The beaches at Birds Hill Park might be closed for the season but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any action at the popular watering hole.
Construction crews are well into their work expanding the West Beach area at the provincial park, with excavation on a new swimming lake starting to take shape.
The expansion of the beach area, which will eventually see the existing East Beach and West Beach ponds connect to a newer lake/beach further west of the original configuration, is expected to be completed by the end of October (weather permitting), with minor vegetation and landscape work completed before the start of the May 2015 long weekend.
The East Beach and West Beach closed for the season on Labour Day.
Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship Gord Mackintosh said the expansion is necessary given the increasing popularity of the park, which is just north of Winnipeg on Highway 59.
"It was recognized that we had to increase the capacity (and) we had to ensure that there is greater safety on our beaches," Mackintosh said Wednesday.
The province says the Birds Hill Park attracts an average of 10,000 visitors a day.
The beach expansion project is part of a five-year, $22-million commitment the provincial government made to Manitoba’s busiest park in 2012. New bike trails, washrooms and interpretive structures, volleyball courts and an increase in camping are included in that investment. The beach expansion will cost approximately $5-million.
Mackintosh said the plan is to increase the beach area by about 33 per cent.
"This is a real investment in family fun," he said.
Besides making more room for sunbathers, the increased water capacity at Birds Hill Park is expected to result in cleaner water for swimmers. Once completed, the new body of water will have a clay base floor (to help retain water) and, like the existing lake, a mechanism that will allow for drainage after each summer season.
Ray Offman, a civil engineer with the KGS engineer consultant group, said the project also features attention to the current water infrastructure.
"This lake is fed with a ground water well; we’re doing improvements to the groundwater and fountain system that goes in here," he said. "The lake drainage system is being improved, so parks operational staff can better get into the lake and clean it up at the end of each season."
Officials add that the bike and walking path around the swimming lake, which has been destroyed during the excavation work, will be put back in place on the west side of the new lake footprint next summer.