Opinion: New city signs are money well spent

There may be people who question spending just over $1 million for a pair of signs to welcome visitors to the city.

At a time when many residents are still feeling the pain of a stubborn recession, some people might think the money could be better spent on something perceived as more essential. They’d be wrong.

The signage is part of the strategic plan city council has adopted to raise Red Deer’s profile within Alberta and further afield.

“If we are to be competitive for tourism and economic development, we need to strongly position our municipal and community identity,” says Mayor Tara Veer.

The impressive sign erected at the southern entrance to the city, just as motorists head north to the new Gaetz Avenue interchange, is an eye-catcher certain to create a positive impression with anyone who sees it.

The sign is characterized by bold metal beams that pay tribute to the city’s trees and nature.

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A second sign is being installed nearby this week, weather permitting. It will feature the image of a deer, which is, of course, intertwined with the city’s name and identity.

Together, the signs reinforce the message that Red Deer is a vibrant, modern city that is confident about its place in the world.

Red Deer, despite the challenges it shares with other Alberta cities, exudes a sense of optimism that isn’t as evident in centres such as Calgary and Edmonton.

The new signage emphasizes that reality. Instead of the half-hearted postings at the entrances to the larger cities north and south of here, Red Deer’s signs are reflective of the dynamic hub the city is and the grander one it will become.

Tellingly, there’s no boastful slogans about Red Deer’s sports prowess (a message long since abandoned, of course) or being part of some sort of energy, just a simple “welcome” in both of Canada’s official languages.

To some extent, the long-awaited start of the 2019 Canada Winter Games deserves some of the credit for the prevailing we-can-do-it attitude. The event is an organizational marvel that will leave lasting legacies throughout central Alberta.

The sporting equipment used at the games, for instance, will be passed on to local sports groups, providing a boost to the region’s athletes.

There are other tangible legacies of the sport spectacle, of course, such as the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre and upgrades to recreational facilities and community spaces, but the impact of the games is much larger than that.

The event will leave behind a trained, 5,000-strong volunteer force ready to host future national and international events, notes Lyn Radford, chair of the host committee.

Collectively, the tangible and intangible legacies of the games will be a testament to a community that comes together and accomplishes great things. Not every community can say that with sincerity.

Red Deer will confront challenges with determination and compassion, just as it’s always done. Thankfully, it will also celebrate its successes and its blessings. The new signs are proof of that.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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