Residents want return of stairway to lake at end of their street

A stairway to the lake may be in the future for residents of the 35th Street area.

A stairway to the lake may be in the future for residents of the 35th Street area.

They received support for their quest after a delegation appeared at Sylvan Lake’s council meeting Monday evening.

Gavin Fick said it became obvious when construction was finished earlier this year that the access area residents had enjoyed for over 50 years had been removed and wasn’t being replaced.

He encouraged councillors to “right one of the most obvious mistakes made in the whole redevelopment of Lakeshore Drive area”.

“It’s patently unfair what’s been done in this area,” Fick said.

John Law, who called himself one of the biggest supporters of what council has done on Lakeshore Drive, said he’s “pretty upset with the lack of access at 35th Street”.

He complained about the lack of detailed information in town plans to give residents advance notice of what was planned, the increased distance of walking to another access and liability issues from people jumping over the retaining wall that’s now at the end of 35th Street.

“This is a tragedy that needs to be fixed,” he said.

Mayor Susan Samson indicated she and staff had met with the group before and she’d explained the environmental impact and shoreline erosion in that area was an important consideration and Alberta Parks representatives were discouraging use of the area.

Law suggested the stairs be built parallel to the walkway instead of perpendicular and very little environmental damage would result. “Sylvan Lake is growing, there’s nothing you can do that’s going to stop people going in that area. As the area around Centennial Park gets congested people are going to move further east. People are going to find their way down to the beach.”

He also noted that for some of the older residents or those with children walking an extra block along Lakeshore to access the lake is onerous. And if a washroom is needed, with the #3 washroom closed that means walking back to their residences. (Later in the meeting Ron Lebsack, director of community services, stated the #3 washroom will be recommissioned as soon as the province deems the landscaped area around it is okay from a liability standpoint.)

Tim Schmidt, director of planning and development, told councillors that to make any changes they’d have to negotiate with Alberta Parks for permission to encroach on their land. “After talking to Alberta Parks, essentially from 40th Street to 36th Street they allowed encroachment for these accesses. They were opposed from 36th to 33rd Streets. Parks identified that area to go back into a natural environment and for shoreline protection since various parts of the shoreline were eroding.”

About towers, which some people inferred were to indicate accesses to the lake, Schmidt said they are public art and identify intersections. They will also contain history information boards as part of the town’s legacy trail.

Following extensive debate councillors directed staff to approach Alberta provincial parks officials about the possibility of constructing a stairway from Lakeshore Drive so residents can access the park from the end of their street instead of having to walk a block west. Staff were also asked to provide costs to councillors.

Not all councillors were in favour though. Mayor Susan Samson and Councillor Laverne Asselstine voted against the motion.

Asselstine was concerned about the cost of breaking down the recently constructed retaining wall to install stairs.

Samson related to her involvement with Sylvan Lake Management Committee which is charged with promoting a healthy lake and enhancing the lake. “One of the things we’re most concerned about are high lake levels and shoreline erosion. What I see from 36th to 33rd Street is narrowing of the shoreline there because of high lake levels.” She added, she’d seen people removing the armouring installed to prevent erosion and even one man digging into the shoreline. What the province is doing is allowing the shoreline to grow in. “I suggest we wait, leave the area untouched with access points as they are for five years.”