Let’s just let our imagination run wild for a minute, shall we?
We are enjoying a quiet day at home here in the foothills. It’s raining – quite a bit. It’s June and the snowpack is melting as well. That spells trouble. I recall a mountaineering friend say that when s**t happens it can escalate quickly. So now we have a flood. That happened in 2005 and again in 2013. They called the first one “the flood of the century” and the century was only 5 years old. There were no words for the second one. In both cases the Balsam Avenue Bridge over the Elbow River was closed. Our only exit from West Bragg Creek and Wintergreen was impassable.
Now imagine there’s a mudslide on Moose Mountain. A sour gas pipeline is ruptured and gas is leaking. As is often the case, the wind is coming from the west, blowing that gas towards our homes. Oops, no way out, no way in for emergency response. There’s a good chance people might die.
In October, 2013 the City of Calgary and the Government of Alberta reached an agreement to swap 2,160 hectares of crown land on the northern edge of Bragg Creek for 460 hectares of Tsuu T’ina Nation land on the eastern edge of their reserve and $340-million. The 460 hectares would be used to extend the ring road around Calgary. The 2,160 hectares extended reserve land from the western border of their territory to the eastern border of Kananaskis country. That land transfer broke the physical link to our local government, Rocky View County, and made West Bragg Creek & Wintergreen land locked – Tsuu T’ina on the east and north, Kananaskis on the west and a bit of the south. Our only physical connection to developed land is a small border with the M.D. of Foothills on our southern border.
It took about 30 years to reach an agreement with the Tsuu T’ina to acquire the land needed to complete the ring road. They had a proposed agreement in 2009, but it was rejected by the band. That agreement, as did the final, approved agreement, contained provision for the land swap that left us land locked. Other than a rumoured transfer of land west of the city, we were unaware that the land would border Bragg Creek. We weren’t consulted on any impact that might have on our community. All along we’ve only had one way out and that has been a cause for concern. Why is it that no provision was made to provide an emergency egress overland, avoiding a river crossing, for residents and visitors to Kananaskis? Didn’t anyone recognize that we would be land locked and that might have consequences for us?
An emergency exit
Given Bragg Creek’s recent history of bridge closures during an emergency, the thought of relying on a bridge to get away from disaster isn’t very appealing. Let’s look at options for overland crossings, we have three. We could potentially use logging roads through Kananaskis connecting to Highway 68 in Sibbald – that would mean driving into an oncoming disaster likely fanned by wind from the west.
Two other options would involve extending either Range Road 52, the one that runs north from Township Rd. 232 beside the Fullerton ranch, or the Wintergreen Road. Either of these could connect to Highway 22 north of the Elbow River and avoid the need to cross a river. Both of the extensions would cross the new reserve lands. So there is the first problem. Both would likely need to cross private land adjacent to Hwy. 22, another potential problem. Both would run through some difficult terrain, wetlands and hills, so studies would need to determine the best route. Then, would the emergency exit be gated and how would it be maintained? These are all tough issues for us and our governments to deal with, but they must be dealt with.
Alberta Transportation held a series of open houses during October and November of 2014 in suburban communities that would be affected by the planned southwest Calgary ring road. They appeared to have added another in Bragg Creek on November 24, 2014 as an afterthought. There was little public notice and again they appeared to be unaware of the impact the land transfer has on our community.