By Trevor Busch
Council will be considering the recommendation of experts consulted on permanent solutions for problems plaguing the old rodeo grounds dry pond facility in Taber’s northwest.
At their June 8 meeting, town council voted 5-1 to accept an update regarding options for the old rodeo grounds dry pond rehabilitation as information. Coun. Joe Strojwas opposed the motion, while Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux was absent.
At their May 25 meeting, council had reviewed a petition from local residents regarding their concerns about the old rodeo grounds dry pond, and had directed administration to invite local companies to identify possible corrective actions. Three companies were contacted to provide their professional opinion about potential solutions for the site. As of June 4, all three companies visited the site and are preparing recommendations.
“We just wanted to keep you apprised of this, it’s an important project, and an important issue for us, as well as for council,” said CAO Greg Birch. “We’ve been looking at what we should do, and have consulted with three companies so far, and are in the process of putting together a game plan for us.”
The area, which includes a dry pond and a park, has been a perennial problem for the Town of Taber with the pond, grass areas, shrub, flower and wood-chip plant beds and rock-flanking concrete paths posing difficulties for the town in terms of maintenance since 2012.
“I had a walk through that site today (June 8), and I noticed a lot of exposed pipes, broken pipes, that haven’t been repaired there,” questioned Strojwas, addressing recreation director Aline Holmen. “Can you give us an update as to when all of that is going to be completed?”
Holmen indicated any work planned is on temporary hiatus until the recommendations of experts can be reviewed.
“At the last meeting, I asked for some direction, if we wanted to go ahead and actually finish repairing those pipes, because there’s quite a considerable cost to doing that, and the direction was — if I understood it correctly — is let’s contact some experts and get some feedback before we went ahead and fixed all of that — because one of the recommendations is to pull it all out. So we actually stopped any further repairs in that area. I’m just waiting for the companies to give us their reports back.”
According to administration, in the fall of 2014 the Town of Taber contracted a landscaping company to rototill the dry pond, add additional topsoil, spray a hydroseed mix and check irrigation lines, at a cost of roughly $19,000 — efforts that now appear to have largely failed.
“There was another petition that was received that expressed some more concern by all the residents out there,” said Strojwas. “In reading this, I feel that they have some legitimate concerns as far as what an engineered dry pond is. If it was there and worked for a number of years until there was an issue between EPCOR and the town and placing a pump there — I acknowledge the concerns of the people in that area.”
Strojwas went on to express the opinion that simple irrigation of the affected surfaces could have positive results without further corrective action by the Town of Taber.
“It’s not a very pretty sight, but there’s grassed surfaces, and the alkali is basically not very deep there. I agree with what the residents are adhering to, with it being rototilled and the damages caused by the contractor — I’m not totally convinced that it needs a major rehabilitation after looking at it and seeing that most of the alkali is not more than an inch thick. You can see where water has leached in the park, but there’s lots of green spaces where grass is beginning to grow. I am almost of the opinion that if it had some good watering it might come back, and we might not have nearly the issue there that we think we do. Maybe the problem is the broken sprinklers like they’re suggesting in this letter.”
Coun. Randy Sparks returned to the issue of determining what residents might like to see done with the facility in future, and identifying if alternative solutions might be possible.
“I think the town and council are just trying to do their due diligence to get some experts and know what we’re looking at, and see what they think. My only concern with it all along is what is that dry pond supposed to be. If it’s supposed to be manicured to look good, and be made so that people can use it, the kids in that area can use it for playing, and the occasional melt or heavy rain — if that’s what the intention is, and the original intention of that dry pond, then we need to get it back to looking that way. If it wasn’t supposed to be that, then we need to make a decision. But if it was, if the residents and council believe that it should be brought to such a state that people can utilize it, then after consultation with experts, the town will have to make a decision.”
During the media inquiries portion of the meeting, Strojwas alluded to residents being strongly in favour of returning the area to a natural state rather than potential alternative solutions.
“I’ve received several phone calls from residents from there, and they’ve reiterated the fact that they want it put back to the natural state. At one point it was mentioned about putting rocks in there, and they weren’t amenable to that because of the fact that kids jump off that bridge all the time, and they didn’t want anything that would injure the kids. There was strong feeling — at least among those that I talked to — to put it back to what it was originally intended for.”
Expertise in the areas required might not be available internally with the Town of Taber which obligates outside consultation, according to Mayor Henk De Vlieger.
“I think it’s fair. They’ve showed their concern, over and over. It’s been so many years, and I can see they keep pushing us, because it’s been so long. I can appreciate their second petition. It shows how serious it is. It’s fair to give a few of those companies that are experts a chance to look at it and come up with a recommendation, because we’re not landscape people here. Alkali is not an easy problem.”
Strojwas remained adamant that something be done immediately to help rectify the situation.
“I’d like to see something done in the meantime, because we’ll waste another whole year, now that it’s so hot. If we get some water on it, at least you’ll have an opportunity to see some grass grow. To me, it appears to be lack of water which is one of the issues there.”
Coun. Jack Brewin showed concern with Strojwas’ proposal to start immediate temporary irrigation, suggesting this could throw a wrench in the works for potential work at the site in the near future.
“I agree with what you’re saying, but you have to remember if we water, it’s also going to slow us down with anyone doing work there.”