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Council pushes to form Beaver Boardwalk committee

Gabe Roberts Photo

Masha Scheele

Terms of reference on a Beaver Boardwalk committee will come back to council no later than June 18, in order for select council members to work with boardwalk users, Alberta Environment & Parks (AEP), and administration and bring more information back to council to make better informed decisions.

A decision to go ahead with a committee was made at the standing committee meeting on May 14, along with a decision to focus existing budgeted maintenance dollars on sections that are currently open.

Regarding the separate issue of a bridge access solution, council did not reach a long- term decision, prompting administration to go ahead with stairs to the bridge as a temporary solution.

Permanent solutions suggested by administration were AEP approved gravel ramps with a comprehensive landscape restoration plan, or boardwalk style ramps sized based on emergency support vehicle access or pedestrian access only.

“In that meeting with AEP where they indicated that a first strategy, gravel could in fact be part of the overall plan again provided we go through the appropriate process and that it’s approved,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn.

Council also requested a report detailing wetland replacement based on the Maxwell Lake area, including the boardwalk and bridge.

“One of the missing pieces through this whole process has been, the wetland value. We recently learned what the relative value is, it’s a class A wetland, which has a pretty significant impact on the decisions that we make. It also affects the costs if we want to go down the path of replacement or offsets, which is something that is within legislation and something we really haven’t discussed,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson.

Council, administration, Alberta Environment & Parks (AEP) representatives and ISL Engineering representatives sat down on Wednesday April 24 to discuss regulatory requirements and learned that a wetland replacement fee based on wetland value is required for the permanent loss of wetland area and relative wetland value, which is what council will see come back in a report regarding the Maxwell Lake area, including the boardwalk and bridge.

For maintenance and reparations of the boardwalk, the town requires and is applying for a Water Act approval, council directed this work to focus only on sections that are currently open.

The current structure is not in compliance with the Alberta Building code, is not accessible for wheelchairs, has a heightened liability risk, and a higher repetitive annual cost and short life cycle factor, stated Hans van Klaveren, interim director of community services.

Photo provided by Town of Hinton

The warping, slumping, and heaving boardwalk in various locations forced administration to close certain sections last month, and van Klaveren presented which sections could potentially be shut down or removed moving forward.

“I don’t see any problem in eliminating certain sections where it’s duplicating access to a certain area, and they can be eliminated without seriously affecting the functionality and the enjoyment visitors have when using the Beaver Boardwalk. Some of the sections Mr. van Klaveren pointed out earlier in the meeting are in disrepair are just as easily accessed from other sections of boardwalk,” said Coun. Albert Ostashek.

Council agreed that they would need more information, such as a look at cost of removing sections compared to remediating sections, before making a decision.

Administration stated that one time repairs are not adequate to maintain the boardwalk for public use, and added that reserve funds used for annual repairs could be better utilized as the current $60,000 per annum is not sufficient to manage active deficiencies.

Various environmental implications come along with maintaining the current structure, such as additional vegetation damage, potential wildlife avoidance during construction, and a repetitive regulatory approval process for access and repairs being required on a constant basis.

In the past twelve years, maintenance work has been done without approval from AEP, including replacing deck boards, lifting sections to place supporting blocks beneath, or cutting off posts that have pushed out.

“The approval has to be put in right now, we are doing that right now. Chances [are] that we don’t get a ‘yay’ on that approval even in this year, the likelihood is that we don’t get that this year. For basic maintenance we need a full Water Act approval,” said van Klaveren.

Council did not decide to go ahead with the Remediation Pilot Project that administration presented, which would include replacing the support structure with screw plies and the existing or a new and wider decking in both a complicated and not complicated section allowing administration to gather real life data to decide if complete remediation is a viable option.

The pilot project would cost approximately $50,000 for the studies, workplan, submission, engineering, and detailed design which are necessary for AEP approval, furthermore the construction work would cost between $100,000 and $350,000, according to administration.

This project would have to avoid the migratory bird nesting window, which runs from mid-April to late August, and winter removal may be difficult or impossible at times as sections of the boardwalk are currently submerged in water.

The ISL memorandum stated that AEP may not allow Water Act approvals for a structure that was constructed without approvals in the past and AEP will not retroactively approve a project.

The existing Beaver Boardwalk in Hinton was constructed by community volunteers, user groups, and sponsors from the local business community in 2006, without AEP approvals.

A public open house will be held on May 23 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm to share your feedback on the Maxwell Lake Recreation Area Plan. A feedback tool for the area plan will launch on the Town of Hinton website on May 17.