Saskatoon

Saskatoon police say no crackdown on swimming in river

Battalion chief David Nahachewsky says a city bylaw prohibiting swimming, and even wading in the river, is there for a good reason and will be enforced.

Swimming the South Saskatchewan is dangerous, officials say

A City of Saskatoon sign warning people about swimming in the South Saskatchewan River. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

The city of Saskatoon's bylaw is quite clear: "no person shall swim in the South Saskatchewan River within the limits of the City of Saskatoon." 

But the river is right there, cool and convenient, and when the sun is high and hot, many people tend to ignore that bylaw and take the plunge. 

The day after the heat hit 31 C in Saskatoon, the city's fire department is warning against beating the heat by swimming in the river. Dozens were on the sandbars along Spadina Crescent Monday sunbathing and swimming.

Battalion chief David Nahachewsky said the bylaw is there for a reason.

"Most people aren't familiar with the fact that the river's water level changes quite often and that it's not a good idea," he said.

The Saskatoon fire department says wading out to sandbars to beat the heat is tempting, dangerous and illegal. (Leisha Grebinski/CBC)

"I can understand somebody's interest to do so, but at the same time Saskatoon does have that bylaw and therefore it is against the law."

Today may not be a river-swimming sort of day in Saskatoon, but Nahachewsky expects police will be down on the river enforcing the bylaw.

"This happens every year. The weather gets nice and people are out on the river," police spokesperson Alyson Edwards said. 

No crackdown

Police have no plans for a big crackdown in illegal swimming in the city. However, they are monitoring the situation. 

Edwards said that from a policing perspective, swimming is perhaps less problematic than things like illegal parking, alcohol consumption and littering.  

One other development that is expected to cut the size of the illegal beach crowd comes at the end of the week. The outdoor pool season in Saskatoon begins on Friday. 

Public beach denied

A report to Saskatoon city council in 2012 recommended against creating a public beach within the city limits due to the danger of swimming and wading in it. 

The report said that even at low volumes, the river is dangerous because there are undercurrents with very swift moving water.

"The sandbar may appear to be a safe landmass, but the closer one gets to the river's edge, the more dangerous it becomes. River water can penetrate under the sandbar making the edges unstable and subject to risk," stated the report. 

During the summer of 2011, the report states that police were deployed a number of times to the sandbar along the river between Pembina Avenue and Ravine Drive. Officers observed between 500-750 people on the sandbar during hot days. 

The report said that the high numbers of people going to the sandbar led to issues with parking and littering.

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