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McHugh Bluff pathway closure expected for the next 15 months

A popular city pathway connecting Crescent Heights with the community of Sunnyside will be closed for the next 15 months due to slope instability in the area.

The city announced the closure last week along McHugh Bluff, with barricades erected to close off the area to any traffic.

The City of Calgary has completed a preliminary investigation into the slope, and a long-term solution for the area was recommended. According to the project page, heavy rains in August 2021 led to instability in a section of McHugh Bluff behind the houses on 3 Avenue NW.

The location of the unstable slope. CITY OF CALGARY

A plan that includes soil nails, sheet drains, horizontal slope drains, high-strength wire mesh and steel plates. It also includes the reconstruction of the retaining wall in the area are included in the work.

To this point, the city hasn’t made the project budget public. Funding was approved in June, but it was done in a closed session. That was done to protect the integrity of the procurement process. A Request for Proposals is being put together.

According to Chris McGeachy with the City of Calgary Roads department, that area of the slope is monitored on an ongoing basis. It’s currently under close watch with the incoming heavy rains.

“At present, there is no immediate danger to adjacent homes, but we have closed the pathway as some slope material has covered the path,” McGeachey wrote in an email response.

McGeachy also said the City has plans for emergency erosion control in the fail area on the slope. A contractor is ready to begin the work as soon as the area is accessible.

“The City will consider and undertake appropriate measures to ensure the area is secure until stabilization work can be completed,” he wrote.

More severe than expected: Coun. Wong

Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said they did a scope assessment of the area. That assessment found the slope needed more work than the city initially anticipated.

He said they could have just patched up the issues as they arose but opted for a more permanent fix.

“We wanted to be sure that the issue is resolved more effectively over the long term,” he said.

Wong expects that given the current timeline construction work will begin next spring.

Wong said it was difficult to compare this situation with the slope problems in Douglasdale, which cost roughly $28 million. He said this section is shorter, but Douglasdale didn’t have houses or city infrastructure above and below.

Detours are in place to prevent Calgarians from using the area around the slope. CITY OF CALGARY

Wong also said the city has plans in place to protect homes. That could include the creation of a protective berm to catch any debris.

“I think that people need to recognize this is a combination of people safety, as well as the property safety that we’re looking out for,” he said.  

“And as much as somebody might say, ‘well, I’m an avid hiker, I can do this,’ that’s not the point. The point is, we want to share that that safety overall.”

The construction contract is expected to be awarded in the fall.