Last night, I stopped in at the open house for the Edwards Gardens and Wilket Creek repair plans. The damage from the August 2005 flooding of the park still hasn't been repaired, and as I learned last night, the damage goes beyond just the bike path. Repairs to the bike path are planned, but not going to happen right away.
The city employees explained that the focus is currently on repairing the banks of the river and reinforcing the curves in the river with stone. This apparently makes the river slightly less naturalized, but is far from being channelized. The stones will only be positioned near the bends so that erosion is not too severe during the next major flood.
The other issue that came up was the fact that Wilket Creek has changed significantly in recent decades. By my estimation, it has definitely graduated to Wilket River. The "creek" is currently 10 metres wide at some points and expected to be 15 to 20 metres wide in the near future. One person attending the meeting explained that this is caused by increased urbanization further upstream.
The city staff explained that they needed to know what future water flows are expected for the river and how high it will go during future floods. In the long term, more than 4 or 5 years from now, they would like to reposition the bike path so it's higher up and going to avoid future flood damage. We were told that rebuilding some part of the asphalt seems to take place every 5 or 6 years right now.
At this point, some of the cyclists in the room were afraid we'd be waiting 5 or 6 years to see the path return. There was an open conversation, and it was confirmed that repair would happen sooner than that. Tthe section of the path that is currently washed out, and has been for almost 2 years, will be repaved later this year. The work on repairing the river and the bridges around Edwards Gardens is taking the priority.
The focus of the meeting was actually Edwards Gardens and its repair. To the surprise of many attendees, the bike path wasn't even part of the official presentation. About 2/3rds of the people appeared to be interested in the repair of the bike path, judging by my head-nod-o-meter. A few insistent cyclists pointed out the dangers of having a sand pit at the bottom of a hill with a bike path on it.
The staff agreed to put some fine gravel down on the bike path so it is at least usable before the paving takes place later in the year. The risk with this is that it takes time and money, and can be easily washed away during a heavy rain storm. The staff acknowledged that this is a high traffic bike commuting route, so high, in fact, that they provide traffic direction during construction if bicycle traffic is narrowed to one-way.
The benefit of a bit of dialog was quite clear from this meeting. Even though asphalt is months away, gravel will let people get through without walking their bikes. This obviously important piece of the bike network will be up and running again in the near future, even if it does have a bit of a limp until late this year.