Buffalo Lake road going back to gravel

Written by Stu Salkeld

A County of Stettler road popular for Buffalo Lake visitors will lose its failing pavement and be returned to gravel. The decision was made at the June 10 regular meeting of council which was broadcast on YouTube to meet pandemic guidelines.

Councillors read a memo in their agenda package prepared by director of operations Rick Green describing issues facing Range Road 21-2 From Hwy. 601 to Twp. Rd. 40-2 which is a popular route Buffalo Lake visitors use from the secondary highway.

“This road that services the lake communities and Ol’ MacDonald’s campsite, in addition to the area agricultural operations is over 10 years old and has been showing significant deterioration, most severely in the south mile,” stated Green’s report to council.

“The issue with this type of surface course tend to be trapped moisture when applied directly to subgrades without a structural drainage course. The traffic loadings draw moisture up and it is trapped in the top few inches of subgrade which in turn causes the seal coat surface course to slide under load resulting in cracks which open over time and allow more moisture to penetrate and continue the surface deterioration.

“For the last number of years, we have tried to stabilize the road by excavating the bad spots, adding gravel and capping with hot mix asphalt. This has been reasonably successful for the north section but with the added heavy agricultural traffic in the south mile, continuing patchwork is not recommended due to cost and safety given the uneven surface and continuation of surface breaches that occur through the year after spring patching.

“Converting the road to a gravel surface with adequate dust abatement will reduce annual costs and leave the road surface management with regular grader maintenance throughout the year. We have discussed treatments with the MacDonald family who have an investment in the road from the original seal coat project and they have accepted our light oil product but have requested the application of ‘Clean Track’ as trial sites in the area have had good results.

“The work plan would include ripping up and performing a full subgrade preparation incorporating the existing granular and oil products in the subgrade to strengthen and shape. A surface course of gravel would be applied then ‘Clean Track’ or light oil would be applied to provide dust abatement and keep the surface gravel in place.

“This road currently is weight restricted at 75 per cent. Any section we can return to gravel would be able to support 100 per cent loads, however, a continuation of patching would require continuation of the 75 per cent restriction.”

Coun. Cheri Neitz stated she was happy that Ol MacDonald’s was consulted. Neitz added that she’s heard a lot of feedback from the community that the road needs to be rebuilt and dust control is needed.

Coun. Dave Grover asked if developments which use the road will help pay for dust control.

County Chief Administrative Officer Yvette Cassidy stated the Ol MacDonalds campground paid about $200,000 13 years ago for this road, but the county hasn’t approached them about chipping in yet.

Grover noted Ol MacDonalds got 13 years of benefit from their money. “It’s benefitting both of them,” said Grover, referring to developments on the road, adding that both are for-profit businesses and could pay possibly up to 50 per cent of the cost.

Green stated that the section of road in question is about two miles and dust control for that length would be about $60,000 and must be replaced every year. Currently, the section of road costs about $28,000 per year to maintain.

Grover stated the majority of county taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay that.

Coun. James Nibourg agreed, stating most of the benefit from any of this work goes to Buffalo Lake and for-profit businesses in that area which should pay their share of oil dust control.

Neitz noted two developments aren’t the only ones who use that stretch of road.

Reeve Larry Clarke stated the county already hears safety concerns about this road.

Green stated some patching could get the road through this summer and putting the road back to gravel would, by default, slow traffic down.

Cassidy also suggested lowering the speed limit which reduces dust and increases safety.

Councillors approved a motion to return the section of road in question to gravel for the full two miles but staff will investigate a speed limit reduction before any decision is made.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.