Saturday October 14, 2017

'Close your eyes and you're in Cancun': Why you should visit Edmonton's accidental beach

Edmontonians have flocked to the beach created by a change in current in the North Saskatchewan River due to LRT bridge construction.

Edmontonians have flocked to the beach created by a change in current in the North Saskatchewan River due to LRT bridge construction. (Michael Clark)

Listen 4:33

The leaves are beginning to change and the weather is getting crisp, but Canada's newest beach is still as hot as ever.

Lovingly named "accidental beach" by local residents, it's a kilometre-long stretch of sand — smack dab in the middle of Edmonton. The sandbar appeared unexpectedly this spring, when construction of a new bridge over the North Saskatchewan River caused the current to slow and leave a beach behind. 

"Close your eyes and you're literally in Cancun," laughed resident Jamie Young, "open them up and you're in a beautiful city."

Young, who jokingly says he now has "beach front property," lives in the nearby neighbourhood of Cloverdale. When he began visiting earlier this summer, the beach was still a local secret. On their first trip down, he and his daughter were the only two people on the entire beach.

Jamie Young

Cloverdale resident Jamie Young enjoys a warm autumn day on 'accidental beach'. (Scott Lilwall)

But now, word is out: accidental beach has become one of the hottest destinations in town. It has its own listing on Google Maps and has even spawned a clothing line

"I'll bet you on some hot days there was over 1,000 people here — it was full," said Young. 

But along with throngs of beachgoers come some unique infrastructure challenges. Young noticed on his first few visits that the walk down to the beach was very steep. 

"The first few times coming down with my three year old, it was really obvious that it was a dangerous slope," said Young. "One day my wife bit the dust and fell pretty hard." 

That's when Young, armed with a shovel, decided to carve a set of stairs into the sandy, steep bank:

Jamie Young accidental beach

Young carved out stairs to Edmonton's accidental beach, making the trek down one of the entrances easier. (Slavo Cech/Twitter)

The City of Edmonton is still deciding whether the beach can be made a permanent part of the waterfront. But Young says it's clear that Edmontonians have embraced beach life. 

"I think the people have spoken. Let's keep it!"