I don’t really remember the days leading up to the Calgary flood. It was a blur of rainy days and meeting deadlines and end-of-the-year celebrations at my kids’ schools. I do, however, remember perfectly the view out the window.
There was a beautiful, bermed-up grass park sandwiched between our road and the bike path that used to run adjacent to the Bow River. The field was a place where Avery and Bennett ran around kicking balls and chasing butterflies, and where I threw sticks for Piper after walking Avery to school. When I close my eyes I can see it in unblemished detail, dandelions and all. When I open them all I see is a chain-link fence.
The fence has been erected since June 24, three days after the river eroded the park and a thin sliver of the street in the space of 60 hours between the night of June 20 and the morning of June 23. The fence is there to protect us from the ongoing bank and road rebuilding projects and, I suppose, to keep us from sleepwalking right out of the house and stumbling into the water.
But to me it has come to symbolize everything we lost in the flood: a park, a street, a public place for the kids to play, the “Piper walk” (the bike path where our family walked Piper as a puppy), peace of mind. Canada Post won’t deliver packages to our door, instead writing on the claim slip, “no road.” We haven’t been able to park in front of the house to unload groceries FOR A YEAR. Our alley, as the only access to the homes on our street, is most days frenetic (and occasionally impassable) with van deliveries, contractor’s trucks and residents coming and going. Visitors must park down the road on another block and walk. We still have a sidewalk at least, though bike commuters have turned it into a makeshift path and will even ring their bells at us to pass! Maybe it’s a little #firstworldproblems of me to complain about it (hey, at least we still have a house! And a newly renovated post-flood basement!), but I just want the fence down and the road rebuilt so we can have normalcy again. Or — at least — so we can get used to a new normal.
Crews have been working on and off since fall to fix the devastation wrought by the river. In October they reclaimed some of the lost land and reinforced the new, manmade bank with riprap.
In winter they levelled the point bar on the north side of the river to the same grade as the water so that when the water rose this spring it could flow onto a lower plain (to compensate for narrowing the channel when they rebuilt the bank on our south side). They also built two gravel groynes on the cut bank (our side) to divert water away from the bank during heavy flow.
Finally, this spring, they have planted trees and shrubs along our bank, and last week began work to reconstruct our street. Finally. I get that there are finite resources to rebuild all that was damaged around the city during last summer’s disaster, but isn’t having street access to homes a priority? And when crews decide to test the sewer line on your road and it ends up geysering urine-aroma water via the toilet all over your bathroom, you kind of just want it to end already.
But I suppose I shouldn’t complain so much. Really, you get used to it. Until you close your eyes.