$1.85-M parks upgrade planned

Red Deerians can hear first-hand about the City of Red Deer’s $1.85-million project to upgrade Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Fort Normandeau and the rest of Waskasoo Park.

Executive director Jim Robertson of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society says pending public and designers’ input

Executive director Jim Robertson of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society says pending public and designers’ input

Red Deerians can hear first-hand about the City of Red Deer’s $1.85-million project to upgrade Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Fort Normandeau and the rest of Waskasoo Park.

Citizens are invited to attend a preview night on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at Kerry Wood Nature Centre, located at 6300 45th Ave.

Jim Robertson, executive director of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, said people will be able to learn more from city planners, as well as from AldrichPears Associates.

The Vancouver company designs for museums, interpretive centres, science centres, and other projects centring on visitor experiences.

“AldrichPears is one of the pre-emptive companies in North America for that kind of work in interpretive planning and exhibit design,” said Robertson on Thursday.

The meeting will showcase some of the preliminary plans. Residents will be able to give their feedback. There’s also an online survey at www.reddeer.ca/waskasooparkplan.

Kerry Wood Nature Centre’s Facebook page also has information.

The City of Red Deer and Waskasoo Environmental Education Society are collaborating on the new Interpretive Master Plan for the city’s major park system.

Besides the nature centre and Fort Normandeau, Waskasoo Park includes thousands of hectares of park space, 100 km of trails and Bower Ponds. It follows the river as well as Waskasoo and Piper creeks.

Red Deer city council recently gave first reading to borrow $1.7 million for the project. The rest of the money would come from reserves.

Of the $1.7 million, $586,000 was approved as part of the 2012 capital budget. The remainder would be approved as part of the 2013 budget.

The new master plan will update the themes and methods for telling the park’s stories and set out a framework for how people become more aware, more involved and more connected to the park.

The project may include self-guiding trails, interpretive panels, exhibits, multimedia, interactive media and activity programs.

Some of the project will include replacing signs and exhibits at different venues, likely over several years.

“It has been almost 30 years since the original interpretive master plan was done,” said Robertson.

“And we have learned a lot more about this area in that time. The park has grown and will be growing more in the future. At the same time, our society and technologies have changed, so it is time to refresh our interpretive information and methods.”

“Waskasoo Park is immensely important to our community,” added Kristina Oberg, acting Recreation, Parks and Culture Department manager. “Surveys consistently show that the park is considered Red Deer’s greatest asset. The new Interpretive Master Plan will encourage and support opportunities for people to interact with Waskasoo Park.”

Following public feedback, the consultants will work on the designs until they are completed sometime this fall, Robertson said.

It’s hoped the first part of the actual work will be done in early 2013 as part of commemorating the City of Red Deer’s centennial, he said.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com