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A new bridge at Capstone would ignite that area’s development, says Red Deer city councillor

The proposed Red Deer River gondola project has been shelved for now, council told
A new pedestrian bridge would ignite development in Red Deer’s Capstone area, predicts city Coun. Victor Doerksen. (Image contributed)

If a new pedestrian bridge is built between Capstone and Bower Ponds, then developers will come, predicted Red Deer city Coun. Victor Doerksen.

During Friday’s budget session, the impassioned councillor asked administration what would it take to advance the bridge project and put it in the 2025-32 Capital Plan.

It will spur long-awaited developments in Capstone, “I can guarantee it,” said Doerksen, who feels there are even philanthropists in Red Deer who could help fund this as a legacy project.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes raised the question of the $16 million that will be spent in 2023 to update the old CPR pedestrian bridge from 1890. Although $11 million of this will come from government grants, she asked, does Red Deer even need two pedestrian bridges?

City manager Tara Lodewyk responded that the CPR bridge is an important connection in the city’s trail system and that having two pedestrian bridges could make a nice loop for walkers.

Part of the problem with adding the new bridge to the city’s 10-year capital plan is that no one yet knows how it should look or what it would cost, said Lodewyk, who noted the design could range from a bare-bones $5 million to a more elaborate $30 million.

But she promised council to bring information early in 2023 as to how to advance the bridge project.

Meanwhile, council heard the company behind a proposed gondola project over the Red Deer River is having challenges with a similar gondola built in Edmonton.

It is essentially put on hold and company officials are having conversations with investors, said John Sennema, the city’s manager of land and economic development.

Coun. Vesna Higham asked for the aquatic centre to be added to the city’s 10-year-plan, saying a building design was already undertaken and land is available in Clearview Ridge. If the Olympic-sized pool was in the city’s capital plan, she believes government sources could be tapped for funding.

Lisa Perkins, corporate services director, responded that the city is keeping an eye on possible funding sources. If one comes along, council could, at that point, be asked to add the aquatic centre to the capital plan.

Lodewyk told councillors that generally funds need to be allocated for a project before it is put into a capital plan. By putting the aquatic centre in the plan, you create public expectations, she said, and it would be difficult and disappointing to pull it from the plan if funding later couldn’t be found.

Perkins suggested administration return to council next year with information about how and when the aquatic centre could be put into the capital plan in future.

Earlier during Friday’s budget talks, a proposal by Coun. Victor Doerksen to look at placing snow plowing costs on citizens’ utility bills became a non-starter when council heard this is not considered a utility under the Municipal Government Act.

Coun. Lawrence Lee later withdrew his resolution to look at reducing the time lag between snowfalls and when Red Deer residential areas get plowed after hearing that the city’s snow clearing policies will be reviewed in 2023.

Most councillors weren’t comfortable reducing the number of trees to be planted over the next two years to begin replacing ones lost through disease or blow-down.

Coun. Kraymer Barnstable suggested replacing fewer trees to save costs, but councillors Cindy Jefferies and Dianne Wyntjes spoke of how strongly Red Deerians love their trails and parks. Council heard tree replacements have been lower for the past couple of years due to previous zero tax-increase budgets.

“We are known for being a city of trees,” said Wyntjes.