Don’t risk a tree falling on you: Stay off the Wishart Trail, say parks workers

Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary remains hazardous with unstable trees

Hundreds of downed trees still block the Wishart Trail in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. (Photo contributed).

You can’t save some people from themselves, frustrated Red Deer parks officials are finding.

Todd Nivens, executive-director of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, was dismayed to discover on Monday that a chain and lock that were placed on two gates to prevent people from accessing a closed four-km trail in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary had been cut with bolt cutters.

Nivens is astounded a person (or persons) would vandalize city property to get to a dangerous trail that remains obstructed by hundreds of fallen tree trunks.

As well as the spruce trees that were blown over by last month’s windstorm, many of the still standing trees are considered unstable and could potentially fall on trail users.

“These are 70-foot trees that weigh 1,000 lbs,” he said.

The two gates that had been forced open are to a former maintenance yard at the east end of the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, near the Clearview Ridge subdivision.

Another access to the trail — a gap in the fence, just south along the same stretch of chain link fence bordering Michener Centre grounds — has also been closed off to foot traffic by a 2.5 metre long, metre high wooden barricade.

Nivens said the Wishart Trail remains closed for good reason. Trees along the trail have not yet been assessed by the city forester, and many could fall “in a stiff breeze,” he added.

Beyond the liability risk of allowing members of the public into a dangerous area, “I don’t want someone to catch a 1,000 lb. tree in the head.”

This isn’t the first indication Nivens had that some people don’t think rules apply to them. Last week, a hiker he saw emerging from the closed trail told him off after hearing he shouldn’t be there.

“He said, ‘How dare you lecture me, as if I was a child?’” recalled Nivens, who feels some people just don’t want to be told what to do, even when it’s in their best interest.

In any case, the gates on the east side of the trail have been wired shut — and zip-tied with ‘Do Not Enter’ signs on them.

The Wishart Trail is expected to be closed for at least another month, although the Kerry Wood Nature Centre is open, as is the shorter loop, which can be accessed through the centre.

Nivens said city parks workers have been busy clearing other Red Deer trails. Clearing the Wishart Trail is expected to be very labour-intensive, since there’s no vehicle access. Nivens noted teams of parks workers will be needed to remove the fallen and unstable trees by hand.

Anyone who sees people forcing their way into the trail is asked to call the centre at 403-346-2010, or park bylaws officers at 403-343-5575.

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