I believe in Red Deer, I really do.
My wife and I decided to raise our family in Red Deer nearly 40 years ago.
We originally moved to Oriole Park and our children attended French Immersion at Fairview School at the start. Then French Immersion relocated to Mountview School and we followed and moved south of the river.
For several decades we have lived in Sunnybrook. We, even at our age, can walk easily to 3 high schools, the museum, Red Deer College, Downtown Recreation Centre , Michener Aquatic Centre, Downtown Arena (Servus Arena), Centrium complex, Collicutt Recreation Centre, Pidherney Curling Centre, Kinex Arena, Kinsmen Community Arenas, Red Deer Curling Centre, and the under-construction Gary W. Harris Centre.
When we lived in Oriole Park we could only walk to the Dawe Centre and Bower Ponds.
It was an easy decision, for our family.
Today, not much has changed.
Looking at future plans for Red Deer, it appears not much will change for the north side. Last year 311 more families moved out of the neighbourhoods north of the river than moved in. 280 more families moved into Blackfalds than left during the same period. Some will say it was low housing prices; negating the costs of commuting, the newly built Abbey centre or the prospect of a new high school, in the very near future.
North Red Deer has no current prospect of a high school even though the population is almost 3 times the size of Blackfalds. All 6 of the high schools, 4 current and 2 planned will be south of the river with 5 being along 30 Ave.
North Red Deer has no current prospect of a new indoor pool while the downtown recreation centre will see a 100 million dollar plus renovation. They do have a conditional prospect of a new ice rink added to the Dawe Centre. Conditional that the 40 year old structure is sound enough, if not it will be built at the Collicutt Centre.
The North will get a Recreation Centre, no pool, no ice rink, but a rec. centre. Apparently that is good enough.
The North gets the developments that the south side does not want. Industrial parks, public works yards, social housing to name but a few. The last school that was to be built north of the river, was at Johnstone Park and it was built south of the river. You wonder why 311 families or 777 residents moved out of the north.
But it is not just the North that is declining. 79 more families moved out of the south side of Red Deer than moved in, too. A decline 198 residents south of the river. A total of 975 residents more moved out of Red Deer than moved in.
Our crime rate has garnered national attention ranking sometimes second highest per capita nationally. There was a report talking about intensifying efforts on youth at risk.
One third of our youth lives north of the river, with no high schools, and only the Dawe Centre for indoor swimming and skating. Do they have time to commute from high school on the other side of the city to go home, have dinner and then commute again, across the city for extra-curricular and sports activities then commute a third time, across the city to home, do their homework before bed times? Can the parents afford the time and costs of so many cross-city commutes, possibly, carrying younger siblings to boot? Might be tough.
Living in Sunnybrook, it took very little time to commute. The kids could walk, roller blade, bike, skateboard, but then they very seldom had to cross the river. It was the right decision to move south.
It need not be anymore. We just have to get city council and the school boards to stop treating the north as some type of second-class society.
Tell them, when you vote on October 16, that there is another option. Build the next Aquatic Centre in the North-west corner to compliment the successful south-east Collicutt Centre. Red Deer North has Hazlett Lake, a hundred acre lake, with 2 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 10 feet, highly visible from Hwy 2 and Hwy 11a just waiting to be utilized, by people with vision, courage and strength.
On October 16 I will be looking for candidates with those qualities.
The next high school to be built will be a public high school, slotted in for land by 67Street and 30 Avenue. Let the board candidates know that, this is unacceptable and should be changed. It could be built in Johnstone Park or on the 3,000 acres now up for development north of Hwy 11a.
The next aquatic centre is slated for downtown, replacing the recreation centre. It was supposed to cost 87 million if built in 2013, then that would mean 95.7 million in 2014, 105m in 2015, 116m in 2016, 127m in 2017, 140 million dollars in 2018 not including the costs of demolition, improving transportation routes and services.
Why not invest that approximately 150 million dollars and build the Aquatic Centre on Hazlett Lake to complement each other, highly visible and easily accessed from Hwy 2. I heard tourism is a big industry, highly profitable and a huge draw for new residents. Am I insane to even consider an Aquatic Centre with a lake? People could take transit, bike, walk or drive to the beach, swim in the pool, and not pay 10 dollars for parking. The Collicutt Centre was controversial, but since becoming the most utilized facility, does anyone suggest it was a mistake. It helped kick-start development in the south-east.
What am I thinking? Look at the Riverlands. The city has spent over 230 million dollars moving the public works yard, aligning roads, upgrading services, and burying cables, etc. to create a 23 acre riverfront downtown neighbourhood. Yet it would be insane to consider building an aquatic centre on Hazlett lake? Do not forget, they are also talking about a 21 million dollar footbridge, 100 million dollar plus upgrade to the downtown recreation centre, and a downtown concert hall, and do not forget, added to that is the new skating rink, now being built.
With all this on the books, the city’s population still declined by 975 residents last year. Why not consider other options without shrugging it off?
I believe in Red Deer, I just do not want to lose a golden opportunity. Do you?
I believe in Red Deer, I really do.