Sydney nature lovers fear flood mitigation will ruin trail
CBRM to add culverts at the outlets to 2 lakes around the Baille Ard Nature Trails
Some people in Sydney, N.S., are worried Cape Breton Regional Municipality's flood mitigation efforts will ruin the trail system in an urban forest.
The residential neighbourhood around the Baille Ard Nature Trails was inundated with water after more than 225 millimetres of rain fell in the Thanksgiving Day flood of 2016.
Since then, the municipality decided to spend about $3.5 million to add culverts at the outlets to two lakes outside the forest, to hold back future floodwaters.
CBRM is also planning to create retention ponds in the trail system using culverts and large earthen berms across the brooks.
David Gabriel, president of the Baille Ard Trail Recreation Association that built and maintains the trails, said the flood control plans would devastate the forest.
"It would be brutal, what they're suggesting," he said.
A large number of trees would have to be cut down, opening the forest to damage from strong winds, said Gabriel.
That would also take away the forest's ability to absorb water, he said. The berms would also alter the brooks forever.
"Can you imagine six or seven dams in a relatively short space of time?" Gabriel said.
"The brook is not going to be the brook as we know it."
He said the municipality should simply divert floodwaters away from the trails to the outside edges of the forest, and consider other retention ponds outside the trail system.
The group has been told the main intent of the flood controls is to protect homes, Brookland Elementary School, the Susan McEachern Memorial Ball Park and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Parish Church, all of which were affected by the 2016 flood and are downstream from the forest.
"What we've suggested is that instead of having one big system across the valley floor with all of these berms, that you control the water in two areas and allow the brooks to flow through normally," Gabriel said.
"We think, by using a slightly more complex approach to it, you'll be able to accomplish the same goals and not destroy the Baille Ard Nature Trails in the process."
Matt Viva, the municipality's wastewater supervisor, said the design and location of the earthen berms has not been finalized and engineers are considering ways to reduce the potential impact on the forest and trail system.
"We are working with the Baille Ard Trail folks to incorporate as many of their needs as possible into the design of these structures," he said.
Viva said it's hoped the design work will be finished in time for the next construction season.