Calgary council endorses push for safer street play and storm ponds

·2 min read
A group of seniors in Calgary's northeast rescued two teenagers who broke through the ice on a storm pond by using turbans, house siding and hoses in November 2020. (Submitted by Kulbinder Bangar - image credit)
A group of seniors in Calgary's northeast rescued two teenagers who broke through the ice on a storm pond by using turbans, house siding and hoses in November 2020. (Submitted by Kulbinder Bangar - image credit)

City council approved two notices of motion Monday to encourage safety around street play and storm ponds in Calgary.

The notices of motion, which were brought forward by Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal, were both supported unanimously by council.

The approval of street play involves a proposed review of bylaws and hazards to encourage Calgarians to use roadways and cul-de-sacs for games like hockey and basketball in a safe way.

The province's Traffic Safety Act and local bylaws make street play illegal, Chahal said, but the notice of motion seeks to remove that "red tape."

"As a sports enthusiast, and someone that understands the benefits of sport and recreation on both physical and mental health, I found this red tape to be another issue with the way government tends to work," Chahal said.

The notice of motions request full review of current bylaws and changes that would be necessary to encourage street play.

A report to the transportation and transit committee is due before the end of March 2022.

The notice of motion also asks that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi write a letter to the provincial government advocating for a review of laws to facilitate these changes.

The hope, Chahal said, is "to move toward a more open and inclusive city that encourages play."

'Terrible incidents' spur storm pond notice of motion

The second notice of motion, regarding the enhancement of storm pond safety, was spurred by "terrible incidents" in Ward 5 in recent years, Chahal said.

Raheel Uddin was five years old when he died in hospital in 2018, a day after he was pulled from a retention pond near his family's home in the northeast community of Saddle Ridge.

A group of seniors in Calgary's northeast rescued two teenagers who broke through the ice on the same storm pond, using turbans, house siding and hoses in November 2020.

"With over 300 storm ponds across our city, we must ensure that public safety is a priority, and this work must be implemented immediately," Chahal said Monday.

"We must do better and ensure our public spaces have the right safeguards and mechanisms in place to reduce injuries and fatalities."

The notice of motion Chahal put forward included a full public safety audit on storm ponds in Calgary that takes factors such as signage and bank erosion into consideration.

It also involves investigations into storm ponds in high-risk areas that include a close proximity to playgrounds, parks and schools.

The findings will be reported back to council before the end of September 2022.

He also suggested immediately expanding a public awareness campaign on storm pond safety that is culturally appropriate for all Calgarians.

"Many of the issues in Ward 5 are related to the fact that many of the residents do not speak English as their first language," Chahal said.

"We must do better to educate these communities in ways that are universally accepted."