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Red Deerians to be surveyed about development of city’s newest park

City manager said a public input process will be launched early in 2023
All debris from the Michener Centre North demolition is expected to be cleaned up this winter. Early next year, Red Deerians will be asked for input into how this property should be developed into parkland. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deerians will have a say in the New Year about how the city’s newest park will be developed on former Michener Centre land.

City planners have already determined this property, which is mostly in a natural state with many mature trees, will become part of the Waskasoo Parks system.

Only a corner of it, near 30th Avenue, is pegged for the future development of an aquatic centre, which is not yet in the city’s 10-year capital plan.

Aside from these uses, Red Deer City Manager Tara Lodewyk said nothing else has been set in stone.

She wants to hear from Red Deerians as to how this parkland should be developed, including proposals for uses of J.J. Gaetz house, which is now sitting empty on the southwest corner.

Past suggestions include turning the house into an interpretive centre for urban gardening and beekeeping. But Lodewyk said the City of Red Deer isn’t tied to this or any idea and wants to hear from Red Deerians. “We are starting off with a blank slate…”

An online and/or in-person survey process will be developed early in 2023 to gauge public opinions, said Lodewyk.

Over the winter, debris removal from the demolition of Michener Centre buildings should be completed. The Parks department will encourage natural grasses to spread over the reclaimed area in the spring until the wishes of Red Deerians are known, she added.

Lodewyk believes the city’s purchase from the province of this nearly quarter-section of property between Clearview Meadows and Clearview Ridge subdivisions should be finalized by the end of 2022. The price won’t be revealed until the transaction is completed.

Some redevelopment money is in the proposed 2023/24 city budget — for this former Michener Centre property as well as for Centennial Park Plaza, south of the downtown McDonald’s.

Lodewyk said Red Deerians were consulted in 2016 about what they would like to see on the site of a former wading pool and public washroom. Both amenities were closed in 2015 after guidelines changed regarding water quality and the pool’s infrastructure was found lacking.

Some Red Deerians had also raised concerns about safety and sanitation, complaining homeless people were bathing in the pool.

Up to now money hasn’t been approved in city budgets to make changes to Centennial Park. But Lodewyk believes this project could go ahead in 2023 — as long citizens are still behind suggestions made in 2016 for the development of another kind of water feature, as well as more seating and picnic areas.

Next summer, the playground outside the G.H. Dawe Recreation Centre will have a new spray park for kids. Lodewyk expects the expanded recreation centre to become operational early in the New Year.

Since the Dawe centre will have a new twinned ice rink, the City of Red Deer intends to start demolishing the old Kinex Arena, behind the Servus Arena, next spring and reclaiming the land it occupies.

Lodewyk said the old arena had a useful run for many decades, but its systems are now so aged it wasn’t prudent to invest in upgrades.

Also proposed in the 2023 budget is money to begin upgrading the CP Rail pedestrian bridge, which needs some deck and structural improvements. Lodewyk said a government grant was received to cover costs.