INNISFAIL – With the arrival of spring and the ice on Dodd’s Lake beginning to melt anglers anxiously await that precious first day of dipping their rods in the water to catch the big one.
Meanwhile, the town is also still waiting for an answer it had hoped to get before the end of 2021 – approval for a big federal grant to begin Phase 1 of the Dodd's Lake Enhancement Project, specifically funds to create a 32-stall parking lot that was hoped to relieve last summer’s unprecedented human activity congestion.
Meghan Jenkins, director of community services, told the Albertan on March 15 the town still has not heard from federal government officials whether Innisfail’s application for a $750,000 from the Canada Community Revitalization Fund has been successful.
Jenkins said she’s maintaining regular contact with program officials on the status of the application. She added the town has not so far been successful with any other federal or provincial grant applications.
The number of visitors at or near the boat launch in the southwest section of the lake has increased dramatically over the past few years since the revelation that Prussian carp, an invasive fish species, has found its way into the lake and reproducing at an alarming rate.
And with COVID restrictions lifted for the summer of 2021, along with 330 rainbow trout stocked in Dodd’s Lake on the May long weekend by the Innisfail Lions Club, the lake encountered unprecedented usage, with many citizens coming from out of town. This year the service club will be stocking the lake with another 500 rainbow trout.
With those increased numbers of visitors to the lake increasingly apparent last summer, the town was forced to install a port-o-pottie in the popular southwest section of the lake for citizens to use instead of running home or into the nearby bushes. Another might be added this year.
“I am confident they (administration) will do what is necessary,” said Mayor Jean Barclay. “We’ve had robust discussion about it and we know what the issues are. I know they will do the best they can to ease some of those pressures down there.”
Jenkins said preliminary work is well underway to relieve those pressures as the town waits for a hoped positive decision on funding.
During last fall’s 2022 budget process the town set aside $50,000 for additional Dodd’s Lake area design.
“There was an allocation to do some more detailed schematic engineering work on it, so that is in progress and should be completed in the next month of so, which will set up a little better for those applications as its more specific for costing and what it will look like,” she said, adding there is a back-up plan to deal with the expected high volume of local and out of town visitors to Dodd’s Lake.
“For 2022, if we don’t receive any external funding for actual capital works there won’t be major changes occurring at Dodd’s Lake,” she said. “We will be looking at signage and some identification of parking areas for this year, and then we would be looking to have that conversation with council for 2023 as to whether it’s a project to start on the capital side.”
Jenkins said signage messaging for the public has not yet been finalized but added a plan for that is also being worked on.
“Parks (staff) is looking into garbage can (messaging) and parking signage and that sort of thing to help relieve some of those congestion issues to make sure there is some consistency with how people park and enter the space,” said Jenkins.
“We will continue to look for grant opportunities as we work through getting more detailed design,” she added. “We have to get environmental approvals to do any work along the shoreline there. We also have those applications started.”