|Herald photo by Ian Martens
Troy Nickle, right, with Mark Goettel, speaks on observations from their frequent coulee hikes as part of the Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife SocietyÕs ÒWildlife in the WindÓ speaker series recently at the Lethbridge Public Library.
A third bridge crossing may not be in the city's plans for the next 20 years, but further development will have an impact on the uniqueness and importance of the Lethbridge river valley regardless of the timeline, say a pair of frequent coulee users.
The potential for use and misuse in the Oldman River bottom was the centre of Mark Goettel and Troy Nickle's joint presentation titled "Lethbridge Coulees: Urban Parks and Wildlife Corridor" recently at the Lethbridge Public Library's Community Meeting Room.
It was the sixth of seven topics in the Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society's "Wildlife in the Wind" 2012-13 speaker series.
Goettel, a retired insect pathologist from the Lethbridge Research Centre, and Nickle, a local artist who creates ephemeral earthworks, sculpture and photography, walk a six-kilometre route through the coulees about once a week and have studied the changing landscape for the past two years.
"We are very lucky that we have the river valley and the river going through our city - and especially the coulees," Goettel said.
"Because if this was a normal river that was at the level of the city, we'd have urbanization right up to the river like most cities."
"It really dawned on us that we might be losing this important place within our city," Nickle said.
"I think if we have this bridge come through this area, this area is going to be completely destroyed. A lot of this habitat is going to be disturbed and some of it is going to be lost."
The pair met through a group called The Field Notes Collective, a collection of local scientists and art professionals.
Their first hike was on March 6, 2011, and they began collecting observations during their weekly excursions, which depart from the Sugar Bowl, head down into the river bottom and end behind Chinook Heights.
"Our project evolved out of basically trying to depict the landscape and the changing seasons, documenting the wildlife, the vegetation," Nickle said.
"We wrote down the things that left an impression on us to try to get an image or a picture of time and change. It's opened my eyes to a lot of other things that I normally wouldn't have seen."
Goettel said he has regularly visited the coulees with his family over the years, but added his view was intensified when he and Nickle began their frequent route.
The route which is also partially in one of the proposed locations for the City of Lethbridge's long-term project of adding a third bridge across the Oldman River, something they are not in favour of.
"If that bridge does go through, it will be a travesty," Goettel said.
"This a real, real rich heritage, I think, or area for the city and it's an opportunity for our children to go down there and experience something. I think people in Lethbridge don't realize that there's something right there. There is no Wi-Fi in the coulees, but I promise you'll find a better connection."
The seventh and final event in this season's "Wildlife in the Wind" speaker series will be on April 2 when Paul Jones presents "Backs Against the Fence: using Citizen Science to Keep Pronghorn Antelope Moving."