County ditches osmose trail project

An aerial photo shows walking trails proposed for the site of the former Alberta Osmose Wood Preservers Ltd. in Faust. The trails show as white lines.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County has ditched a plan to build trails on the former Faust osmose site that would have cost about $1 million.

At its meeting June 10, council defeated a recommendation to proceed with the project and apply for a recreational a lease with Alberta Environment and Parks.

The recommendation was presented by Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.

She also presented legal opinion that council requested at its regular meeting May 27.

Several council members asked if council would be liable for any contamination, which has been fully capped.

Council voted 6-2 against the recommendation.

“I think we would be pretty liable,” South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart says.

Reeve Richard Simard, North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Ken Matthews, High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Don Char- rois, Prairie Echo – Salt Prairie Councillor David Marx and Kinuso Councillor Ken Killeen voted with Stewart against the recommendation.

Faust Councillor Robert Nygaard and Grouard Councillor Fern Welch voted in favour.

Enilda – Big Meadow Councillor Donald Bissell was absent.

“I’m not willing to put county residents at risk if the County is named in any lawsuit,” Matthews says.

“In the end, the County will be held liable and responsible.

“I don’t want to put ratepayers in a position that it will cost them.”

Simard and Stewart also opposed the project over the “huge cost” as Stewart says.

Olansky updated the cost of consultation at $48,000. Council would be required to consult eight Indigenous communities at $6,000 each.

As part of the application process, Big Lakes would be required to consult East Prairie Metis Settlement, Gift Lake Metis Settlement, Peavine Metis Settlement, Driftpile Cree Nation Kapawe’no First Nation, Sucker Creek First Nation, Swan River First Nation and Sawridge First Nation.

Olansky reports the cost to design and construct the 3.6 km of boardwalk is estimated at around $784,000 plus GST.

The cost does not include the survey work.

The cost of the wood is pegged at $400,000, says CAO Jordan Pansiuk.

A historic resource impact assessment ranges from $8,500 to $11,000.

Mainteanance was estimated to cost $5,000-$10,000 a year.

Council discussed the application and the project at its regular meeting May 13 with AEP officials, who confirmed the site is clean and safe as spots of contamination were capped and protected.

To keep a safe distance between walkers and the ground, AEP requires that trails would be on a raised boardwalk.

Nygaard reminded council about that.

“The walking trails would be nowhere near the contaminated ground,” he says.

He adds local residents are willing to donate time and money to build the trails.

Olansky presented the legal advice from lawyer Kelsey Becker- Brooks of Reynolds Mirth Richards & Farmer law firm in her report.

“The County can meet its duty as an occupier of the land with detailed signage and reasonable supervision, such as ensuring people are following the rules, not simply posting the rules knowing no one is actually complying,” Becker- Brooks writes.

“The key is that the signage needs to be detailed enough for users of the park to understand the nature of the risk and how to address the risk in their use of the park.

“The reason you can’t go off the boardwalk or camp is because the ground is contaminated and disturbing the soil may cause harm or injury.”

The lawyer included a reference from a Supreme Court of Canada case.

Municipalities are now on notice that as occupiers they will be responsible for adequately warning users of the danger they will be encountering in activity parks involving an element of physical challenge and risk, she said citing case law.

To protect itself from responsibility/liability for injuries sustained, it will therefore be important for municipalities to consider the dangers associated with its park’s features, the specific wording of its public warnings, and its system for keeping track of accidents and incidents

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