The City of Calgary’s community services committee has recommended the number of access points onto the Bow and Elbow rivers be increased.
The proposal includes an increase in the number of boat launches on the Bow River from three to 10 sites, and an additional 14 sites for smaller crafts such as kayaks and canoes.
The full implementation of the plan would cost more than $7 million, with a price tag of $1.7 million for high-priority areas.
Chris Manderson with Calgary Parks told committee such a plan is needed, because it isn’t feasible to limit the number of users on the rivers.
“It just doesn’t make sense in a city [of] 1.2 million people. I think your benefit is to provide good, sound, sustainable access, using the opportunities to provide better facilities as a way to reach out to people,” he added.
Councillors Shane Keating and Gian-Carlo Carra brought forward the proposal on river access, because of concerns Calgarians may be causing environmental damage while attempting to access the rivers.
“What we were finding is post-flood there were some huge gravel bars and people were simply driving their F-150s out onto the gravel bars and that wasn’t cool,” Carra said Wednesday. “But we certainly didn’t want to, sort of, address that just using a stick because the river is so beloved of so many people.”
Carra said he wants to ensure operational costs don’t get out of hand, while still addressing the issue.
“The fire department is in the river making sure people are safe … and if we can spend a little bit of capital dollars to make sure there isn’t refuse strewn haphazardly, that our river banks aren’t collapsing because of improper access, I think that’s a good argument,” he said.
Councillor Brian Pincott called it an important “first step,” but said efforts need to be made to preserve animal habitats if the plan goes ahead.
“Sometimes where humans like to go is the same place that critters like to be as well,” he said.
The plan received approval from Michael Kenny, president of Calgary River Valleys, who said he’s pleased Calgarians will continue to be able to access the waterways free-of-charge.
“It’s mother nature. It’s right there. One day last year I was sitting on the banks of the Bow River and within several hours, I counted over 2,000 people going by,” he added.
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