A survey carried out by the Springbank Community Association last month reveals a greater need for river access in the acreage community, following the proposed closure of an unofficial access point along Range Road 31 and central Springbank.
The informal river access point is currently being used by pedestrians to access the Elbow River, according to Karin Hunter, Springbank Community Association president. She said river access in the community has been a hot-button issue for some time.
“There’s very little public access to either the Bow or the Elbow River, and this is something that we’ve known since a 2016 survey in the community,” she said, adding the prior survey highlighted additional river access as one of the most important things residents were looking for.
When the road allowance proposal came forward, the community association decided to put out a second survey asking the community how they felt about the proposal from the developer, but also asking about their interest in additional river access. Hunter said the survey was carried out to help focus the voice of the community in order for the association to provide constructive feedback to Rocky View County (RVC).
With more than 450 responses submitted, Hunter said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for additional infrastructure to accommodate the community’s recreational demands.
“We saw during COVID-19, people's options were limited for recreation and a lot of people were then forced outdoors,” she said “During [the pandemic] I think it was just more acutely felt by people that there wasn’t a choice to access those spaces in the community.
“People have to leave the community to go access the river, which is so strange [as] we are bound by those rivers – we have the Bow on the north side of Springbank and the Elbow River on the south side. It seems almost comical there’s very few places to access the river.”
Ninety-four per cent of survey respondents said river access in Springbank is an important part of recreational infrastructure, 69 per cent said current river access to the Bow River is inadequate, and 72 per cent said access to the Elbow River was inadequate.
“The river itself is public, and the river’s edge as things are developed should be public to provide public access to that beautiful gift," Hunter said.
She added in the past, RVC has not always been receptive to local feedback, so the survey was put forth to compile results that could be presented to council members as an indication of how strongly community members feel about the issue.
“I think [the survey] is a good basis by which we can work with RVC moving forward,” she said.
According to Kim McKylor, RVC's councillor for Division 2, which encompasses Springbank, the community was never developed to allow for river access points, which has resulted in several unofficial access points.
She added the Range Road 31 access point is technically a road allowance.
“From the very beginning of my term, I’m on record saying that we need more pathways, we need more parks, we need more access to our natural resources, which includes rivers,” she said. “[I’m] trying to figure out a way to facilitate [that] while recognizing that most of those access points are unofficial.
“And so that is complicated yarn to unravel.”
McKylor added she shares many of the community association’s sentiments regarding greater access to natural resources.
“The community needs more access to our resources and to the river, and we need pathways to get us there. [Residents] shouldn’t be walking on sides of roads,” she said. “It’s a natural amenity and we need to find a way to bring those to the people or to allow the people to come to them.
“I’m in support of more access to our resources and whether it’s river access or parks or playgrounds – that's something I've been working on really for the last five years.”
Hunter said she hopes to work with RVC over the long run to see river access enshrined in the County’s planning documents and planning process.
“You can have smart development along the river to allow for natural river flows and floods, but also provide the public spaces that people want to go to and naturally are drawn towards,” she said. “[Respondents'] comments were very thoughtful on how we can improve this.”
While RVC council hasn't yet heard a public job application for the road closure, the Springbank Community Association hopes to present their findings soon, according to Hunter.
Follow me on Twitter @carmenrcundy