With the growth in population and resulting increase in water sports and recreation, the unfettered access by humans and dogs to our rivers was and is having deleterious consequences on the fishery, riverbanks and water quality. Safety was also threatened as the Calgary Fire Department competed with the public to access emergency launch sites that were never intended for public use and are now gated. Communication has been scarce regarding appropriate access sites, regulations, health advisories (excessive E. Coli counts) and other safety concerns and, information for tourists difficult to find according to Parks.
Hopefully all this will change under a new River Access Strategy adopted by City Council. Upgrading of existing sites, development of new access points, signage, mapping and education were approved in February 2017 to promote safety, environmental protection and user experience. While the bulk of development and implementation is unfunded in the budget cycle ending 2018 the goal is to have 28 access points on the Bow River from West Baker Park, northwest of downtown, to Carsland by 2022.
On the lower Elbow River, 4 hand-launch sites have been approved: upstream of Sandy Beach proper, accessed via the parking lot; north Sandy Beach at the Riverdale Avenue parking lot; Stanley Park; and Stampede Park. Outside of the River Access Strategy it is worth noting that there are 3 off-leash, dog access points identified on the east side of the Elbow River, downstream of the footbridge, where the slope is gradual and access is graveled. Dogs must be leashed upstream of the footbridge and are not allowed water access at Sandy Beach.
The Glenmore Reservoir has 3 approved hand-launch sites.
For a complete listing of existing and proposed new sites go to: https://tinyurl.com/ycsw5s5h or www.calgary.ca and type in “river access”.
By the end of 2017 all existing sites should be mapped and signed and priority 1 sites upgraded or constructed. Between 2019 and 2022 we can look forward to the completion of priority 2 sites on the Bow and other initiatives including the development of a river APP, a river ambassador program and continuation of public art.
So, when accessing the river, consult the City’s website for current information at: http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/River-Access.aspx, keep your heads up for signs and access and egress the rivers only where indicated. The sites have been chosen for your safety and to minimize damage to sensitive riverbanks and fish nesting sites.