With its wading pool sitting empty for the eighth summer, Centennial Park in downtown Red Deer is still awaiting redevelopment.
The park just south of the downtown McDonald’s restaurant was initially supposed to be redesigned in 2018, a couple of years after the wading pool was permanently closed to the public.
Parents had first complained in 2015 that the shallow pool was being used as a bath by homeless people. Then in 2016, the cement basin wasn’t refilled after Alberta Health Services voiced infrastructure concerns about the pool’s filtration system. City officials decided at that point that an expensive retrofit wasn’t worth it since the structure built in 2004 “was reaching the end of its lifespan.”
In 2017, Red Deerians were first surveyed about how they would like to see the park redeveloped, with many people suggesting a different kind of water feature. But the park redevelopment didn’t happen as planned in 2018.
After several postponements — especially from 2020 to 2022 because of the pandemic — the project was slated to happen this year, only it’s not.
Priorities were re-assessed during the city last budget deliberations and the park’s redesign was pushed back to 2024, with construction now expected in 2025.
Greg Sikora, parks and public works manager for the City of Red Deer, said this was due partly to financial considerations, but it was also felt prudent to wait another year before starting on the project.
COVID-19 altered life, including traffic in the downtown, explained Sikora, who believes it makes sense to hold off until things fully normalize before questioning stakeholders in the area and/or members of the public again about what they would like to see in the park
Another feature that was closed around the same time as the wading pool is the public washroom in Centennial Park. With less traffic to the area, there were concerns the washroom was being used for illicit purposes, said Sikora.
The City and Downtown Business Association have since introduced a mobile temporary public restroom that was moved this summer to beside the Welikoklad Centre. But Sikora said a permanent public washroom is still in future plans. The city first needs to do an assessment to discover the best site for a washroom.
If the Centennial Park redevelopment ends up draws more traffic to the area, it could turn out the park’s washroom can be reopened, and another one won’t be needed, he added.