I have been searching for help on some blog topics recently, so I reached out to Social Media for some ideas. One topics that seems to come up a lot, and was also talked about a lot during the last by-election was the condition of the beach. This topic always seems to get people fired up (myself included), so here is some information that I found out.
First thing I did was reached out to Alberta Parks for some help, as I don’t have a great source of any information on this topic. So the information I’m going to share is directly from Alberta Parks.
As many of you know the beach resides in a Provincial Park, which is located in the MD. Obviously these two things greatly limit how much control the Town of Slave Lake actually has over the park. Having grown up here, I do remember doing community clean ups along the beach. Whether the clean up was organized or we simply did it ourselves, I cannot be 100% certain. What I am certain of is at some point it stopped.
In 2003 the Province began committing to beach clean up, and at that time they cleaned two sections; 350m along the south portion by the main parking (now RV camping) and 50 m at the handicap viewing area.
Now I will say the Parks staff “cleans” the beach on a regular basis. They only groom the beach though every few years. This grooming would consist of using machinery to harrow and clear some of the undergrowth. They typically wait for this undergrowth to come up again before doing this intense clean and is why its not done every year. I am told though they are doing this process this year.
After much lobbying from town council over the years, in 2013 (This is the date I was provided with but I actually think it was earlier) council did get approval for a water license application to clear another 400 m of beach. The decision at that time was to add 50m to the 350m they were cleaning on the south portion and another 350 m to the handicap viewing area. As such we now have two 400m sections being groomed.
Part of the condition of that water license is that parks had to commit to monitoring. They have 3 sections along the beach they monitor annually to see what affect this additional grooming has on the fish populations, vegetation, erosion, etc. on the shoreline. This application expires in April of 2018 at which point we hope to have it renewed to be able to continue to groom sections of the beach.
One of the other obstacles we face when it comes to Tourism is that the signage finding these “groomed” sections of beach is few and far between. This can often leave visitors and residents feeling cheated and wondering if they are in the right place. Fortunately, after several years of lobbying, the Province has agreed to spend some money and add some substantial signage this year. This includes when you first enter the beach road on both ends, and along the beach road itself.
It is our hope finding these groomed sections, or the beach, will be easier. I will also add that the Province has been quite receptive to adding some amenities in the area. The walking trails have always been a great asset. Last year they added an area specific for dogs south of the stairs at the main parking. They have also added some RV sites and a wood structure at the parking area.
There is always a balance that needs to be found between adding amenities for us to enjoy and messing with mother nature and throwing things out of balance. I know that everyone has a different point of view on where that line is.
We all have a list of ideas of what the beach needs more of, whether it is; miles of groomed beaches, a restaurant, maybe some stores, and even housing. All of these would attract more people to the area.
Others would say our decisions are having negative consequences on the environment and that we have already gone too far. I am not smart enough to know which side is right. Like most things, somewhere in between the two camps is the right answer.
What is known for sure, Council will to continue to advocate for both sides of the argument by seeking to promote the region and increase tourism while making sure we protect the environment so there is something left for future generations to enjoy.