Tundra Swans and ducks are just a few of the birds that use Slack Slough during migration. The slough is a popular spot for people to get a glimpse of many different waterfowl species. (Advocate file photo by Jeff Stokoe)

Waterfowl area south of Red Deer may see management change

Development around Slack Slough changing conservation group’s view

The designated conservation manager of Slack Slough, an important wetlands area immediately south of Red Deer, is considering no longer managing the site because of the increasing potential for development in the area.

Todd Zimmerling, president and CEO of the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), said on Tuesday that they took down the viewing platform from the slough last fall after parts of it were rotting and it had become a hazard.

But the viewing platform isn’t being replaced because the ACA wants to see what happens to the area. The ACA has managed the 96-acre Crown property through a partnership with Alberta Environment and Parks and the Alberta Fish and Game Association since 1997.

Slack Slough, named after the farming family that once owned the land, is located at the southeast corner of Hwy 2 and McKenzie Road at Gasoline Alley in Red Deer County. The Alberta Conservation Association’s website describes it as “one of the most important nesting and staging areas for waterfowl in the region. Slack Slough is home to 94 recorded bird species as well as various mammals and amphibians.”

“I think what is happening right now is everybody, ourselves and the ministry, is kind of sitting back and wait and see what’s going to happen to the land around the slough because our understanding is (it’s) now been designated to be developed, and so our big concern is what’s going to happen to the slough itself,” said Zimmerling.

“Are we going to spend more money on putting a new facility … or is the slough itself going to end up getting changed.” Zimmerling said the ACA deals with more natural areas than ones that are becoming engulfed by development.

“I would say it has some good ecological values for sure, there’s no doubt about it, but again, as develop occurs around any type of habitat like that, its value starts to decline. Is it important now? Sure it provides good habitat for a wide range of species. Whether or not it will continue to provide that as development occurs around it is yet to be seen,” Zimmerling said.

The ACA will probably be talking with the province, and Red Deer County to see if they want to take over the management of it, he said.

Red Deer County has designated Slack Slough and the adjacent marshes as an environmentally sensitive area. Hwy 2 actually splits the area so that a small portion of it is on the west side of the highway.

The county’s area structure for the plan could eventually see a greenway trail from the City of Red Deer’s Oxbows Dog Park to Slack Slough. The county has said in the past that it has no plans to see any reduction in the value of the slough. The area structure plan has the area on the east side of Gasoline Alley slated for light industrial development.

The local Sikh community wants to build a temple south of the slough on three acres, and has indicated it would work with Red Deer County so as not to have an impact on the environmentally significant area.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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