Parking plan altered

A proposed Fort Normandeau parking area has been reduced by more than half because of neighbourhood concerns.

A proposed Fort Normandeau parking area has been reduced by more than half because of neighbourhood concerns.

The City of Red Deer wanted to lease about seven acres of Red Deer County land next to the existing parking area for a 135-stall gravel lot. It was hoped the additional spaces would ease congestion at the popular launching spot for river rafters.

After meeting with area residents in April, the city is now looking at adding only 65 parking spaces on a strip of county land just north of Fort Normandeau.

More bushes and trees have been added to cut down on noise and boost privacy. Garbage bins will be provided and the entire lot ringed by a chain-link fence, says a report going to county council today. County staff recommend that council approve third and final reading of a bylaw to lease the land.

The city had proposed a gate designed to open only from the inside to allow drivers to leave after the area is closed. In light of residents’ concerns, the city now plans to lock the gate when the park is closed at night. Any rafters who don’t get back to their vehicles in time will have to return the following day.

“The city and county will monitor the use of this gate for a year to determine if further changes are warranted,” says the report from county community services manager Jo-Ann Symington.

The report says a number of residents remain opposed to any attempt to boost parking at the site.

“City staff is determined to proceed with this project and is planning to construct the improvements in the fall of 2009.”

Frustrated residents have long complained that on busy summer days, the access road to Fort Normandeau is lined with vehicles, creating a dangerous traffic situation and leaving the area strewn with garbage. Parking is especially hazardous on the road because of truck traffic from Border Paving’s operation.

This summer, the county and city launched a program to boost safety and enforcement at the site. Signs prohibiting parking were posted on the access road and illegally parked vehicles risked being towed. County patrol officers also regularly kept a watch on the parking lot and boat launch site and ensured rafters were leaving their alcohol behind and not causing any problems. Commissionaires were also hired to keep an eye on the area.

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