BOW VALLEY – A coordinated effort between municipalities, police and private sector businesses has been launched to stop people from trespassing to swim and jump from cliffs and bridges of the Bow River.
The Municipal District of Bighorn, the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and the RCMP will work with TransAlta, ATCO Group and the Canadian Pacific Police Service on the coordinated project.
The areas next to and downstream from the Seebe Dam between Cochrane and Canmore have seen several drowning deaths in past years, including a 16-year-old boy from Calgary last summer and two men in the 20s in 2014.
“Driven by social media and a disregard for the well-being of themselves and their friends, people are unnecessarily putting their lives at risk,” said Rick Lyster, director of emergency management for the MD of Bighorn, in a release.
“The terrain can be unstable and the water in this stretch of the Bow River is ice-cold and especially treacherous,” he added.
"Water levels change without warning and strong undercurrents and undertows can drag people under, or sweep them away to further dangers down the river. Anyone going to these sites is not concerned with his or her own safety. That makes them a danger to both themselves and to their friends.”
John Slater, the security manager for the Stoney Nakoda First Nations, said the trespassing on the traditional lands is a “deep concern,” particularly in protecting their citizens and treaty rights.
“While most trespassers mean no harm, there are far too many that litter, graffiti rocks and structures, consume alcohol and recreational drugs, leave human waste and damage the riverbank and natural habitat,” Slater said.
The RCMP said anyone caught trespassing can be fined a minimum of $600 and stressed the importance of not trespassing and endangering themselves and other people.
“The sites’ remoteness and limited cell-service makes emergency response or recovery efforts extremely difficult,” Stoney Nakoda RCMP Cpl. Chris Kosack said in the release.
“In 2020, up to 40 volunteers from the 16-year old victim’s family as well as emergency services searched the Bow River. The search included two helicopters, a dive team, and boat patrols that looked for the boy’s body all weekend.”
Anyone seeing trespassing or witnessing suspicious or dangerous activity in the area or near railway lines can call the RCMP at 403-932-2213 or the CP police at 1-800-716-9132.