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Red Deer’s water tower to be fenced off from public access

Securing the safety of the city’s water supply is paramount: city official
There will be no public access to Red Deer’s water tower and pump house after an eight-foot fence is installed by a City of Red Deer contractor in the spring. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer’s water tower will soon be fenced off from public access — raising objections from some Mountview residents about the loss of green space.

Putting an eight-foot, iron bar fence around most of the property would be disruptive to the neighbourhood, they argue, since many area residents enjoy using the park-like setting.

It’s common to see families from across the city meeting up under the water tower to have their pictures taken, one Mountview resident wrote.

“The slopes on the reservoir have been a great place… to bring their little ones to play on and are the perfect size for them to sled on in the winter.”

While sympathizing with neighbourhood concerns, Alex Monkman, water supervisor for the City of Red Deer, said installing an unscaleable decorative metal fence is needed to address security concerns and to protect the city’s water supply.

Attempted break-ins to these municipal facilities occur once or twice a year, he added, and the water tower, pump house and door to the reservoir have been repeatedly vandalized and graffiti-ed.

Regulations to secure infrastructure have been around for a few years, and other city reservoirs, including in Lancaster and Glendale, have already been secured with similar fencing, said Monkman.

As maintenance is now being done on the water tower’s underground reservoir, he added it’s timely to address security issues.

Several Red Deerians who live near the tower first saw the fencing plans in a city bid package for a $3.5 million reservoir restoration.

About 60 per cent of the grassy area, including the water tower, pump house, reservoir and two out-of-commission tennis courts, is shown fenced off from the public.

The city intends to enhance the remaining 40 per cent of accessible space around the periphery of the property, by adding benches and a heritage sign about the iconic water tower, said Monkman.

He added two closed tennis courts on the property were already replaced with two new ones in the Mountview School’s playground.

One resident suggested the city move the fencing from street level to the top of the reservoir, so it only encompasses the pump house and tower.

But having the fence on top of the reservoir could compromise the roof of the structure, as fence posts must be sunk into the ground and cemented, said Monkman. He noted an engineer recommended adding fencing closer to street level.

Repairs on the vast, underground reservoir that lies at the root of Red Deer’s ‘Green Onion’ water tower are expected to take until spring.

Tom Marstaller, environmental planning superintendent for the City of Red Deer, previously stated a construction firm was hired to do proactive repairs after a 2021 inspection showed the Mountview tank was due for maintenance upgrades

The 50-plus-year-old tank usually holds more water than can fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools (10,500 cu. metres). But it’s been emptied so maintenance work can be done on concrete that was starting to deteriorate.

Red Deer has one of the very few bulbous water towers that are still looming over a Canadian city.

Since being built in 1957 by Horton Steel Co., the tower is one of the more recognizable features of Red Deer’s skyline. And Monkman said the renovations are being done to preserve this highly visible feature.

The local water tower was the largest such spheroid in the world when created 65 years ago. It required 240 tonnes of steel to build, and cost $275,000, with a capacity of holding 500,000 imperial gallons.

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Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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