City of Red Deer Recreation and Parks employees Bree Watts, left, and Kianndra Uchtenhagen clear trees that fell across the bike path near Lindsay Thurber High School during the windstorm this week. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Cleaning up Red Deer’s trails after windstorm an ongoing process

It could still be another two months until all the damage from the June 20 windstorm is cleaned up.

But just two weeks after winds reached 112 km/h in the city, Red Deer parks superintendent Trevor Poth said they have about 40 per cent of the cleanup complete.

“It’s been a pretty unparalleled storm compared to what we’ve faced in the past,” said Poth. “It’s a monster task to get the parks all cleaned up now.”

The biggest reason many parks and trails remain closed isn’t the trees on the ground, but the ones that could still fall.

City crews have had one day off over the last 16 days. As well, the city has contractors and assistance from Edmonton and Calgary representatives helping with the cleanup.

Cleanup calls have been triaged and Poth said they’ve taken care of the majority of the top priority calls. Since the storm hit, there have been about 500 calls to the parks department ranging from a single tree down to hundreds of trees down in a given park or on the trails.

Among the hardest hit was the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary. Todd Nivens, Waskasoo Environmental Society executive director, estimates there are about 1,000 trees down throughout the park and about 200 to 250 along trails.

“The reality is, as long as people stay off the four kilometre trail, the environment will look after itself,” said Nivens. “Two of us from the nature centre did an assessment walk and very quickly decided nobody should be in there.”

The sanctuary has closed parts of its trails and spaces due to the danger of falling trees. The trees that pose potential hazards to hikers will have to come down.

“Once the trail is open and declared safe, there isn’t going to be a cleanup effort,” said Nivens. “Looking at it as a forest, what’s happened to it isn’t damage, it’s been through a sudden change. What will bring the forest back to what it was, or something different, will be a natural process.”

Poth said they still aren’t sure what completing the cleanup will look like yet. But the priority one hazards, where there is an imminent danger of a tree coming down, are targeted to be completed by the end of next week.

After then, they hope to move into reopening city trail such as Gaetz Lake and Maskepetoon Park.

Still, a number of parks remain barricaded and closed and Poth said that’s for a very good reason.

“We’ve been getting a lot of reports of people crossing barricades and it’s understandable, people love their parks and are passionate about it,” said Poth. “But they’re probably not looking up to see the overhead hazards.”

Trees down on private property are not the city’s responsibility, but the land owner’s.

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