Veterans will have a new commemorative plaza to visit on a busy downtown corner.
They’ll also have the chance to park on the street for free to visit the pedestrian-friendly plaza, slated to be built next year along Ross Street and west of 49th Avenue.
On Monday, Red Deer city council endorsed the plaza as part of the city’s Veteran Recognition Program. They had previously supported a capital budget of $1.3 million to build the plaza, and now the work can get underway to design the plaza, which could include lighting and commemorative benches.
The plaza would jut out from the sidewalk to include the monument of the unknown soldier, erected in the middle of Ross Street in 1922.
“It gives us a place to share memories. . . and to create story telling,” said Councillor Cindy Jefferies.
Two lanes of traffic on the north side of the cenotaph are currently shut down while a highrise is being built. Once the plaza is built, there will still only be two lanes directly in front of it.
Councillor Frank Wong opposed the motion to support the plaza because he said he’s already received traffic complaints there.
“By doing this park, we’ll be creating a traffic problem,” said Wong. “Not everyone is supporting this.”
After lengthy debate, council also supported a year-round parking fee exemption for all veterans. The city would provide a parking pass to anyone who has a veteran’s licence plate.
Bobbi McCoy, vice-president of the Alberta-Northwest Territories region for the Royal Canadian Legion, asked the city for the parking meter exemption. Many veterans have told her they wouldn’t apply for the pass, but it is still there for anyone who chooses.
“It’s a small gratitude compared to the big sacrifices they have made,” said McCoy of Red Deer.
Inspections and Licensing manager Paul Meyette said a parking pass would prevent any risk of abuse, not from veterans, but possibly from family who might be able to drive a vehicle with veteran licence plates on them.
Jefferies voted down the parking pass idea because she’d rather see money put into a program where the memories of veterans could live on, such as the sharing of stories between veterans and the younger generation.
Councilllor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer also voted against the parking exemption after speaking with several veterans.
“They were concerned about possible resentment (from the rest of the public),” she said.