Edmonton closer than ever to making Hawrelak Park lake more useable

After decades of debate, Edmonton city councillors could be close to making the lake at Hawrelak Park useable year-round.

An excessive amount of sediment, phosphorus, goose poop and algae made the water unsafe for public swimming.

A 2011 report proposed making the water swimmable plus adding a water play feature and beach. That would have come at a cost of around $60 million. The high price tag eventually sunk the idea.

The idea was revamped this year. In an April report to city councillors, staff proposed that expanded use of the lake is included in the park’s rehabilitation project currently being developed.

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For $2 million, sediment would be removed, goose nests would be monitored and removed, shrubs would be planted and the area would be relandscaped to make the water cleaner.

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There would also be an annual $100,000 maintenance cost.

The project wouldn’t make the water swimmable for the general public, but it would make it safe enough to be on the water for activities like paddleboarding and kayaking.

Stephen Bourdeau, general manager of World Triathlon Edmonton, said that would be huge for the group.

“That’s 80 per cent, 90 per cent of the way there for us.”

Before races, like the World Triathlon Championship Finals returning to Edmonton this weekend, the lake is cleaned at an estimated cost of $70,000.

Bourdeau believes if the proposed actions are taken, there would be less cleanup work to be done before future triathlon events. He even thinks the lake could stay swimmable for the public for a while after triathlons.

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Ward 6 Coun. Scott McKeen said there is a desire for the space.

“What we saw with the Accidental Beach a couple summers ago was a real craving for that sort of facility,” he said.

McKeen told Global News he has spoken to a number of athletes who compete in the Edmonton triathlon, and he thinks a cleaner lake could attract more events.

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According to Explore Edmonton, the 2014 Grande Final Triathlon brought $19.6 million into the local economy.

The proposal will be included in the next municipal budget, which is scheduled to be drafted in 2022. That means it will be a new city council deciding the fate of the lake.

“Maybe it’s something to ask candidates during this election campaign,” said McKeen.

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Either way, Bourdeau thinks the most recent proposal is the closest the city has come to expanding the use of the lake.

“I think now it’s a reality that’s within grasp. That wasn’t there before.”

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