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Residents, boatowners dismayed by planned marina changes

Posted on April 6, 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

By Anna Smith

Commentator/Courier

The Elkwater marina is slated to be refurbished over the summer, but missing what many lakegoers consider a key part of the facility.

The Elkwater Lake marina operated by Forestry, Parks and Tourism is being refurbished and will be closed throughout the 2023 season, said Heather Kaszuba, assistant communications director with Alberta Forestry, Parks and Tourism. 

“The existing marina on Elkwater Lake is over 40 years old and at the end of its lifecycle. Despite receiving regular maintenance over the years, the structural timbers and wood walkways have failed, and refurbishment is the only viable option,” said Kaszuba. “A capital investment is occurring to refurbish the area and address safety concerns. When the area reopens, Elkwater community members and Cypress Hills visitors can expect an improved shoreline experience, with new landscaping and shoreline protection.”

The project includes a complete refurbishment of the marina, including removing and replacing the original lumber with metal, replacing the boardwalk and ramp pads, and installing a land berm and hand launch.

What will not be replaced, however, is the overnight marina slips, as “it was not economically feasible to do so,” said Kaszuba. 

“Most provincial parks do not have overnight moorage, even those with much higher boat use,” said Kaszuba. “Short term overnight boat and trailer storage will remain available for visitors with valid camping passes at the Amphitheater parking lot.”

This decision has been met with alarm and dismay by many Elkwater cabin owners, as well as those who use the marina and the slips regularly.

Part of the issue, said Elkwater cabin owner and boat owner Brent Cowan, is that there was a lack of consultation from Alberta Parks before moving forward with this project.

“Everybody just received an email. And usually at this time of the year, we are receiving emails from the provincial government, because we put our names in for a lottery for a draw for slips in the marina,” said Cowan. “But we didn’t get that notification, we got a notification that the Marina will be closed for the summer.”

Cowan added that he believes that the full closure of the marina is going to likely cause chaos this summer, as it can already be difficult to get large numbers of boats on or off of the water at a time, such as in the event of a storm, and could represent safety issues.

Some residents believe that this could be the start of quiet discouragement of motorized boats on the lake, to which Cowan has stated that they would prefer for Parks to simply say that.

“In the email that we got that they’re going to look for a private operator to run in the Provincial Park? Well, it’s kind of like saying, ‘Well, we’re going to run this ski (hill), but not gonna have the chairlift. So you’ll have to figure out how to do that,” said Cowan.

Presently, the marina’s refurbishment is slated to continue, and the Firerock boat launch will be open for use during the construction period. The east hand launch will also be open for self-propelled watercraft. 

The main boat ramp will be open as long as possible, but when it is closed there will be an unavoidable shortage of trailer parking at the Firerock launch. Boaters should come prepared to ferry their vehicle back to the main parking area near the marina.

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