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Redesign of Surprise Corner now on hold

Banff’s scenic viewpoint overlooking Bow Falls won’t get a facelift any time soon.

Banff’s scenic viewpoint overlooking Bow Falls won’t get a facelift any time soon.

The $820,000 redevelopment of Surprise Corner had council’s initial blessing for 2015-16, but in an attempt to avoid heading into a deficit in the municipality’s capital reserves, it was one of the projects to fall by the wayside for now.

“It’s still on the radar and it’s still a project we want to see happen,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen. “Council really wants to see this project go ahead for esthetic and safety reasons, but we can’t afford to at the moment.”

Council also turned down other big budget projects for now, such as an $18.4 million intercept parkade, a $3.8 million redevelopment of Bear Street into a pedestrian and cycling friendly area and a $3.6 million pedestrian bridge from Central Park to the Banff rec grounds.

Banff, along with the municipalities of Jasper and Canmore, is lobbying the Alberta government for sustainable funding sources and recognition as unique tourism communities – and hopes to get provincial funding for these types of visitor-oriented projects.

Sorensen said redevelopment of Surprise Corner could also fall into that category.

“This project definitely has a visitor focus as some of the others did,” she said. “We continue to meet with the province and this is an example of a project we would like to do, but can’t afford.”

Surprise Corner offers one of the most iconic views in Banff – Bow Falls, Spray River Valley and historic Banff Springs Hotel – and is visited by tourists and residents and is often a site for weddings.

Administration recommended building a new gravel trail from the riverside trail to Surprise Corner, using the natural break in the hillside with the addition of handrails and short sections of boardwalk to protect roots of trees.

The redesign plan for the area also included formalization of the viewpoints at Surprise Corner as well as minor changes to the parking layout and landscaping to maximize the available space for vehicles.

The upper viewpoint would be a discrete suspended wood platform, while the lower viewpoint would be formalized by using the natural break overlooking Bow Falls directly below.

If and when redevelopment does go ahead, the Town proposes splitting the work over two years – with year one for design work, environmental screenings and year two for construction.

One of the issues the Town of Banff wants to address is safety, with so many visitors flocking to the area.

“From the viewpoint itself, when you go up there and see groups of visitors at the edge of the road and quite often they will wander on down past the signages down the cliff – it’s a long drop down,” said Adrian Field, Banff’s engineering manager.

Councillor Stavros Karlos spoke in favour of the proposal during initial discussion of the project.

“It’s not what I would consider one of our safest visitor viewpoints and I think there is an incredible amount of local traffic that goes through there, and visitor traffic, “ he said.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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