Creek a concern for youngsters

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 09, 2014 06:00 am

Cimarron resident Christy Commandeur, right, and sons Darren and Garret stand by the stream they have to cross each morning on the way to St. Mary’s School. Commandeur wrote a letter to the Town concerned about the safety of children who cross the stream every day.
Cimarron resident Christy Commandeur, right, and sons Darren and Garret stand by the stream they have to cross each morning on the way to St. Mary’s School. Commandeur wrote a letter to the Town concerned about the safety of children who cross the stream every day.
Phillip Currie/OWW

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An Okotoks’ family’s trek to school won’t be a walk in the park as temperatures rise.

For the last three years Christy Commandeur and her young sons cut across a small ravine behind the St. Mary’s School grounds because it is the quickest route to school, but as water levels rise with the melting snow the ravine will soon be a fast-flowing creek.

The concerned Cimarron resident wrote a letter to the Town about the dangers of children crossing the creek to get to and from St. Mary’s School and suggested a bridge be built over the water along the well-worn path.

Plywood platforms were placed at the two east accesses to the schoolyard years ago, but Commandeur said when the water levels rise neither are adequate or safe.

“Even a couple of weeks ago it was really bad when we had that bit of melt,” she said. “The water was going over the top of the mini bridge and kids were still walking across it. Some of the kids are very hesitant to walk across the bridge when the water is up a little high.”

Commandeur said using the bridge on the town pathway north of the school is a long way for little legs and adds five to 10 minutes to her family’s morning walk.

“It’s really inconvenient to go all the way around,” she said, adding some mornings it can be hectic getting out the door on time. “When you live two to three blocks away it makes sense to be walking to the school. It’s part of a lifestyle choice to walk.”

Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson agrees the crossing is a problem and said the Town is looking into a solution.

“It’s certainly a concern of council’s,” he said. “If people have to walk a long extra distance in order to get around that water hazard we have to look at that.”

Robertson said the Town requested administration and its active transportation committee, a group tasked to enhance non-motorized means of transportation in Okotoks, to look into the issue.

Committee chairman Wayne Meikle said the group is developing a report with recommendations to improve active transporation in the entire community and will present it to council this fall. Access to St. Mary’s School will be included, he said.

“I’ve been very much aware of this for a couple of years,” he said.

Meikle said a temporary solution will be discussed during the committee’s May meeting.

“I think there could be a remedy put in place until more a permanent facility is put in to allow kids to walk into the back area of school,” he said. “I feel something should be put there to encourage kids to walk to school.”

The issue is also being discussed at St. Mary’s School, according to principal Brandon Bailey.

He said the land doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Christ the Redeemer School Division, but the staff want their students to arrive at school in a safe and reasonably quick manner.

“That ravine is one of the major routes the kids are using because it draws from a large area,” he said. “We understand that is a convenient quick way of getting to the school. To have elementary age kids use the bridge to the north that’s quite a bit of time for them.”

Bailey said the school is holding a brainstorming session at the end of April with staff, parents, the Town and other organizations to discuss safe and healthy ways to get students to and from school, addressing the ravine crossing issue as well as vehicle congestion in the mornings.

Commandeur said she hopes a solution for the crossing will be found soon with the temperature warming up and more families moving into the new Cimarron development west of Costco.


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