It’s one of Calgarians’ favourite ways to spend a hot summer day, but a trip down the river is no small endeavor.
Launching a rubber dingy under the Graves Bridge, for example, typically lands floaters at the access point near Sikome Lake about six hours later.
Lack of boat launches has become a growing problem in Calgary, especially for larger boats, pulled by vehicles.
The city used to have eight public boat launches, but because of flood damage in 2013 and vehicles driving on sensitive sand bars most have been closed.
The Graves Bridge boat launch, for example, closed to vehicles last May.
“Abuse will always be penalized and unfortunately respectful peoples’ use of the river has been penalized by closing this access permanently,” Peter Crowe-Swords with the Calgary River Users Alliance said.
There are just two remaining public access points in Calgary, one near Bowness Park in the northwest and another just past Sikome Lake, on the very south side of the city.
“We have world renowned fly fishing and tourists come from around the world to do this,” city councillor Shane Keating said. “We’re getting into the situation now where they have great difficulty getting onto the river and being able to access this.”
It’s a situation river guides know well.
“We get to the point where we have to do 20 kilometre stretches, 15 kilometre stretches… it takes away opportunities to do trips to, let say, corporate calgary and that sort of thing. So it just makes it that much more difficult,” Mike Day, owner of Iron Bow Fly Shop said.
On Monday, Keating will bring a notice of motion to council asking for administration to prepare a report on river access.
There’s hope increased access and clearer rules may also help river users protect important habitat.
“If they’re not accessing and exiting the river in designated areas then they may be doing it in very sensitive areas or it may be in a fish area or they’re damaging the bank in some ways that causes problems in the future,” Keating added.
“When you look at the amenities that this river provides to the city of Calgary and not being able to get to it on a timely basis, it defeats the purpose of having such a great river in our city.”
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