Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A river walk less travelled

Visitor numbers down as parts of pathway still underwater or in the process of being cleaned

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A romantic stroll down the Assiniboine Riverwalk still requires a raft in some parts.

Gerry and Claire Milette discovered this Thursday when they went down to The Forks to celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary. They opted for a ride down the Assiniboine with Splash and Dash Boat Tours instead of a soggy river walk.

"When the river walk is open, it's great. People can walk along the river, and to have our business right down beside the water makes life a little easier for us," said Splash and Dash employee Andy Bart. "We've been running a limited operation with the high water, to say the least."

The Splash and Dash's half-hour guided boat tours have been running regularly all season, but their water bus has yet to make an appearance because of high water levels.

While The Forks harbour finally opened this week after a summer spent beneath murky water, parts of the river walk trail along the Red River and ahead of the CN rails are still flooded or being cleaned.

The river walk's cleaning responsibilities are divided into three sections, said The Forks' marketing co-ordinator Chelsea Thomson. The portion of the river walk along the Red River is taken care of by Parks Canada, while The Forks cleans the harbour and the City of Winnipeg cleans west of of Union Station.

There's no telling when the entire trail might be walkable, said Thomson.

"It's not something that we can predict, to be honest. We watch and see how fast water levels are going down, but it's just something that's out of our control," she said.

The Forks has seen a noticeable dip in attendance numbers this summer, which is perhaps due to the longtime closure of the river walk, said Thomson. "We have an unscientific measuring tool where we do door counts inside the Forks market and those counts are lower than they were last year at the same time, noticeably lower."

City crews began cleaning the northern part of the river walk last week and still have at least four weeks worth of work to go, said city communications officer, Lisa Fraser.

"The walkway was damaged from the previous year's flooding, and needs to be repaired. It will be opened as the construction progresses with the finish date expected in mid-September," Fraser said in an email.

A spokesperson for Parks Canada said the federal government has hired a contractor to begin excavating their portion of the river walk on Monday. He expects the operation to take at least two weeks, about the same amount of time it took last year. In 2013, excavation crews removed 900 cubic metres — roughly 60 dump-truck loads — of garbage and sludge from the Parks Canada portion of the river walk.

For now, Forks patrons can walk for at least five minutes along the Assiniboine without taking a dip.

jessica.botelho-urbanski @freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2014 B1

History

Updated on Friday, August 15, 2014 at 6:34 AM CDT: Replaces photo

12:22 PM: adds federal government contractor info

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