Along with the mayor, Councillor Miller and the fire chief, I toured Little Red River Park on Friday, and was able to see first-hand the damage that the extra water released into the system has caused. It's surprising how the landscape has been permanently changed, along with the various man-made structures in the park, and there's no doubt that it's going to be quite some time before this favourite spot for hiking, picnics and running is usable again.
In all the various water-logged issues that we've been swamped with this year (deep apologies for the pun), there are some things to be grateful for. The rise in the North Saskatchewan last weekend was much lower than predicted, and personally I thought that being prepared for the worst while hoping for the best was the responsible way to go. We should also be grateful that the province picked up the bills for flood preparation, including taking care of the sand-bagging around the Cosmo Lodge. Costs to the city have been minimal.
The evacuation of Cumberland House, while it proved not to be necessary, was another case of being safe rather than sorry. And a couple of community events for the evacuees that were open to everyone was a nice bonus - we don't have enough opportunities for getting out in the summer within the city - not everyone can head out to the lake on a warm summer evening.
If there's one concern that rises out of the situation not being as bad as was predicted, it's that there might be a sense of complacency the next time there are flood warnings, so people might slack off in their preparations. From what I've learned from the province, they're constantly working to improve their predictive models, using information from what actually happens with increased water flows, so I'm sure that this year's data will be built into their models and the confidence in the predictions will improve.
The silver lining of the devastation to Little Red is the chance to rebuild based on what we've learned, so that we're better prepared for next time. For example, the asphalt paths right next to the river that are now gone - maybe we shouldn't be investing money in that sort of infrastructure that's so close to the water. We'll be able to take advantage of new knowledge about structural improvements when replacing or repairing the various crossing structures so that they might be able to better withstand the next flood. Because water being what it is, there will be a next time.
Let's just hope that next time, we're as well-prepared as we were this time.
"Nothing is softer or more flexible that water, yet nothing can resist it." Lao Tzu