August 28, 2017 11:44 pm
Updated: September 18, 2017 3:47 pm

Growing popularity of downtown Edmonton’s new ‘accidental’ beach raises questions

WATCH ABOVE: The city's newest attraction is proving to be popular. But as Vinesh Pratap explains, the unintended beach along the North Saskatchewan Rivers is raising some questions as well.

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Initially, the new downtown beach on Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River prompted questions about how it got there in the first place. Now it’s raising questions about how to deal with its growing number of visitors.

The sandy, riverside oasis first appeared in the spring but has seen more and more Edmontonians traverse down steep and potentially dangerous trails down to the beach. Someone even tied a rope to one access point to make it easier for people to get down the hill.

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“It’s a little bit dangerous for the kids I guess but my kids are adventurous,” beachgoer Gerald Wilson said on Monday, adding it was a bit difficult to reach the waterfront spot.

The new beach, just downstream from the Low Level Bridge, appeared out of nowhere when construction crews building the Tawatina LRT bridge had to put temporary rock berms into the river. The contractor is asking people to stay away but the message doesn’t appear to be heeded by those seeking sun and sand in the city.

READ MORE: New downtown beach surprises and excites Edmontonians

Watch below: On Aug. 18, 2017, Fletcher Kent filed this report about Edmontonians discovering a new downtown attraction that just sort of appeared.

Councillor Ben Henderson said the city is still looking at how to deal with the situation.

“I don’t know what the answers are,” Henderson said on Monday. “I mean the problem is the fact that it’s accidental and it’s there and that the people can use them and the city didn’t actually do anything to create it, mean that there weren’t any liability issues that I’d be aware of.”

“You know what? Use at your own risk,” said Tracy Guyon who thinks the beach is “cool” and likes that it’s easier to get to than driving all the way to Wabamun Lake.

A 2012 report done by Alberta Health Services for the city found the river current is too strong.

“I think, and I’m just guessing, I’m not a lawyer and I can’t speak to the liability issues, I think the trick will be to facilitate whatever happens down there without the city taking responsibility about its use as a public beach,” Henderson said.

View a photo gallery of the “accidental” beach below:

The beach is having other effects on the area. A narrow, nearby street was packed with parked cars on Monday, in part, because of people arriving to go to the beach. Several beachgoers Global News spoke to also complained the area was a bit “dirty” and that garbage may become an issue.

“I did see some garbage up and down the beach there,” Wilson said.

Guyon said she believes the garbage accumulating by a larger park just up the hill could become an issue.

“It’s definitely something to look at… as the day progresses, I’m sure the city probably has to change those bins probably two to three times a day based on how much traffic is coming.”

The beach’s popularity has prompted some people, including at least one city councillor, to openly muse about whether the city should consider providing a riverside beach for Edmontonians to enjoy.

Earlier this month, Hans Asfeldt – with the North Saskatchewan RiverKeepers – suggested a city beach isn’t impossible but would take some planning.

“If we’re actually interested in building a permanent beach on the river, we have to be open to what the natural flow is, how it’s going to shape the sand over the season, over the course of the year,” Asfeldt said. “It could be constructed permanently in such a way that the benefits of river access could outweigh the manageable environmental impacts to the river ecology.”

In the meantime, the City of Edmonton told Global News on Monday that “no additional infrastructure will be added to the site” and that it is asking the public to use caution when using trails to access the area.

‘The entry point is not a maintained trail,” the city said in an email, adding it had recently performed some “minor clean-up activities.”

-With files from Vinesh Pratap and Fletcher Kent

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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