the bridge at Ray Gibbon Dr. I was a few paces ahead of them and broke through the ice and was in over my head. It was a -17 C day and having wandered that spot in years past, I did not even hesitate to expand our exploring by stepping onto the ice.

Until reading Brittany's article, I did not realize the effect of the stormwater outfalls. Each week, our family spends hours outside playing, adventuring and staying active and these are rhythms of our family life that existed pre-pandemic. We know that each time we step foot out our front door, there are inherent risks. I too want to give a strong word of caution to the St. Albert community, especially as we near the one-year mark of this global pandemic and are seeking more outside, solitary spaces away from crowds and foot traffic. Take good care when venturing out on your own and always tell at least one person where you are going.

While I do take responsibility for my own actions last winter, they were not outside the ordinary of what I witness each and every year. In fact, a few days later when I returned to look at the spot I fell in (from the foot-path underneath the bridge) there were cross country skiing tracks a mere two metres away from where I broke through the ice. Especially with the increased usage of these outdoor spaces, I grieve to think of the possibility of a tragedy taking place.

That day last winter, my youngest son, at two years old, was toddling behind me. I am so grateful he listened to and took the hand of my eldest and walked to safety. I am so grateful I was able to get myself out of those hypothermic waters.

City of St. Albert, I urge you to place public signage along the paths and shores of the Sturgeon River. The rejuvenating nature of being outside and experiencing the outdoors in the thick of these long and uneasy days cannot be overstated. I applaud you for making them so accessible to our community, let’s keep them safe as well.

Erika Kobewka, St. Albert