By Justin Seward
Hilda and Community Association board of directors president Cyril Anderst was joined by Hilda volunteer firefighter Devin McNeill and president of BT Grazing Coop Barry Fischer to discuss with Cypress County council about repairing the Old Bindloss Ferry Road (Range Road 23) on March 23.
The county’s director of public works, Kim Dalton, said there is the opportunity to close it for public access and leaving it for authorized personnel and it would fit with firefighting capabilities and landowner access.
“It’s closed for the purpose of infrastructure damage,” said Dalton.
“It has not been closed by a motion of the minister.”
The road contains primary damage zones that include mud slides from the hillside up to the road’s edge, blocked runoff channels beside the road due to the mudslides, two cross road washouts from runoff overflowing road surfaces, road surface settling in two spots and run off gullies forming on road surfaces.
The large amount of rain fall in 2016 resulted in mini mudslides,
The Association saysthe damage is worsening every year the road goes unrepaired and the road is still usable but with off-road vehicles only have caused
“It was interesting to note that with regular maintenance, this road survived over 60 years before this present damage began,” said Anderst.
“The approach we see for initial and most urgent repair would be to clean up those areas where those mudslides have blocked off runoff channels and there is a fair amount of ground that can be accessed from those slide areas that could be used to fill in zones of settled road surface. The transfer ground from these areas would also facilitate cleaning out the run off ditch area as well.”
Anderst added if the ditches and groomed areas could create a runoff path to go past the road rather than across it, it would be a step in the right direction.
“There would have to be leveling and packing of the ground fill on this portion of the road (where) the settling has been filled in,” he said.
If two washouts were to happen, a wide-diameter culvert would have to be installed to compliment the run off waters and prevent from freezing over.
“And then grading on the road to firm up the road surface would go a long way to prevent further damage,” he said.
Anderst noted the importance of this road for recreation and emergency response
“Locally, that road has historical significance, but more importantly as far as past and present usage—the primary usage of that road is for recreation and the possibility of use for emergency response,” said Anderst.
“With regard to recreation, there was 70 per cent of those who signed a local petition indicated that recreation was a preferred use for that road and we appreciate Cypress County recognizing the importance of recreation in the community.”
The other 30 per cent of the petition was signed by people who thought the importance the road of emergency response.
“Of course the fire from 2017 is still fresh in our minds and having that access to a water supply for firefighting, is important. And it does offer the opportunity for a boat launch in the case of search and rescue as well as a land access for police and other emergency vehicles.”
Coun. Shane Hok owns land where the South Saskatchewan River goes through the area.
“Last year, me and the neighbour, we had to put up the steal gates to block access down there because we were getting campers, dirt bike guys and they’re camping down there,” said Hok.
“They’ve got open fires, so I was wondering when you guys are talking about this recreation, are you OK with dirt bike guys finding it, open fires and everything down there? How would you control that, because it becomes a big liability thing.:
“We were really worried about a fire coming out of there. They’re not looking after it, there’s no fire pit and we were worried because once those fires get going in those coulees, you’re not going to stop them.”
Anderst thought Hok’s point was well taken.
“That’s one question that we would definitely have to address,” he said.
“We don’t have a specific plan in that regard. You always hope that people are going to use common sense but we find that common sense unfortunately is not that common all the time.”
Fisher says at the edge of the BT property at that road there are signs up, “No off-road vehicles. No fires. No smoking.” and they haven’t had any trouble at all.
Coun. Alf Belyea was concerned about who enforce the conditions on the road.
“I think as far as BT owners, we enforce it pretty strong,” said Fischer.
“We don’t allow any driving off the road; we don’t allow any fires and we enforce it.”
Council directed administration to bring back options for repairs and a future maintenance plan for the road.
It is strongly discouraged to not go past the barricades on the road as there is sign up that says impassable.
The road was constructed in 1956 with a ferry operation until 1961, before the Highway 41 and Sandy Point bridge opened for use and was the only road north/south road with a river crossing.