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Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary loop trail reopens in Red Deer, but long-term solution is needed

The hill will naturally flatten over time: geotechnical report
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Todd Nivens, executive-director of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, walks through part of the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary that was hard hit by the 2017 windstorm in this Advocate file photo.

Warmer spring weather and melting snow are bringing more hikers to the loop trail at the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary — and they are discovering some changes.

The trail portion that slumped into the ravine last summer, due to above-average rainfall and a broken underground pipe, is been re-connected so hikers can once again complete the full circle.

But only one person at a time can pass through this narrow spot — and it’s only a temporary solution said Todd Nivens, executive-director of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society.

This part of the trail was fenced off for about eight months. Staff from the City of Red Deer and Kerry Wood Nature Centre were, meanwhile, seeking advice from Alberta Environment and Parks and consulting with the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary Committee.

Some sobering news came in a geotechnical report that concluded the hillside will naturally flatten in the long run.

A blog on the Waskasoopark.ca website explains: “The slump site will continue to slide until the hillside is one continuous slope. This is not a matter of if it happens. This will absolutely happen. The unknown piece is how long it will take. It could be as few as three to five years” for his section of trail to slide into the valley below.

Although engineers did green-light reopening the narrow trail re-connection this spring, barriers are installed to keep hikers away from the edge, and only single-file traffic will be possible at the spot.

Nivens said a permanent solution is still being explored.

According to the blog posting, installing a retaining wall was ruled out because of the high cost and environmental impact of bringing heavy equipment into the location.

The most likely solution will be re-routing the trail onto city land to the east. The not-yet-approved new route would take hikers up and down a couple of staircases, extending the walk by a hundred meters or so, states the website post.

As this project will be on city-owned land, the City of Red Deer will fund the project.

The timeline for construction is listed as being late 2024 or beyond. Meanwhile, hikers are expected to stay inside the fencing for their own safety. Nivens said work is ongoing to determine the stability of the slope.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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