Floating pools, thermal baths, water taxis: Ideas that could change Saskatoon's riverbank

Saskatoon's mayor says he's open to new ideas for making it easier and safer for people to get in the South Saskatchewan River.

Locals pitch plans for South Saskatchewan River uses

The South Saskatchewan River is a popular recreation spot, but it can also prove dangerous. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Saskatoon's mayor says he's open to new ideas for making it easier and safer for people to get in the South Saskatchewan River.

Here are some we collected from local folks.

Floating pool

Susan Lamb, the former CEO of the Meewasin Valley Authority, says the river can be a dangerous place, but there are ways to get people into the water more safely.

"My idea has always been a floating pool," Lamb said. "It's basically a huge barge that you pump in river water and you leave it on the river and you can move it up and down if there are events.

"And all you have to do is a little filter and little heat and you have a pool and it could be quite safe."

Susan Lamb thinks a floating pool similar to the one pictured here could be built in the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon.

The floating pool was proposed in 2011, but so far no one has taken up the charge to actually get it built.

Beach-side river

Lamb says one of the ideas she hears often is making a formal, city-sanctioned beach.

Right now, people flock to the west bank of the river near the Circle Drive North bridge on summer days. But it's currently illegal to actually swim in the water. 

Saskatoon Beach near the Circle Drive North bridge on Aug. 1, 2017.

Paul Van Pul, a hydraulic archaeology surveyor in Saskatoon, called the beach an underused space in Saskatoon. Other cities, like Paris, he said, truck in sand so people have a nice spot to relax in the summer. 

In Saskatoon, there is no need to do too much. 

"We have it here, so why shouldn't we use it? We've seen it over the years that people go whenever they can, they sit on the beach and they enjoy themselves, so that's a good idea."

He said the idea of creating a safer beach is actually feasible. 

First, he said, the city would have to get rid of the weir and abandon any idea of generating power from the river. 

If that happens, Van Pul said a dyke could be put in the river near the sandbar so that in the summer months people could swim without fear of being swept away by the current. 

"People would be protected from the river itself, they would have a beach, and they would have water and they could swim safely," Van Pul said. 

Thermal baths

 April Hiebert, who is part of the collaborative group of young architects and designers called OPEN, came up with the idea of creating thermal baths along the river's edge. 

The group OPEN came up with this concept for thermal baths along the South Saskatchewan River. (Credit to April Hiebert)

The baths, she said, would be heated by excess heat from the power station and would allow people to enjoy the riverbank even in the dead of winter. 

"It's maybe a new idea for Saskatoon, but it's not a new idea for a lot of places in the world," she said.

This plan might lead to Saskatoon's river freezing over the winter, making way for ice skating and other winter activities. 

Water taxis

Water taxis could also shuffle people up and down the river and across it, said Hiebert and Van Pul.

The River Spirit Water Bus operates in Winnipeg. (CBC)

"Every bus we can take off the road is ideal. We could have people take a water taxi," Van Pul said. "We could have several stops on the river."

Mayor Charlie Clark said he is happy to open the discussion about new uses for the river, but if and when any of these projects will see the light of day remains to seen. 

For now, Clark, Lamb and others are urging river safety: better education, they say, will mean more people can enjoy the water. 

About the Author

Charles Hamilton is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.