The Town of Canmore has taken steps to create a safer environment at Quarry Lake after two visitors to the community drowned at the popular swimming hole over the past several summers.
Supervisor of parks Lisa Guest and supervisor of aquatics Mandy Long presented changes being adopted to council at its March committee of the whole meeting.
Long said since the lake was created – it was an open pit mine originally – it has been an unsupervised swimming spot. However, after one visitor drowned in 2015 and another in 2017, the Alberta Life Saving Society was approached to do a safety audit last September.
“We invited the Life Saving Society to provide us with a consultation,” she said. “They are a national charity organization that provides drowning prevention education experts and do research into fatal and non-fatal drownings.
“Using that research is how we developed safety standards.”
Last July, a 28-year-old Korean immigrant to Canada drowned in the lake, and in 2015, a 19-year-old female who was part of a church group visiting the community drowned.
Changes proposed for Quarry Lake, set to roll out in June, represent the first unsupervised municipal water body in Alberta that has taken on the addition of signage and safety equipment standards, according to Guest.
Guest said the audit found that messaging on site was not obvious, nor was it located in appropriate places. As well, she said, no life saving system was in place and as a result, changes are going to be made this year.
The changes include four life saving systems, reaching poles and life rings around the lake. There would also be a supply of that equipment in the event they are taken from the lake.
Town staff are at the lake throughout summer to attend to the washrooms located there and Guest said when they do so they will also inspect the life saving equipment to ensure it is still in place.
New signage has been drafted for those approaching the recreation area from the parking lot, or from the Peaks of Grassi neighbourhood, as well as lakefront.
The new map focuses on the lake area, provides information about where lifesaving equipment is located, that dogs are not permitted and other details that are consistent with Alberta Life Saving Society standards.
“What we are looking to do is adopt consistent messaging and symbols the Life Saving Society has recommended to us and ones that are used globally regardless of what language you speak,” Guest said.
She said the two sides of the lake that are popular cliff jumping or diving spots would have signs installed indicating the practice is not allowed. They would replace signs that currently indicate those practices are at the users’ own risk.
Council expressed concern that prohibiting the practice by sign would require enforcement similar to the prohibition of dogs on that site.
Guest said cliff jumping and diving has been identified as a hazard, however, there is no bylaw that prohibits the activity. There is similar signage on the Engine Bridge warning people not to jump from it into the Bow River.
“It is unreasonable to say we will control user behaviour in this, but what we are trying to do is provide adequate information and the means to perform a rescue if needed,” Long added.
The lake is co-owned by the municipality and the Rocky Mountain Heritage Foundation, although the Town’s parks department manages it in summer as a recreation area.
It is 260 metres in length and at its widest part, 100 metres, but its depth can very from 30 to 100 metres and it is a cold body of water.
While consumption of alcohol at the lake is prohibited, with the legalization of cannabis expected this year, it is unclear yet if that would be permitted.
Regulations proposed provincially allows for public consumption of cannabis, except near schools and playgrounds. However, Quarry Lake is one of a handful municipal parks that council would be expected to decide in the near future whether to permit or restrict consumption.