Over 2,000 people responded to the Bow River Recreation Survey, and while the public is currently divided on the potential of a river wave park, they are acutely interested in recreating along the river.
Over 75 per cent want to use the Bow River to recreate but when it came to the specific question of the river wave park, 49.5 per cent of Cochrane residents responding were strongly or somewhat opposed to its development, while 46.5 per cent were strongly or somewhat in favour.
When you add in feedback from people who don't live in Cochrane but would travel here to use it, 52.4 were in favour, and 44.1 per cent were opposed.
The results of the survey were released today by the Cochrane River Wave Park Steering Committee. It's the first step in a longer-term public engagement process and will be used to help shape how to move forward with the next steps to enhance river recreation and/or a potential river wave park.
"They identified what was most important to them, and what needed to happen to make the project move forward, so those are all things we'll continue to investigate, says JoAnne Oucharek, of the steering committee and executive director of Cochrane Tourism.
She says they are both impressed and grateful for the number of people who participated in the survey.
"We were a little surprised with that. We have a lot of people who are very interested in the project on both sides, and that's great because that's what this is all about. When the public is interested in something, they're going to talk about it."
"I think we have enough information to keep the conversation going and continue to investigate. We've identified some next steps, but it's still at the very early stage."
Currently, the results are being widely distributed. It is also available on their website here. Soon they'll meet with town council for their feedback and to discuss potential next steps.
Those include exploring what grants are available for studies that would be required.
"Environmental studies need to be done, there are regulatory studies that need to be done, and that will continue to inform whether it is a viable project."
The survey delves into more than the wave park project. Of all respondents, 60 per cent were somewhat or very supportive of increased recreational use of the river.
They expressed interest in a wide range of other recreational opportunities the river offers, including nature watching, casual floating, downriver paddling, fishing, spectating of water events, other water sports, and of course, walking, biking, and a dog park.
To enhance the experience, some identified the need for garbage and recycling receptacles, beach areas, picnic tables, wheelchair access, fishing platforms, and signage.
Four per cent desired to keep the river in its natural state, made comments about the environment or a desire for non-invasive use.
The survey was completed between July 27 and Sept. 15, 2021. Just under 18 per cent of the people responding don't reside in Cochrane.
The steering committee says it remains committed to open, transparent communication throughout the entire investigation.