The Bow and Elbow rivers are important parts of our community. Each year, thousands take to the rivers in rafts, canoes, kayaks, and drift boats.
At the same time, there are limits on peoples’ ability to access the rivers. Several factors, including the 2013 flood, have resulted in the closure of several hard launch points for boat trailers. While smaller boats can be launched from many places along the river, these spots are not always formalized. There can be challenges with parking and lack of access to bathrooms, garbage cans and other park amenities.
Developing a strategy
Public engagement was conducted through the month of October and November, resulting in the creation of a draft strategy that ensures easier, safer, legal and environmentally-friendly river access to the Bow and Elbow rivers. The draft strategy takes into account river access points, environmental protection, education, and economic opportunities. The draft strategy will be presented to the S.P.C. on Community & Protective Services on February 1, 2017.
Sites being considered:
An additional supporting document for the draft survey is the 2015 Bow River Brown Trout Redd Survey.
Timing of New or Upgraded Sites
All work indicated in the draft strategy is currently unfunded. We are exploring potential funding options and hopes to make some improvements in 2017 and 2018, however it is expected the bulk of the work will be completed after 2019 in the new budget cycle. Priority sites for funding include: West Baker Park, Sunnyside, Inglewood Bridge, Harvie Passage, Ogden Bridge, Graves Bridge, as well as placement of signage along the river.
There is a hard boat launch underneath the Graves Bridge, where Glenmore Trail crosses the Bow River. The 2013 flood significantly changed the riverbank in this area. There is now a large gravel bank between the water and the boat ramp. There have been multiple reports of vehicles driving into the river and along the gravel bar. According to Alberta Environment and Parks, anyone doing this can face fines, Under the Public Lands Act, ranging from $250 up to $25,000.
Our rivers are important ecosystems. Vehicles can introduce oil, gasoline and other pollutants, or create harmful ruts and erosion problems that affect these sensitive areas. To prevent this type of activity, a gate was installed at the Graves Bridge access site. Because we realize that many responsible boaters rely on the Graves Bridge site for river access, the gate will remain open at this time. However, we will monitor the situation, and the gate may be closed and locked if misuse of the gravel bar and river continues. The City is also seeking approval from Alberta Environment and Parks to install concrete barriers that would restrict access to the gravel bar, but still allow for boat launches.