Edmonton 'accidental beach' lacks facilities for deluge of sudden sunbathers

Edmontonians are enjoying an unusual reprieve on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River in the final days of summer, but some local residents worry the influx of sunbathers is too much for the new sandy oasis to handle.

Local residents want more garbage cans, portable toilets near North Saskatchewan River beach

The beach is the unintentional product of construction of an LRT bridge and is expected to disappear when the construction is finished. (Nola Keeler/CBC)

Edmontonians are enjoying an unusual reprieve on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River in the final days of summer, but a local resident worries it's too much for the unintentional sandy oasis to handle. 

Hundreds of people flocked to the "accidental beach" on the weekend, the unintentional byproduct of a changing current created by LRT bridge construction weirs.   

Paul Bunner, a long-time resident of the adjacent Cloverdale community who is an advocate for river recreation, said he's never seen anything like it.

"It was wonderful to see people hanging on the beach — sunbathing, building sandcastles, splashing in the water, cooling off," Bunner said Monday. "Lots and lots of paddlers, kayaks and canoes, paddleboards — it really was an idyllic scene." 

The barrage of beach-goers was also overwhelming for the nearby park area, designed to handle a few dozen people, Bunner said. 

"When you get hundreds, if not thousands, it's pretty clear that basic infrastructure to serve that many people needs to be upgraded," he said.

Bunner wants the city to install portable toilets and more garbage cans for the rest of the season and next year, since the beach will likely still be there because of the LRT bridge construction work.

After the busy weekend, Bunner said he called 311 to report the overflowing garbage from a can on 92nd Street and 98th Avenue. 

He also said there's not enough parking spots for such big crowds.

The beach has been getting lots of attention on social media, with some Edmontonians calling the quality of the sandy riverside "shockingly good," while others suggest food trucks should set up on  nearby 98th Avenue. 
Garbage cans at 92nd Street and 98th Avenue started to overflow as more people became aware of the accidental beach in August, 2017. (Paul Bunner)

Beach or no beach, the influx of people this weekend also foreshadowed what's to come for the area generally when the Valley Line LRT is up and running, with a station next to the Muttart Conservatory, Bunner suggested.

"Within three years, it's going to become an accessible go-to destination for Edmontonians from all over the city," he said. "They will come by train to visit the valley, to visit the Muttart, the Edmonton Ski Club in the winter time."

Bunner wants to see amenities developed on the perimeter of the station.

Mayor Don Iveson and city Coun. Ben Henderson have said they'd like to see the beach maintained even after LRT bridge construction is finished.

A statement from the city Monday afternoon said the beach is "only temporary in nature" and no additional infrastructure will be added to the site. The city did some minor clean-up of the site to remove branches, batteries and other debris, but they are not monitoring access to the beach.

The city is asking the public to be careful on the trails leading to the beach.

Park ranger peace officers will monitor the site, and public intoxication and nuisance should be reported to police, the statement added.