|Fish Creek Provincial Park officials will release their plan for new pathways and bridges to replace those wiped out due to flooding at two open houses in February.
The park suffered an estimated $7.5 million in damage after heavy flooding last summer. Urban planning specialist Wayne Meikle says the flooding destroyed about 40 per cent of the parks pathways and seven bridges. Other bridges were damaged and still have to be repaired.
Meikle says Fish Creek is now a completely different waterway than it was before the flooding and the park is permanently altered.
"What it did was actually change the creek from a prairie creek a very slow moving creek where sometimes you have water and sometimes you dont to now its very fast flowing and its deep and in some areas theres some great pools," says Meikle. "Its like a mountain stream in a lot of ways. Theres rapids and fast moving water."
The upside is that the creek now provides better habitat for fish because of its faster flow, and all the accumulated sediment has been washed away. But Meikle says the challenge is that the creek is wider so bridges will have to be longer as well and many pathways are now under water.
"The valley is completely changed," he explains. "A lot of people have adapted to the changes and for some its like a brand new park for people to come to, brand new opportunities and experiences, but a lot of people would like to see the main pathways and the main corridors restored so we can start moving people east and west and north and south through the park again."
Meikle says parks officials have taken a close look at where its appropriate to build bridges and pathways due to the fact that flooding will occur again. He says one pathway has had to be replaced three times in the past 10 years because of flooding.
"Were going to really look at where we put the pathways so we dont constantly have to replace them."
The flooding has also given parks staff an opportunity to protect more of the habitat along Fish Creek and the Bow River because many of the pathways along the waterways have disappeared, says Meikle.
"We consider the habitat along the creek and river as our prime habitat
. Thats one reason were going to take some of the pathways away from the creek to enhance the banks and the habitat," he explains.
Parks officials are also considering increasing the number of paved pathways because many commuters use Fish Creek to cycle to and from work.
Meikle says pathway and bridge construction will likely take at least two years to complete.
"The next two to three years, counting this year, will be major construction areas in the park, so we ask people to be patient, but I think theyll be very happy with what comes out," he says. "This will be a more exciting place to explore and actually sit and watch the water because theres rapids and faster water flow and better fish habitat, and itll be a number of years before the sediment starts coming back in and its a prairie creek again."
The dates for the open houses havent been released yet. Meikle will be giving a public presentation on the changes at Fish Creek since the flooding on January 14 at the Fish Creek Public Library. The presentation takes place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.