Our View (Editorial)
reprinted from Red Deer
Advocate (Greg Neiman) February 8, 2010
Let's set aside throne speeches, Parliaments, taxes and frozen
windrows of snow for a while and think about something really
important: a model rail museum and theme park for Riverlands.
The first time you hear of a tourism-themed idea like this, the
normal reaction is: "What the heck are you thinking about?"
If the idea cannot climb over that first reaction, it is dead.
Witness the proposal for a set of canals running through the
Now, if I had to make a choice between living in a city with a
waterpark extending several kilometres through our city core,
surrounded by greenery, shops, restaurants and festival sites, or a
transportation-themed museum surrounded by greenery, shops,
restaurants and festival sites, I still like the canals.
But that's just me. The majority definitely rules here, and I
realize I'm more likely to be tossed into a canal than to canoe
along one in Red Deer.
However, quite early after the public defeat of the canals option
has come another, with different options and appeals, and it's worth
spending time thinking about the possibilities.
Of all cities, Red Deer is in a unique position. We have a major
land redevelopment opportunity on some rather pretty waterfront,
that happens to be physically connected to the economic and cultural
heart of the city.
We have recent planning agreements with our two neighbouring
counties to preserve our joint riverlands corridor as a connected
and protected greenway stretching many kilometres both upstream and
downstream of the city. We are at the south end of a major public
trails initiative that will quite soon traverse many kilometres of
rather pretty countryside and farmland, all the way to Ponoka.
Given the size of these tourism assets, and their natural connection
to our downtown, we'd be fools not to think big, when we think about
Our opportunity to remake and re-think our very self-identity as a
city makes Red Deer the envy of virtually all others. We've been
talking about downtown redevelopment for more than 25 years now and
pretty well all we've been able to produce are award-winning plans.
Well, that's as much -- and probably more -- than most Canadian
centres have accomplished. It is extremely hard to do this work.
But history has afforded Red Deer a chance to redevelop a very large
parcel of riverfront land that connects to downtown, which is
something no other city has at this stage. There just isn't any more
new space to develop in city heartlands -- especially in a
reasonably natural setting.
So we can't let this opportunity pass. We need to make this
redevelopment into something the whole world can look at and not
say: "What the heck were they thinking?" but rather: "Gee, I wish we
had the chance to do something like that."
It became clear fairly soon that a canals option wasn't what we had
Might it be a model railway museum and transportation theme park?
Don't say no right away, just because it's novel or unusual, or
might cost you some money up front.
If links can include a future Riverlands greenway, as well as other
attractions outside the city limits, there are huge possibilities in
We want something to showcase our city and our new downtown area for
visitors, but we also want something that enhances our lives here
Believe it or not, our downtown is still the major economic engine
of the city. It is a high-density employment zone, and it is
becoming increasingly attractive as a high-density residential zone.
A huge portion of Red Deer residents live within a 20-minute walk of
So we owe it to ourselves to think long into the future when we
think about Riverlands, Alexander Way and the whole downtown area.
This opportunity will never come again.