The Committee of the Whole is pursuing safe ways for Chestermere residents to utilize storm ponds for recreational uses.
“We’re looking at different ponds we have in Chestermere, and how to get staff involved,” Mayor Jeff Colvin said.
“Safety is a priority, we want to make sure in how we go about this that we’re looking out for the residents using it and recognizing it historically that we’ve had a lot of residents using the storm ponds,” Councillor Shannon Dean said.
Adding, “We want to make a good and responsible decision with this. Safety is number one, we want to make sure all our residents are taken care of while acknowledging there has been historical use that has somewhat demonstrated to be safe.”
In a previous council meeting, city staff was directed to investigate programs other municipalities have in place allowing residents to use storm ponds and connecting waterways recreationally.
“We’ve been working on storm pond safety,” Chestermere Fire Chief Brian Pomrenke. “The use of stormwater for recreation was outweighed by risk and liability.”
Pomrenke reviewed the City of Lacombe’s stormwater usage and found that the municipality only allows recreation within the city. They also follow strict criteria within the policy, test thickness of the ice, don’t permit structures to be built on the ice until it’s a certain thickness, and only allow a snowblower to create ice rinks.
“They only provide ice thickness, they do not provide water quality sampling at any time,” Pomrenke said.
Going forward, Pomrenke is concerned about fluctuations with the storm ponds.
“We collect a lot of stormwater, and put it in small areas, that’s a risk for me, when I start seeing what the fluctuations can be,” Pomrenke said. “We’ve talked about pollutants, solidity, and other things you don’t see that decay the quality of ice. With weaknesses, and any fluctuations you send stress cracks across the ponds.”
The Communications Advisor of Alberta Environment and Parks, Jason Penner said he understands residents want to be outside, however, the canals are not an appropriate place for skating.
“The canal is not open to public access for any reason due to the safety risks both in the canal and along the sloped embankment,” Penner said.
Although the city is looking to pursue recreational activities on storm ponds, the lake continues to be a popular spot for skating and bringing people together.
“Having the skating areas in accessible areas is a benefit for us. It’s very telling to me, when we look at Calgary, they have way more people doing risk management, and they aren’t allowing people on their storm ponds, and I ask myself why, they have identified a risk that I’m not aware of,” Pomrenke said.
Adding, “The public feedback, we have a very low per cent of Chestermerians complaining about the restrictions on storm ponds, and we have a few people with large voices promoting the use of storm ponds.”