Fragile wildlife muskeg needs to be protected

I live along Lakeshore Drive south of Parkland Beach at Gull Lake.

Damaged caused by snowmobiles

Dear Editor,

I live along Lakeshore Drive south of Parkland Beach at Gull Lake. I am very concerned about the damage that is being done to the environmental wildlife reserve here and its walkway which runs north- south along the Gull Lake shore, south of Parkland Beach. Quads and snowmobiles are destroying a very fragile wildlife muskeg that is a year-round home to hundreds of animals and birds.

Negative criticism and judgment, the bullying behaviour which is a norm in our adult world today, does not work very well to communicate with people, in my experience as a teacher and counsellor. So what is the alternative? I spoke with Ponoka County about it and one of their answers was education and alternatives.

The photo below shows tracks directly to the shore where hundreds of birds nest in the spring. Already, snowmobiles have travelled down there this winter, doing further damage.

I talked with Peace Officer Les Squires, who patrols the area regularly as does Rimbey RCMP, and he showed me the photo below. When he spoke to the quad drivers they told him they didn’t know about the sign, that they were parked beside, which says no snowmobiles or quads.

There are four entrances to the reserve, off Lakeshore Drive, connected to walkways up to Sunnyside subdivision above. These walkways have little bridges for pedestrians. I am surprised they can hold the weight of the snowmobiles that travel down them. So it is local citizens destroying this reserve.

There are some “NO Vehicles” signs up, there is a chain across one entrance and a barricade at the main Beach entrance. Snowmobilers just go around. Ponoka County told me that originally there were more signs placed at the entrances and they just disappeared, quickly.

The motorized vehicles have severely damaged the wooden borders all along the walkway  which the community, including Sunnyside, has paid for. As well, the land seems irreparably torn up, some ruts filled with water that never dried up this year. It isn’t enjoyable to see as I walk there to connect with Nature and clear my head from the stresses of this world.

Les said he has asked people that if they lived in Calgary, would they tear up their neighbourhood like that? I also notice snowmobiles don’t tear around the Beach area so maybe they don’t want to destroy that part. I do see this year that they have broadened their travels to cover new areas in this reserve area, hitting even more fragile landscape areas.

Section 2 of the Traffic Safety Act states that no off-highway vehicle is to travel on any portion of a highway from fence line to fence line. I guess that’s why some snowmobiles travel the pedestrian pathways down to Lakeshore Drive.

They do also travel along Lakeshore Drive. This Drive is a well-travelled pedestrian path every day all day long. Groups of people, people with dogs and small children as well as mothers walking strollers walk here even at this time of year. There are older people driving along this road as well as an ambulance visiting regularly. I watched once as a young boy drove along the Drive down the middle of the road, with his head turned to talk to his passenger behind him. I wonder why licenses aren’t required for driving snowmobiles which I see regularly travelling along the road faster than the posted 30 km speed limit. I shudder at the potential conflict with this combination of traffic.

I also see so many community minded people and responsible citizens here enjoying this area and obeying the law: fishermen in the summer and winter, boaters and canoeists, bicyclists, as well as the walkers. Two community members fixed the little bridge on the walkway that was teetering off its legs.

The County and I discussed many solutions. They indicated this is a problem at all the access points to lakes in this area. I have seen many cities where lake access has been permanently closed because of problems like this. The County said the communities together have to come up with an answer, which involves the Residents’ Associations like the Sunnyside one here. They suggested that building an alternative, separate, legal path for quads and snowmobiles down to the lake could be a long-term solution. Until then, they are able to access the lake at the marina entrance as well as other entrances without having to travel on the road or the pedestrian walkways or in the wildlife reserve.

I hope that the people who are driving these vehicles read this letter and think about what they are teaching their children. I hope the damage stops.

Kathie Wallace


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