Participation by Lacombe County could save public fishing at Niemela Dam, suggested property owner Ernie Beskowiney, during a presentation to county councillors last Thursday.
Until recently, the area has been looked after by Sylvan Lake Fish & Game Association, said Beskowiney. But he added, “there’s not as much interest there, the capacity to look after it.”
The popular fishing spot was developed in the late 1960s, mainly by the fish and game group, and has been stocked with trout regularly through provincial government programs.
It was originally leased from Mr. and Mrs. Niemela who owned the land at that time. When he purchased the quarter section, Beskowiney said he allowed the role to continue. “Everything was working fine until the last five years or so. The last few years maintenance has become quite let go in regards to garbage, grass mowing, keeping it tidy. The club is at the stage it can’t do it.”
Beskowiney said he’s at the stage of barricading off the parking area and letting it go.
Then last month when talking to Mr. Hanson, who’s also researching possible changes to their pond, “all of a sudden there was a glimmer of hope maybe this can be salvaged still”.
Beskowiney proposed the county lease the property — just over 10 acres in the middle of his quarter section — and handle maintenance and liability insurance.
“Liability is my main concern,” he said.
Asked if there are still fish in the pond, Beskowiney told Councillor Cliff Soper, that it’s been stocked annually. He also indicated there’s ice fishing during the winter. One area of the pond is as much as 28 feet deep and the water body is fed by springs so fish survive over winter.
“The pond is totally naturally self-sustaining. Fresh water shrimp maintain the fish.”
He estimated the pond is well used. During the summer there are four to five vehicles there from early morning and weekends are busier with the parking lot full of families. There’s also a wheelchair access for fishing.
“I’m certainly very much in favour of having the county discuss this and seeing what we can do to keep it open,” said Soper.
“I hope we can work things out. I’d like to see this amenity in the community continue,” added Councillor Dana Kreil, who said her husband used to bike there to fish.
County staff will review the request and bring a report back to council for further discussion.