Sylvan Lake to take over provincial park

Agreement approved by town council would see province provide $1.96 million for future park upkeep

Sylvan Lake Provincial Park may soon be under new management.

Town of Sylvan Lake and the province have come to terms on a deal to turn over the park to the municipality.

As part of an agreement approved by town council on Tuesday night, the municipality will pay a token $1 for the park and the province will provide $1.96 million to cover the cost of maintenance and upkeep for 10 years along with money for trees, trails, landscaping upgrades and signs.

It’s a deal that has been in the works for years, with talks picking up steam over the last two years. A similar deal was made in 2009 when the province turned over Centennial Park near the lakeshore to the town.

The province still must formally approve the agreement, which is expected to happen before spring.

“It’s good news,” said town communications officer Joanne Gaudet of the long-awaited deal.

Provincial funding is a key part of the agreement. The town did not want taking over the park to mean foisting additional costs on to local taxpayers.

Besides covering all of the anticipated routine costs of running a park, there is expected to be some money left over for future investments in the park, she said.

Under the terms of the deal, the park must remain dedicated for public recreational use and development is restricted. Improvements such as a new washroom or band facility would be allowed but not big developments, such as a school or recreation centre.

The timing of the agreement coincides with a new town initiative to create a planning vision for the entire waterfront area. Consultants were recently hired to begin work on the Sustainable Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan.

Over the next year or so, the intention is to create a plan based on much public consultation to tie in the entire waterfront area, including the site of the former Wild Rapid Waterslides Park. Last year, the town spent $4.9 million to buy the 3.5-acre site to ensure it remained a public space.

Gaudet said sealing the deal with the province is “absolutely important to this whole waterfront consultation discussion and the vision creation because without it it’s a huge gap in our plans.”

For the town, taking over the park gives it more control over the popular destination’s future, planning, maintenance and enforcement.

The split jurisdiction along the lakeshore created a number of administrative hassles and enforcement issues. For instance, a dog or public nuisance complaint was the responsibility of either town or provincial staff depending on where it originated.

Also, a lakeshore business that needed to use the park faced getting approvals from both the town and province.

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