By Trevor Busch
An extended period of disuse and deterioration has left the former Trout Pond facility unable to provide the recreational opportunities it once did, a state of affairs the Town of Taber is taking steps to rectify.
The Trout Pond, located just west of the community, was formerly maintained and stocked with trout as a public recreational amenity.
Administration has been working on a plan to revitalize the area and restore it to its full potential. The project has been divided into five phases based on each component’s level of priority. Phasing will also allow for administration specific to each component of the project, allowing the town to potentially maximize the amount of grant dollars received.
“This pond was constructed way back. Council of the day probably endorsed it, and then over time it kind of got neglected, and now it’s just sitting there,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger, speaking at the March 27 regular meeting of town council. “I personally think it’s good that we want to revive it. In the future, we want to maybe extend the trail — look at the whole package together — because it’s a good thing for the town, and will create more things for people to do, especially with fishing oriented to youth.”
Once completed, the Trout Pond would be refilled and stocked with trout, and a walking trail would surround the pond. The town has proposed establishing a campground with approximately 16 RV stalls and an additional area for tents, with room for expansion if needed. The facility is also expected to include a playground for campground and public use, as well as a dock and beach area. Other amenities will include picnic tables with campfire rings for grilling, and picnic shelters for larger gatherings. The walking trail is intended to include benches for walkers.
Administration has estimated some 2,500 trees will be required to make the park feel, “full and well shaded.”
The pond will require clean-up before it can be re-filled, and administration is working with the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) to ensure it is remediated to the ACA’s standards. This work will include cleaning up a smaller filter pond and replacing a screen to prevent fish from moving between ponds.
“I’ve learned a fair amount about irrigation water in last six months, more than I ever thought I would,” said CAO Cory Armfelt. “There’s actually quite a number of different contractual relationships that you can get into with the TID (Taber Irrigation District) for water rights. We have water rights for that land for irrigation, but those irrigation water rights do not allow us to go turn on a tap and fill that pond with water, it’s the wrong sort of contract.”
The town is planning to work closely with the TID to fill the ponds, with other proposed work including purchasing pipe (and a flow meter) to bring water to the pond from the nearest TID turnout, the equipment needed for the task, and the water to fill the pond. There will be an annual charge to top up the pond, depending on how much water is lost over time. Administration is estimating a cost of $45,000 to clean out and fill the pond.
“They would like us to enter into a different sort of agreement for that opportunity, and that opportunity is about $8,000 for a one-time charge to fill it, and then what I think we can do is maintain it with our water rights, but not that one-time initial blast of water,” continued Armfelt. “That’s what I’ve come to understand over the last little while.”
Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux indicated the Taber Fish and Game Association had recently expressed interest in potentially partnering with the town and ACA to remediate and enhance the site and facility.
“Originally that was a Taber fish and game project 30 years ago,” said Coun. Andrew Prokop.
The ACA will provide the town with free fish for the first year, but it will fall on the town to re-stock the pond annually to ensure sufficient levels. The ACA recommended starting with approximately 3,600 trout, which could present a cost of $10,800 annually for future years.
For the first phase of the project, administration is projecting a total cost of $109,209.50. The project has not been budgeted for 2017, so a transfer of funds would be required from reserves if a grant was received that required matching funding. Phase 1 of the project will include re-filling the pond (clean-up and replacing screen), stocking the pond with fish, routing electricity to the site for parking lot and path lighting, installing 10 picnic tables and 10 benches, five garbage cans, a park sign, and a gravel parking lot and walkways.
“One thing I noticed with why this Trout Pond deteriorated was security reasons,” said Coun. Rick Popadynetz. “There was a lot of problems with youth breaking bottles, and the place became unusable. It was a very nice beach — I used to use it a lot when I was a child, I’d ride my pedal bike out there and swim — my biggest concern, and the only way I can support this is if we look at security at this point, at the starting point. I know it needs security, it’s so far out of town, it’s hard to keep track of.”
Prokop agreed with that description, confirming security will be a consideration for future stages.
“That’s accurate, and if we’re going to have any camping there, similar to a provincial park or the M.D. of Taber Park, they have their security there, too, during the season. It makes sense that security is going to be needed at some point. We need to be prepared to deal with that as necessary.”
Following discussion, town council voted unanimously to support all applications for funding to restore the Trout Pond and develop a campground and walking path in partnership with the Alberta Conservation Association.