Park is key to downtown

The future of Red Deer’s downtown is once again on the drawing table. This time, the notions about what would make the city’s core more attractive and durable should be pursued aggressively.

The future of Red Deer’s downtown is once again on the drawing table.

This time, the notions about what would make the city’s core more attractive and durable should be pursued aggressively.

Last week, an ambitious concept for Rotary Recreation Park was unveiled by city officials. Essentially, it calls for the development of a superpark, encompassing the current Recreation Centre, the Arena and Kinex, the Museum and Archives, the tennis complex and the various parks and facilities in that general area.

A superpark would become the hub of a refashioned Red Deer in which the downtown is a destination for families, day and night and year round — but it will require huge commitment from the public, community groups and the corporate citizenry.

It would feature walkways, ponds and outdoor skating areas, a new 50-metre swimming pool and more indoor ice surfaces. The general plan would compartmentalize areas of recreation: an aquatics centre; an ice centre with two more arenas; a tennis centre and more. It would answer a critical shortage of facilities in a number of key areas.

But the park would also feature a grand entranceway and have a sense of whole, rather than a random collection of facilities. It would be a destination onto itself and offer facilities for events.

Coupled with the Riverlands initiative and the Greater Downtown Action Plan, the Rotary Recreation Park proposal deserves strong endorsement and then a quick move to planning and implementation.

City officials, including community services director Colleen Jensen and Mayor Morris Flewwelling, aren’t putting a timeline on the project. They know that, beyond the planning labyrinth that must be negotiated, there are huge financial and logistical challenges.

“I think the challenge is going to be funding and the scheduling and the implementation,” Flewwelling told the Advocate.

The Greater Downtown Action Plan’s intent is to give the core of the city a new purpose: a renewed residential component, coupled with a vibrant entertainment, retail and restaurant district.

And the Riverlands vision, on land newly vacated with the relocation of the civic yards, gives the concept plan a great jumping off point.

But it is the Rotary Recreation Park proposal that will give a rejuvenated downtown its heart.

There are plenty of ideas floating around about the potential for downtown, including a civic wishlist that includes a newly expanded City Hall complex, an upgraded library, the vision for Riverlands, an arts centre with performance areas, galleries and perhaps including a new museum and archives, and now a superpark.

In total, it would make for an attractive, vibrant, magnetic downtown.

But it is not all feasible in the short term, and perhaps maybe not at all.

And there are conflicting notions that must be resolved. For example, the public market’s future has now been mapped out twice: once in the new superpark and once in the old civic bus barns in Riverlands (in this proposal, the market becomes a year-round fixture). And facets of the superpark proposal raise serious questions: convenient and ample parking and the willingness of the tennis club to abandon plans to take over the curling centre among them.

But the superpark should be the priority, both for the city and for service groups, sports and recreation organizations and corporate sponsors. It will require a significant financial commitment from all those groups. This is not the climate to expect multimillion-dollar projects to be financed by government alone, at any level.

The investment by the groups, businesses and citizens, however, will pay huge dividends. A superpark can become the catalyst for a rebirth downtown, starting from the heart of the community: its families.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

Just Posted

WATCH: Central Albertans learn about farm life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Pioneer Days Festival in Red Deer Saturday-Sunday

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

Update: Buccaneers win 38-13 in final home game

Bucs off to the finals with the win

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

MISSOULA, Mont. — A wildfire in Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing… Continue reading

Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Couillard march in Montreal’s Pride parade

MONTREAL — Thousands of cheering spectators lined the streets of Montreal on… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month