Town moving ahead on creation of beach area beside lake

A sandy play area may be created for youngsters beside the waters of Sylvan Lake this season

A sandy play area may be created for youngsters beside the waters of Sylvan Lake this season after councillors agreed to proceed with one of two sites proposed.

The next step is to make a formal application to the province for approval to create the area in the provincial park.

It would be located at the southeast end of the pier in the low area which slopes to the water.

The town’s plan also includes installation of a post and rope fence to keep traffic heading to the pier away from the sand.

A second area was proposed for a sandy beach area on higher ground further east above the retaining wall, south of the trail and west of the first washroom. But that area was nixed by councillors because it would require removal of three trees.

Ron Lebsack, the town’s director of recreation, parks and culture, said the area would require the removal of grass turf and three spruce trees which he estimated are 12-15 years old and 4 1/2-5 inches in diameter. The town would plant six trees somewhere else to replace those cut down.

“I don’t want to cut any more trees this year,” said Mayor Susan Samson. She also added the drawback from the higher location was that the most common way to get into the water would be jumping off the retaining wall.

Talking about the preferred area beside the water, Samson said, “it’s probably among the busiest areas in the park. Let’s start off on a trial basis and monitor it for success and maintenance.”

“I don’t want to remove trees just to build a big litter box,” said Councillor Rick Grimson.

Councillor Laverne Asselstine agreed that rejecting the area above the break wall was a good idea. Of the other area, he said, “I know lots of moms and children use that area to access the lake without problem. Sand there would clean it up. Anything to improve the area that’s popular with moms and tots.”

“I agree with placement of the sand,” echoed Councillor Sean McIntyre. “I would love to see the beach back to its former glory but I don’t want to remove trees.”

He was also concerned about what would happen to the area when it’s opened as a route to the lake in the winter. McIntyre suggested the town look at a type of rig matting or else consider scraping the sand off in the fall and replacing it the following spring.

“Access to the lake in winter is crucial,” said Councillor Dale Plante. “We have to find a way to make this successful in both seasons.” He added, “I see a much bigger picture, a much bigger beach across the retaining wall.”

The area beside the water has been tilled by the town during maintenance work but it’s more clay than sand currently. Lebsack proposed covering it with 8-10 inches of sand at a cost of about $18,000.

The town had budgeted $25,000 and hoped the province would kick in some money. But Lebsack said there will be nothing coming from the province.

During council’s meeting Feb. 25, Lebsack also presented a report on the potential for dredging sand from the lake to create a beach on the lake side of the sea wall.

That’s a no go, according to his report.

Town staff made a written request to Alberta Tourism, Parks & Recreation – Parks Division requesting its position if the town submitted a formal application.

“From an environmental perspective, the dredging of sand from the lakebed would not be approved,” replied Grant Santo, Operations Manager – East Central Region. “Although this type of activity occurred in the late seventies and early eighties it is no longer an approved activity for this type of project.

“The introduction of sand to create or enhance beachfront can increase sediment loading into the waterbody and potentially impact habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Introduction of material from an outside source is generally not approved within provincial parks as it may impact the natural environment by introducing weeds, invasive plant species and/or deleterious substances to the area.”

He added, “we have a recent example of a similar failed project in 2004 when a local business imported approximately 12 truckloads of sand along the shoreline of Sylvan Lake Provincial Park, albeit, without any authorization.

The sand that was imported to create a beach lasted less than two years. Rising lake water level, combined with normal high wind and wave activity removed all the imported sand.

A contributing factor to this was the sea wall that the waves rebounded against, subsequently pushing  and back into the lake.”