'It's in serious trouble': Mill Creek Ravine repairs endorsed by Edmonton councillors

A proposal to rehabilitate trails in Mill Creek Ravine in Edmonton's river valley got the initial nod from city councillors but a community league civics director says the plan doesn't address the real issue.

City council's urban planning committee agreed Tuesday to start fixing the trail network in the ravine east to west between 91st Street and 99th Street and south to north between 76th Avenue and 88th Avenue.

The city hired Stantec Consulting Ltd. to do an environmental review and site study, which calls for a combination of repairing existing paths, building path extensions and putting up retaining walls at three separate sites. 

Allan Bolstad, civics director of the Ritchie community league, told councillors that the plan doesn't address the root cause of the problem: drainage water from streets, sidewalks and roofs being funnelled down the creek. 

"It's in trouble, it's in serious trouble," Bolstad told media after the committee meeting. 

"There's a heck of a pile of water that goes roaring down that creek," he said. "It knocks the heck out of the banks, trees are falling and of course pathways in certain spots are caving in and falling into the creek as well."

Bolstad lives near 80th Avenue and took pictures of the creek condition on Tuesday, showing major erosion of soil and banks. 

He supports rehabilitating the trail system but if the drainage issue isn't addressed, he said the city will have more work on their hands. 

"They're going to be out repairing that path every second year in different spots given the amount of water that's roaring down there after each rain storm."

Bolstad suggested the city look deeper into how to divert water from funnelling into the ravine. 

Coun. Mike Nickel asked city staff if they're looking at the drainage issue in more depth.  

Allan Bolstad

"If we're putting money into something, wouldn't a long-term fix be a question to be asking, at least at a high level?" Nickel asked.

Adam Laughlin, the city's deputy manager of integrated infrastructure services, said the proposed rehabilitation, still in the design phase, is estimated to cost $500,000. 

Laughlin said addressing the drainage issues would be a "significantly larger project" and require the city to work with EPCOR on a solution. 

If the money isn't there, he said the current proposal is the "right amount of rehabilitation to continue to provide that trail network adjacent to the Mill Creek Ravine." 

The trail rehabilitation projects are expected to start this fall. 

An even loftier project that's been floated in the past is daylighting Mill Creek — a project to restore the ravine to its natural state, now estimated to cost between $80 and $130 million. 

A planning and design proposal for the daylighting project from 2017 is still available for councillors to consider, Laughlin added.  

Nickel said he plans to lobby the provincial government for some of that money to move forward with daylighting. 

"A lot of MIll Creek is under pavement right now from the 60s and 70s —I'm interested in popping those back up to the top," Nickel said. 

At that time, the city had plans to put a freeway through Mill Creek. When the road interchange was installed at the Muttart Conservatory, a portion of the creek was ripped up and buried in sewers, Bolstad explained. 

Nickel wants the city to come up with a more specific profile of the project before asking the province for the money. 

@natashariebe