Rhonda Olafson and her husband Bill are concerned about how the construction of a sewer line will impact the stability of the escarpment below their home. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Tree removal from escarpment worries residents

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City construction that angles up an escarpment towards Michener Hill has residents concerned about the slope’s stability below their home.

Michener Hill residents Bill and Rhonda Olafson, whose property includes the escarpment down to 44th Avenue, where the sewer line was built, said the slope is environmentally protected land.

“You can’t do anything on the escarpment because you need the root system in the escarpment to protect it from deteriorating. So there’s got to be some deterioration,” Bill said about the construction’s impact.

The city hired a company to test the slope’s stability, but the Olafsons intend to hire an engineer to do another inspection.

He said the construction can’t be seen from their backyard, but an area about 15 by 45 metres up the escarpment from 44th Avenue has basically been clear cut.

“It’s a great looking toboggan hill right now.”


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He said an agreement signed in 1963 between the city and the former owner of the property, Helen Parsons, says the city was allowed access, but the land needs to be restored as close as possible to its former state.

The Olafsons purchased the property, which includes a grand house built in 1912 that has been beautifully preserved, in 1991.

Bill said the city notified them that trees won’t be added to prevent roots from damaging the sewer line.

Rhonda said even if it wasn’t their property, she would have concerns about the clear cutting. A lot of animals travel through the escapement to the park system.

“It just makes me so sad,” Rhonda said.

She said unfortunately, the city did not notify them of the summer project. She and her husband spent most of the summer in Sylvan Lake and were shocked to find the project underway.

“If they had contacted us and said this is what has to happen, we could have come to some agreement, discussed other ways of doing it,” Rhonda said.

An appraiser has already told them the value of their property has also dropped.

“It’s just a very frustrating situation. It’s all on our property. We pay taxes on it,” Bill said.

City manager Allan Seabrooke said residents at the bottom of the escarpment were notified of the project, but the city missed notifying those at the top.

“That was certainly a missed opportunity on our part. Those residents should have been notified,” Seabrooke said.

He said the infrastructure was identified for replacement in 2017. The lines were being located in a utility right-of-way that has existed for many years. The only option for replacing the lines was through open excavation.

Seabrooke said construction should be complete in October and landscaping will ideally be done this fall, but that depends on weather and other factors. The city is working with a geotechnical company to create a landscape plan.

“Because it’s such a severe slope, we will restore that slope to a safe condition and a pre-construction state as practically as we can. It doesn’t mean you necessarily replace every tree, like for like.

“But we will be doing a landscaping treatment and vegetation on that right-of-way to ensure that not only it looks really good, but it’s also safe, because it’s a slope.”

He said trees may be able to be planted in some places, but not in others, because the lines aren’t very deep.

“Certainly we will be letting (residents) know about our plans for the reinstatement and making sure the bank is stabilized,” said Seabrooke.


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