During the Feb. 26 Committee of the Whole Meeting of Council at the Chestermere High School, City Council heard Chestermere resident’s safety concerns regarding overcrowding on the lake and their recommendations on how to make the water a safer place for everyone.
The draft reading of the Chestermere Lake Recreation Safety Plan addressed the concerns of boat speed, overcrowding, and water activities being unable to coexist.
Chestermere Parks and Recreation Manager, Kathy Russell said the desired outcomes of the multi-year plan include creating safe and accessible recreational opportunities, meeting financial and legal responsibilities, and to manage recreation activities to minimize risks to the water and ecosystem.
Malcom Cox , a Chestermere resident since 1995 and avid user of the lake said most weekends his family is out on the lake either swimming, kayaking, tubing, water skiing or wake boarding.
“Our grandchildren love to come to the lake and are often just happy swimming by the shore, playing on the dock, or being pulled around on a tube. It’s a highlight of their lives,” Cox said.
He added, “Lately the free spirit and enjoyment of the lake has become a concern.”
Often, the number of boats on the lake and the speed at which they are traveling is frightening for Cox.
“Many times in the past year I have taken children or grandchildren out on the lake only to turn back and return to shore for fear of their safety,” he said.
It can be daunting when lake users attempt to enjoy water activities in the midst of major congestion of large, high speed boats traveling to fast, he added.
“I want to be clear, this is not a case all the time, you can still find times to use the lake safely.”
“My concern is that there are many times that the lake seems overused and over congested. This type of situation can contribute to likelihood of an accident.
If the current situation is cause for concern, it is only going to get worse,” he said.
Cox added, he has witnessed boats traveling at high speeds approaching paddleboarders and creating wakes large enough to tip over a person in a canoe.
Recreation Coordinator Katelyn Richards began to engage the public in early February to find solutions that would make the lake safer.
Major concerns for residents included seasonal traffic, boating speeds, personal water crafts, snowmobiles in the winter, and increasing enforcement on the lake in both seasons.
“Next, we heard about lake activities and conflicting activities, non-motorized and motorized activities. Things like right of way, and where certain activities should be done,” Richards said.
She added, “People don’t know where they are supposed to be on the lake.”
Another concern that residents had was lake users’ lack-of-awareness and proper etiquette, including ignorance of speed limits, noise, dangerous operations of water crafts, and alcohol consumption.
“Overall, rudeness and not being considerate,” Richards said.
She added, “Etiquette is not common knowledge. Not everyone who uses the lake has the knowledge of how people should behave on the lake.”
In early February, 27 lake users were able to participate in a workshop and help to develop solutions based on what they felt were important safety concerns on the lake.
Solutions that were brought up included distribution of educational materials, enhanced checkpoints, visual signage, utilizing financial disincentives such as fees, preferred use areas, and symbols to identify zones.
“Yes, it does get busy, but I do believe there is a way for all the various activities to coexist,” said Chestermere wake surfer Chad Hudson.
Hudson doesn’t believe lake safety is an immediate issue but said it can potentially become one.
“I’ve been to so many other lakes to provide perspective. To me, it’s not a crisis,” he said.
He added, “Still, there are times I won’t go out there. I wouldn’t call it critical.
“It’s good that you’re taking action now because with the city growing at this rate, it could get there.”