Edmonton's Accidental Beach — the sequel — is up in the air

Edmontonians craving a sandy spot to sunbathe in the heart of the city shouldn’t bank on a beach re-emerging on the North Saskatchewan this summer. The fate of the Accidental Beach near Cloverdale is up in the air.

'For our family, it was incredible,' Cloverdale resident says

Jamie Young and his family relished the proximity of Accidental Beach to their home in Cloverdale. (Jamie Young)

Edmontonians craving a sandy spot to sunbathe on the North Saskatchewan River shouldn't bank on a beach re-emerging this summer.

No one seems to know whether the Accidental Beach near Cloverdale will reappear.

Ben Henderson, councillor for Ward 8, said with water levels still relatively high, it's too early to tell.

"This one may or may not recur," he told CBC News Wednesday. "We'll know in a month or two." 
A gravel bar near Cloverdale is typical for this time of year but it's unclear whether it will turn into a sandy bar again this year. (CBC)

Jason Penner, a spokesperson with the province's Environment and Parks ministry, said water levels are expected to increase over the next week or so as mountain snow melts and makes its way downstream.

Water levels over the summer depend on precipitation and only short-term weather forecasts are reliable, Penner added.

The sandy bar formed after TransEd, the company building the Valley Line LRT, installed two berms last year — one on the north bank and one on the south — to erect piers for the bridge.

The berms created a back eddy and the motion started depositing fine sediment on the shore.

Sue Huemann, communications manager for TransEd, agreed there's no way to predict how the river will react to the berms this year.

"It's really up to Mother Nature," she said.
The beach is the unintentional product of LRT bridge infrastructure and is expected to disappear when the construction is finished. (Nola Keeler/CBC)

People flocked to the riparian oasis near Cloverdale in late summer and early fall last year.

Jamie Young lives near the river with his wife and two young daughters. He said the beach was a welcome refuge.

"For our family, it was incredible," he told CBC News Wednesday. "Now we had a beach a five-minute walk away."

'Split down the middle'

But not everybody wants it to come back.

"I'd say it's split down the middle," Young said. "I think the people that would use it, enjoy it. The people that don't use it don't like it because it brings all these other issues."

Last year, garbage cans in the Cloverdale neighbourhood overflowed and beachgoers had few toilet options.
Jamie Young sculpted a set of stairs in the clay to make it easier for his family to access the beach. (Jamie Young)

It was risky getting down to the beach, so Young sculpted a set of stairs in the clay so people could get down to the area safely. 

The worst part of the influx of beachgoers, according to some local residents, was the clamouring for parking spots.

"People are driving around the neighbourhood trying to find parking — they sort of have a sense of urgency to them on that, that you begin to worry about kids on the street," Henderson said.

"These are residential streets. They're not a parking lot."

Young noticed residents on some streets were impacted more than others.

"I think it was a really big deal for them because cars were lined up bumper–to–bumper."

If the beach reappears, Henderson is confident the city will be better prepared.

"We'll do the best we can to have facilities down there and try and keep people from overwhelming the neighbourhood."

A report coming Thursday will present ways to better handle the impact of crowds, such as garbage disposal and a parking plan.

Possible permanent beach

The report will also include a feasibility study on developing a more permanent urban beach.

"The sheer popularity of it tells you that it's an amenity that the citizens of Edmonton really enjoyed," Henderson said.

The project would require environmental and ecological assessments and approval from provincial and federal governments.

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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