Zero COVID-19 related tickets issued in Hinton

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

No COVID-19 related tickets have been issued in Hinton since April 9 when parameters to support the Local State of Emergency (SOLE) became enforceable.

The Town of Hinton gave its residents a grace period of seven days from the time a SOLE was declared until restrictions and safety measures were enforceable.

Level one and two Peace Officers of the Protective Services Division under the Public Health Act or Emergency Management Act, as well as RCMP via the Municipal Bylaw Enforcement parameters or the provincial restrictions can issue tickets for noncompliance of the COVID-19 measures.

“Community response has been mostly positive and collaborative, with some questions for further information,” stated Josh Yaworski, public information officer of Hinton’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

Beyond the town website, social media, print ads, posted signage, and infographic distribution to educate the public, Peace Officers have been engaged in community monitoring and patrols.

During the grace period following the declaration of SOLE, peace officers spoke to residents and businesses about the new measures.

All essential services, which are directly impacted by the new measures, received a letter with detailed parameters of restrictions that would impact their business. 

Yaworski added that this education is continuing, with enforcement actions occurring only in areas of flagrant defiance or intentional disobedience rather than misinterpretation based on officer discretion.

Yaworski also added that off leash areas for pets are recommended to be on-leash, but are not a parameter of the SOLE.

The Town of Hinton did not respond before The Voice deadline on which other restrictions are considered recommendations.

Alberta has 70 hospitalizations, as of April 22

Graph from the Government of Alberta website shows numbers of current COVID-19 patients in hospitals– ICU, and non-ICU

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

COVID-19 still a serious threat despite low hospitalizations, says Premier

The good news for Albertans is that while the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has risen recently, it is still well below the projected modelling released two weeks ago by Alberta Health Services.

The bad news is that, while it may be tempting to think the problem has gone away because the numbers are well below projections, Dr. Deena Hinshaw warned that the virus still needs to be taken seriously.

Premier Jason Kenney reiterated those sentiments, stating that the speed at which the province can reasonably look to get the economy going again will depend on how diligent Albertans are with precautions.

“If we stay vigilant, and disciplined about practicing rigorous personal hygiene and staying home as much as possible and maintaining physical distancing, wearing a face covering in all crowded spaces and observing all the public health orders, we’ll be able to look at cautiously restarting the economy,” said Premier Kenney.

Alberta has 70 hospitalizations due to the virus, with 18 in the intensive care unit according to the latest update  April 22.

Alberta continues to send medical equipment to harder-hit provinces like Quebec who currently have over 1300 patients in hospital and over 200 in intensive care.

This week the province will send 25 ventilators to Quebec to areas where they are most needed.

Kenney said Quebec is about three weeks ahead of Alberta’s curve and equipment will be returned to Alberta once they are past that curve. Alberta has hundreds more ventilators than the province expects to need even at the peak of the pandemic.

“We currently have about 600 ventilators on hand, and on any given day, about a hundred people, both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related patients are using ventilators,” said Kenney.

There was also a call for volunteers and an announcement of a new tool, Alberta Cares Connector, to connect Albertans with volunteer opportunities.

The Northern Lights Volunteer Awards was also launched by the province, to honour everyday heroes in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Honourees will be nominated by fellow Albertans and selected for profiling on the program’s website and through social media.

There are no requirements for hours of service, and any individual or group who helps out in their community is eligible for an award. Nominations will be accepted online on an ongoing basis and require a brief story about the nominee’s contribution.

In other government updates this week, Health Minister Tyler Shandro stated April 20 that continuing care facilities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic across the country. About half of deaths in Canada due to COVID-19 are occuring in continuing care facilities and 330 cases have been reported in these facilities in Alberta.

New funding was announced for continuing care for increased health-care aide staffing levels, along with a wage top-up of an additional $2 per hour for health-care aides, and up to 1,000 paid student practicum positions to fast-track certification and get more staff into our continuing care facilities. Additional staff will help deal with staffing shortages across the system, stated a provincial news release.

These new measures are estimated to cost an additional $7.3 million per month and are specific support for the pandemic period. The province also advanced $24.5 million to operators to help address immediate cost pressures due to COVID-19.

On April 17, Kenney said the $1 billion federal energy stimulus package, a partnership to address inactive wells, will immediately save or create thousands of jobs and keep energy service companies going. 

Alberta Health is working with employers and Alberta Health Services to expand testing to asymptomatic residents and staff in continuing care facilities and outbreak sites. 

Alberta’s testing capacity has rapidly expanded and anyone with symptoms anywhere in the province can now be tested.

Those with symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, or shortness of breath, should complete an online COVID-19 self-assessment.

As of April 17, Alberta’s testing capacity was at approximately 7,000 samples per day, and the laboratory network is working to increase this capacity.

More than $13 billion has already been committed to the COVID-19 response by the provincial government.

A provincewide clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 in those people at the highest risk of developing severe symptoms started on April 13, and on April 14 the province accelerated construction of five new schools to help get Albertans back to work.

Library getting resources, programs to the people

Hinton Library Photo
Astrid Ramos, librarian at the Hinton Library, hosted a special guest during the April 17 edition of Storytime Live!, which takes place every Friday at 10 am on the library’s Facebook page.

Tyler Waugh

The Hinton Library has prided itself as a third space – a home away from home for many and a focal point of cultural and literary programming.

Usage has increased and the library had been welcoming more visitors than ever within its four walls. But now, with the onset of the COVID pandemic, the challenge isn’t getting more people inside their four walls, but rather getting its programming and resources outside the four walls to the people.

“When it first happened and the doors were closed it was a challenge for us. It was almost like ‘what do we do now’. It was like that for a lot of people, a lot of libraries,” said Anayo Ugboma, manager of library services for the Hinton Library.

But the library has rolled with the challenge, despite more limited staff, and has seen success taking some of its programming online.

“We needed to transform programs to an online audience and we are doing what we can to offer those programs in a way that will engage our residents,” Ugboma said.

“At the end of the day our goal is to continue to promote literacy.”

The Storytime Live! sees kids of all ages join in on Facebook live as staff read stories, sing songs and recite rhymes during an  online library story time held Fridays at 10 am.

The first Storytime gained 1,000 views and the second one saw an increase to 1,100 views. 

“It’s been a success, really. We are happy to see the numbers continue to grow,” Ugboma said.

Another online program is the STEAM Club, which takes place Thursdays at 1 pm via Facebook live and sees staff complete science, technology, engineering, art and math experiments that can be followed at home.

Community Reads (#hintonreads) is a collaborative video project where Hintonites come together to read a story aloud. This is done via YouTube and Facebook and is uploaded every last Wednesday of the month at 9 am.

A Novel Idea Book Club holds a zoom meeting every third Wednesday of the month at 1 pm.

The library is also hosting a mid-week family movie with Netflix Viewing Party programming every other Wednesday at 12 pm. That same program is used to host an Anime Club every Tuesday at 1 pm to watch anime episodes and chat in real time.

And while the library ups its virtual game, it has also created partnerships to get some of its tangible resources out in the community.

Feed The Need To Read sees free library books available for pickup at community partner locations including Walmart, Freson Bros. Hill and Freson Bros. Valley.

“There are spaces there that we drop off baskets of books and you take it and it’s yours to keep,” said Ugboma, stating that the books that are distributed are ones that were donated for fundraising, but that have been repurposed to keep the community reading. 

“The books aren’t part of the our formal collection.”

Library hours where staff are available to answer calls and monitor emails and social media are Monday to Friday from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm. 

Overdue fines will not accumulate during the COVID closure, and any items on hold will remain at the library and patrons will have the opportunity to pick up their holds once the library is once again open to the public.

Library electronic resources are available with a full list of e-resources at Contact the library for more program info at (780) 865-2363.

Child care open for essential workers in Hinton

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

The province has approved the reopening of the Hinton Kids for Success Child Care facility to provide childcare for essential workers. 

The facility previously provided a licensed out-of-school care option for children ages 5-12, and can now provide care for up to 24 children.

Four Hinton Kids for Success staff will be called back to work that had been temporarily laid off when the facility closed in March. Additional safeguards for the program include reducing the number of children per room, additional cleaning and sanitization measures, and policies surrounding children and staff not attending when sick.

Online registration opened on April 22 and care will commence on April 27. A release from the Town stated that eligible parents should only access this childcare if it is the only way they can go to work in an essential services sector.

All licenced childcare facilities, including daycares, out-of-school care, and preschool programs were closed by the Government of Alberta in March. Home-based non-licensed childcare providers were exempt from the closures as they have fewer children in their care. 

Approved family day homes also remain open but are restricted to a maximum of six children, not including their own children. Allowing them to remain open provides additional childcare spaces for people who need to continue to go into work or have children at home due to school closures.

The Town submitted a request to reopen the Hinton Kids for Success Program after the province expanded the list of essential service workers for whom the availability of childcare was necessary. 

A letter to the Minister of Children’s Services demonstrated that there was a need in the community, stated Josh Yaworski, Hinton’s EOC public information officer. 

“This demand was summarized from a scan that we completed among critical frontline service agencies such as Alberta Health Services, RCMP and Fire Rescue,” Yaworski said.

Enhanced sanitation practices are required by all child care providers. These practices include cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, having hand washing facilities or hand sanitizer available to children, not allowing sick visitors and children to enter, and ensuring visitors wash their hands frequently.

Essential service workers should contact the Hinton Kids for Success Program at (780) 740-8064 or register online on the Hinton Kids for Success webpage.

The program will operate on a first-come-first-served basis if there are more than 24 applicants. These conditions have been set by the province.

Care is offered between the hours of 7:45 am and 6 pm. To access care through an approved family day home, use the Child Care Lookup on the Government of Alberta website.

Rodeo cancelled, Föhn and WMMF up in the air

File Photo

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Both Hinton’s River Valley Riding Association (RVRA) fundraising auction and the 24th Mary Reimer Memorial Rodeo have been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The date for the fundraising auction, held in April every year, was originally pushed back after COVID related restrictions were announced in mid-March.

The fundraising auction kicks of the preparations for the rodeo and organizers felt it wasn’t fair to ask their sponsors for money during this time. During a silent live auction, the main sponsorships for the different chutes and the centre gate can be auctioned off for upwards of thousands of dollars depending on the year. 

“We just have so many faithful sponsors in Hinton that are mostly small businesses. It just broke our hearts to suggest asking them for money at this time,” said Shauna Cruden,  RVRA member and rodeo organizer.

She added that if people can revitalize the local economy, the rodeo could be OK again in 2021.

“I think definitely a small community like Hinton will be hurting for some time over this. We may have to change around how we do things,” Cruden said.

Pushing back the auction later into the year in 2021 may give people more time to rebound, she added.

With no idea of when restrictions on gatherings would be lifted, the association didn’t want to go ahead with planning, sponsorships, and booking everything for the rodeo if there was any chance they would be forced to cancel later. 

Cruden said the association may be able to go ahead with a few events throughout the summer like the barrel series, Gymkhana, and a poker ride. 

Even though the Mary Reimer Park, which includes the RVRA facilities, is currently closed due to the Town’s COVID restrictions, decisions to host those smaller events can be made on a shorter term. RVRA doesn’t have control over how long Mary Reimer Park remains closed, and Cruden added they have no idea if it could last all summer.

This closure also affects memberships of RVRA as their main benefit is access to the arena at Mary Reimer Park.

“It really affects the local community because if you don’t have an arena at home, you’re relying on that Mary Reimer facility and there’s nobody in there riding now,” Cruden said.

Cruden added that while there are other ways to get a horse in shape for rodeo season, many rodeo competitions have already been cancelled.

“It’s really unfortunate, [cancelling the rodeo] was such a big decision for us to make. It breaks our heart for our stock contractor as well, John Duffy, he’s been our stock contractor from the beginning and most of his rodeos this summer are cancelled so that’s a huge hit for him,” Cruden added.

Along with the Mary Reimer Memorial Rodeo, Brule’s rodeo has also been cancelled and the Medicine Lodge rodeo has been postponed until May 2021.

The Brule Ruffout Rodeo, slated for early May, cancelled for the first time in its 53 year history, the group stated in an online post. This year is also the first time since its inception that the Mary Reimer Memorial Rodeo, which was to be held in late July, is cancelled.

Preparations for the auction had already begun with booking a facility and putting together sponsor letters. The band and the stock contractors were also already booked for this year’s rodeo.

Other local events like the Fohn Festival, which draws thousands of people to Green Square each July 1,  are closely monitoring the COVID situation.

Fohn Fest organizers are meeting to discuss the changing regulations in the coming days and Morgan Roberts, chair of the Föhn Fest, added that at the end of the day the decision may be out of their hands anyway.

Wild Mountain Music Fest, which also draws a few thousand people over the course of a weekend,  stated that they would be making an announcement about their July 17 -19 event soon.

*Wild Mountain Music Fest and Hinton’s Fohn Fest have since been cancelled.

Organized sports shelved/delayed due to COVID

File Photo
Hinton Minor Baseball is among the handful of sports and recrational organizations that have either cancelled the 2020 season, or have acknowledged that the season may ultimately be cancelled down the road.

Tyler Waugh

With the sun out and the temperature rising, this is the time in Hinton when thoughts usually turn to a new sports season.

But 2020 will likely best become known as the year where the coaches’ whistles fell silent on the diamonds, gridirons, pitches and pools across Hinton.

Minor sports associations have over the past week or so been announcing that their spring and summer seasons will not move forward due to COVID.

The Hinton Wolfpak six-man football team is usually gearing up to begin its spring camp and jamboree season – one that has seen significant growth in the past few years and one that helps develop players for the fall regular season squad. But Football Alberta has shut down all activity until further notice.

“Yes, it is disappointing considering the momentum we had built up from the past season and opportunities lost to our four graduating players as far as being (unable) to compete in the all-star game,” said longtime head coach Chris Johnstone.

“No insurance will be covered by Football Alberta so our spring camp scheduled for May 4 is on hold. I haven’t talked to John Holuk, our new president, about a game plan as we don’t know how long these social isolation orders will be in place.”

The Hinton Water Devils have also cancelled its 2020 season, which usually begins in May and runs through until provincials in August.

Jenny Sigsworth, president of the Hinton Water Devils, said the decision to cancel the season was made by its sanctioning body, the Alberta Summer Swim Association.

“It wasn’t’ up to us. It’s tough but it was expected,” she said, adding that the Water Devils had a head coach and assistants in place and ready for the season, and also a strong board of directors and enthusiastic fundraisers.

“It’s disappointing, we had things in place for a really great year, hopefully we can keep it in place for next year.”

Hinton Minor Soccer, which has the largest annual registration numbers for the spring/summer season, announced in an April 22 post that it is cancelling the 2020 season.

“Hinton Minor Soccer is very disappointed to report that the 2020 outdoor soccer season has been cancelled due to COVID-19 and social distancing protocols in place,” said soccer executive Suzanne McDonald in a post on the Hinton Soccer Moms and Dads page on Facebook.

The Hinton Mountain Bike Association has also announced that the spring session of its popular Sprockids youth program is cancelled with the hopes to resume in the fall of 2020.

One sports organization that is still holding out some hope for a season is Hinton Minor Baseball. Its sanctioning body, Baseball Alberta, has suspended all activity until June 1, with further direction expected closer to that date.

Jocelyn Puchailo of Hinton Minor Baseball said the other factor will be whether there is any change to the Town of Hinton’s closures that includes the ball diamonds.

“Since we are already being postponed to June 1, which is already more than half into our season, we will discuss if there’s the option to go into the summer (July and possibly August),” Puchailo told The Voice via Facebook on April 22.

“At this time we are prepared that we may not have a 2020 season, which is devastating for the association and the children of Hinton.”

Construction begins on new Pine Valley Lodge build

Evergreens Foundation Photo
Construction has begun on the new Pine Valley Lodge build adjacent to the current facility in the valley. The project is estimated to take 18 – 24 months to finish.

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

The view from the Pine Valley Lodge has changed a little bit over the past couple of weeks as residents now watch construction of the new Pine Valley Lodge from their windows.

Kristen Chambers, chief administrative officer of the Evergreens Foundation, shared that construction is underway and going well.

“We are still on schedule and plans have not changed due to Covid,” Chambers said.

There is currently a lot of action around the resident suites, which for the most part has been really exciting for both staff and residents. 

“It’s much better to watch than anything on TV! We are happy to see things moving forward and to be able to focus on a positive future ahead of us,” Chambers added.

The first phase includes the construction of 80 one-bedroom studio suites and 20 independent-living suites that are built around the back of the existing facility.

Chambers explained earlier that construction workers don’t need access to the inside of the current building at this time, eliminating concerns of Covid-19 transmission from the crew.

Scott Builders is following all protocols due to Covid-19 and will limit crew size on site.

The Evergreens Foundation has been following strict guidelines set out by the province and all those coming into any of their sites are being screened.

In a letter to the residents, Chambers said that while there have been several tests performed on residents and staff who had symptoms, there are currently no cases of Covid-19 at any of the Foundation’s facilities in the region.

“Our staff are doing an amazing job caring for our seniors. I couldn’t be more proud of the team we have,” Chambers said.

The projected will cost $32 million and is projected to spread out over 18-24 months of construction.

Regular Council meeting returns via zoom

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Hinton Council touched on seven action items during the April 21 meeting

Tax Rate Bylaw moves to next regular meeting

The tax rate bylaw received first and second reading during the council meeting on April 21, but not the third, which means it has not yet passed.

Coun. Dewly Nelson stated he would be voting against unanimous consent to move onto the third reading due to the limited time council received to review the first finalized budget. 

He said he only received the detailed capital budget document one day prior.

Carla Fox, director of corporate services, explained that the budget is made up of different source revenues and municipal taxes is only one of them. The tax rate is determined by the municipal taxes that were approved in the budget and this hasn’t changed, said Fox.

“The tax rate bylaw itself will not change the budget, nor will the budget change the tax rate bylaw at this point because it’s already adopted,” said Fox.

Delaying the approval of the tax rate bylaw will delay the time it takes administration to calculate the taxes and the timing of the tax invoices going out to the public, Fox said.

Normally, invoices go out on May 15, but this year a deferral program has been offered.

The deferral program will cause cash flow issues for the town and administration doesn’t want to delay people paying their taxes who aren’t deferring as it helps the town access necessary funds to operate, Fox said.

The approved 2020 operating budget is $29,137,747, and the Tax Rate Bylaw is required to generate $13,013,023 in municipal taxation. In addition to municipal taxation, the Town of Hinton also collects the School Tax Levy and Evergreen Foundation Levy, which are set by the province and the municipality responsible for collection and remittance.

Assessment values presented to Council in March have since decreased by $161,000 in Commercial assessments, which is immaterial in the results, stated Administration.

If the tax rate bylaw is passed at the next regular council meeting, tax rates for 2020 will be decreasing by 3.1 per cent over 2019.

Council did pass the Supplementary Assessments Bylaw #1146. A supplementary taxation bylaw is necessary each year in order to assess and collect taxes for the taxation year on newly completed improvements, administration stated. The 2020 Budget contains $10,951 in supplementary property taxation revenue.

This bylaw authorizes the Town to perform an assessment on new improvements completed, occupied, or used during the 2019 tax year and authorizes the properties listed on the supplementary assessment roll to be taxed at the rate established in the current year’s tax bylaw.

Council approves Waste Rate Bylaw

Council passed the Waste Rate Bylaw, which was approved during the 2020 budget process to include an increase to waste collection rates by five per cent for nonresidential customers.

This rate will be effective on May 1 and will add $18,500 to utility revenues to offset annual operational costs. The Waste Rate Bylaw is amended each year to reflect the revised collection rates as set by the budget.

Town of Hinton to offer Safety Codes Services

The Town of Hinton received approval from council to become an accredited Municipality for Safety Codes Services and will establish an administrative function for permit sales and file administration.

All inspections in all disciplines will be performed through a contract with an accredited agency, with who the inspection risk is shared.

The benefits of this, as laid out by administration, include the ability to set a high level of service through a Quality Management Plan, generate revenue for the municipality through direct service delivery of permit issuance, establish a fee schedule that is affordable for residents, customize the service delivery model to fit local needs, and residents will be able to obtain all required permits in one location at the Town office.

“Two key elements that are going to benefit the community, the first is the fact that we’re going to be offering safety code services, which is a really essential function for the community in development, and secondly, that it’s done in a way that we anticipate it’s going to generate revenue,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn.

The Town of Hinton will also be able to track and monitor development and safety codes permits, and have more control for the municipality.

The role of the permit issuer could be assumed by a current staff with reallocation of responsibilities, resulting in minimal additional costs.

“The staff we currently have on board is the right level and we can perform this function. This is largely an administrative function, where we’re already meeting with customers that come to the desk. We’re already issuing permits, so this is the next logical step,” said Peter Vana, director of development services.

A tracking system would be added into an existing tracking system, and instead of creating more work, administration is streamlining how safety codes are being handled, Vana said.

The Town of Hinton must now complete an application form, prepare a Quality Management Plan (QMP), and pay a fee before they are approved. Administration anticipates services to be available by June or July, in order to go out for bids for a safety code contractor.

Amendment to Asset Management Policy

Council approved minor amendments to the Asset Management Policy DS-6100.

During the development of the Hinton Asset Management Strategy, administration examined the Town’s current asset management practices and proposed objectives and improvements were undertaken. 

The results of the review were a few minor changes proposed to Asset Management Policy DS-6100 in order for the two documents to align. 

The overarching Asset Management Policy DS-6100 was approved by Council on May 7, 2019, which is to be followed by establishing the Asset Management Strategy, and then the Asset Management Plans.

Amendments were originally brought to council at the March 24, 2020 Standing Committee meeting.

Coun. Trevor Haas stated that once the policy is in place, it will help the town make financial decisions in the future.

Development Services Policies rescinded

Council rescinded multiple policies after a review by administration and discussion at the standing committee meeting on March 24, 2020.

Policies include Policy No. 046 – Development Deposit, Policy No. 049 – Residential Land Development Tax Credit, Policy No. 061 – Building Permit Plans, and Policy No. 091 – Municipality in Land Development.

Administration determined those policies were no longer relevant and should be rescinded after they reviewed all policies. 

Administration established a more clear and effective system for the development and distribution of policies and governing documents.

The new system included a Policy and a Reference Manual, setting out guidelines to provide direction for the development, approval, and maintenance of policies, procedures, and directives for the Town of Hinton.

Amendment to Business License Bylaw

Council passed amendments to the Business License Bylaw 1126-1 that included regulations regarding cannabis business licensing.

Administration reviewed bylaw 1126, which indicated that cannabis business license requirements outlined within the Bylaw were repetitious of regulations that fall under the Land Use Bylaw 1088 and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC).

Provincial jurisdiction through the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act and the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Regulation supersedes municipal bylaws. Amendments to the Bylaw remove duplicative regulations.

2020 Regional Assessment Review Board

Council appointed Nigel Knight as the Designated Chair and Terri Williams as the Designated Clerk for the West Yellowhead Regional Assessment Review Board, for a one-year term starting April 21.

These appointed positions are part of an inter-municipal assessment review board that was established in 2007 between Jasper, Edson, Grande Cache, and Hinton. Since then, the Town of Grande Cache has withdrawn. 

The intent of the regional board is to have rotating communities provide a Designated Chair and Designated Clerk, and Hinton is providing these positions for 2020.

Hinton Water Act application in review

Associated Environmental Consultants Inc. 
This graphic, included in Hinton’s Water Act Application for boardwalk repairs at Maxwell Lake, shows the three priority areas where work would be done if the application is approved.

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Resident calls for more clarity in Water Act application

Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) is in the process of reviewing a Water Act application that will allow the Town of Hinton to maintain certain sections of the Beaver Boardwalk.

Approval to disturb a wetland for the repairs is necessary under the Alberta Water Act, which governs how the Province of Alberta manages water.

As directed by AEP, The Town of Hinton placed an advertisement of the application document to request anyone affected by the application to send a statement of concern to AEP between April 16 and April 23.

AEP did not respond beofre Voice deadline to clarify who qualifies as ‘anyone affected.’

The application was created through a partnership between the town and Associated Engineering’s Environment department and was filed on Oct. 28, 2019.

Repairs to the existing boardwalk are required for public safety as there are large portions that are currently unsafe, explained April Ziegler, environmental scientist from Associated Environmental Consultants Inc.

At a council meeting in June of 2019, the town stated they were in the process of putting together the application that likely wouldn’t be approved until 2020.

Once AEP has reviewed the statements of concern and followed up with each filer, they will be made aware of an appeal process. 

The final approval of the plan will depend on the number and validity of statements of concern received by AEP, any required plan changes derived from the statement of concern analysis by AEP, and the number of appeals that move forward, according to the Town.

If residents miss the chance to issue a statement of concern, they can also file a Notice of Appeal with the Environmental Appeals Board later in the process.

Maureen Harper, a resident of Hinton and frequent user of the Maxwell Lake area, emphasized that the public is being asked to give input on a 15-year plan when that plan is unknown to the public.  

The expected timeframe included in the application ranges from 2019 to 2034.

Josh Yaworski, communication coordinator for the Town,  explained that the Beaver Boardwalk Committee will guide what maintenance actions and decisions are made once the application is approved.

In Harper’s statement of concern to AEP she wrote that the application document lacked explanation on what activities would be carried out, in what timeline, and what the town is allowed to do with a 15-year mandate.

Harper  wrote that the application lacks reference to remediation of the depressed and damaged nesting grounds by the newly installed bridge, pending plans for the approaches to the new bridge, appropriate water level control due to the beavers continuing dam construction, and removal of the bridge itself.

“Although these are not part of the three areas indicated on the map, they are intimately connected to the water way and development in this area. This is all one ecosystem and needs to be considered as a whole,” she stated.

Harper added that the Town and AEP need to work together to produce an understandable process in order to obtain public input.

In a follow up letter, she asked about the town’s plans for yearly ongoing maintenance over the 15-year timespan and what demonstrated competencies would be required in the Town administrator overseeing maintenance in order to avoid the deterioration that occurred over the past four years.

Harper also asked if AEP would be doing any formal inspections of the effects of the repairs on the wetland during the 15 year timeframe and if the town would be required to hold public meetings to outline their plans.

In a letter to Hinton council and administration, Harpers’ husband, Bill Heir, wrote that the public suggested the town hire locally, to provide jobs and keep taxpayers money in the community.

The Associated Environmental Head Office is located in Vernon B.C. and the company has over 1000 employees across Canada, according to their website.

“I, among others, are questioning why this outside source was chosen to both carry out the application and the construction that follows?” Heir wrote.

A news release by the town stated that Associated Engineering was contracted for the purposes of data collection to support the Water Act Application, compiling and drafting of all associated application forms, and to act as liaison in some regards with AEP on behalf of the Town. 

“The Town appreciated Associated Engineerings services, and in their conducting a Water Act comprehension training and site training to provide better understanding to our Parks workers and project managers. This training was also offered to the Beaver Boardwalk Committee,” the release stated.

These consultants have not been contracted to conduct any additional site planning at this time. 

The application does not include any design changes, and only references maintenance to existing structures, said Yaworski.

The application package notes three levels of repairs with the preference towards lowest impact wherever possible in order to make the existing structure safe for continued use by residents. 

“Impacts to the wetland are anticipated to be temporary and will be mitigated throughout construction as noted in the application,” Ziegler stated.

Minor repairs include replacing screws, and installing sections of boardwalk using hand tools, this can be done from the boardwalk or by staff in waders.

Intermediate repairs include replacing sections of boardwalk using a small equipment loader, which would be operated during winter months over frozen conditions where possible.

Replacing sections of boardwalk and pilings using a large loader and auger are part of the major repairs.

Equipment in major repairs would be operated in-water and non-frozen conditions where possible or from new boardwalk structures.

Also included is the install and maintenance of erosion and sediment controls for all boardwalk and trail activities, which can be done using hand tools.

Proposed activities anticipate temporary impacts to wetlands and a potential for sedimentation, soil compaction, and vegetation removal for the repairs, the document said.

The boardwalk upgrades will occur on the existing boardwalk and within 15m, for a total area of 14.46 ha, including temporary work space.

To minimize the disturbance to the wetland during the repairs, wooden planks are to be prepared outside of the wetland and tarps or drop cloths will be used to catch any wood shavings or sawdust created while installing the upgrades.

There will be no use of machinery for minor repairs and walking in the wetland will be avoided when repairs can be done from the boardwalk or upland areas.

Work for the intermediate and major repairs will be conducted during frozen conditions as much as possible and using the smallest machinery feasible.

All instream work activities are planned outside the restricted activity period of Happy Creek, which runs from Sept. 1 to July 15, or during frozen conditions. 

Work site access paths will be dependent on a site to site basis but access from the shoreline would be considered first, the document said.

View below the Water Act Application No. 00463144 for boardwalk repairs at Maxwell Lake:

AEP will notify each person that filed a statement of concern of the decision to accept or reject their written submissions as a valid statement of concern.

The public notice of this application will also be posted here:

Statements of concern submitted regarding this application are public records accessible by the public and applicant.