The city is continuing to discuss the possibility of constructing a permanent beach in one of several areas in the river valley after the popularity of Accidental Beach last year.
City administration brought forward three urban beach-related reports to an Executive Committee meeting Wednesday.
Two of the reports deal with specific aspects of Louise McKinney Park and the potential for river valley connectivity. The third report outlines the opportunities and challenges with the construction of a permanent urban beach in Edmonton’s river valley.
“A large number of beach visitors demonstrated that a more permanent natural beach could be a welcome attraction for many,” the report reads. “Administration recognizes the value of easy, year-round access for people to one of the city’s greatest assets: the North Saskatchewan River.”
Among the issues highlighted in the report are the concerns of residents living near the proposed locations.
Last year, Cloverdale residents voiced concerns over garbage piling up, excessive noise from Accidental Beach-goers, a lack of parking because so many people flocked to the beach, and people defecating on lawns.
“There were cases where people just couldn’t wait to get home and it wasn’t just four-year-olds, it was 24-year-olds,” Cloverdale Community League president Reg Kontz.
The city said it may deploy more peace officers, garbage cans, portable toilets and bike racks to the area this summer.
Mayor Don Iveson said the beach is on probation.
“If this thing is still the wild west a year from now, then I’m not going to be interested in spending money studying on how to make this permanent at all,” he said.
“I think it sends a strong message that people need to be respectful of their neighbours, that we’re in this together,” Kontz said.
Another problem is the high level of bacteria that can be found in the river’s waters. E. coli, especially, could raise serious health concerns for summertime swimmers.
Because of various concerns, including safety, city administrators said ideally the city shouldn’t be working to make a beach along the river more tempting for Edmontonians. However, the report acknowledged that many Edmontonians are likely to go to the beach (if there is one) anyway, and on a practical level the city needs to address the issues that come with that.
Spots being eyed for beach construction are at Big Island, Terwillegar Park, Cloverdale Beach (which most Edmontonians refer to as Accidental Beach), Fort Edmonton Footbridge, Rundle Park and Capilano Bridge. Of these, Cloverdale Beach was picked out as the most viable spot because of how large and accessible it is for people.
Some long-time water watchers are welcoming the chance for more people to experience the North Saskatchewan River.
“As a usable recreational body of water, for in water and on water recreational activities, it’s about as good as it gets,” Cloverdale resident Paul Bunner said.
“If that beach is a place where you’d like to take your children or your grandchildren, then it would be a space that would be comfortable for everyone,” Kontz said.
Accidental Beach began to appear on the North Saskatchewan River last spring. Construction work on the future Tawatina LRT bridge saw crews put temporary rock berms into the river to allow them to work. Sand and silt gathered just downstream and built up as the summer went on.
A sandbank has begun to emerge from the river water already where Accidental Beach was last summer. However, the beach isn’t expected to fully materialize until August, when the water levels decrease further.
With files from Global News Sarah Kraus, Phil Heidenreich and Tim Rauf