Our Opinion (Editorial)
New idea for Riverlands worth
an Olympic cheer
Opinion reprinted from Red Deer Express (Johnnie Bachusky)
February 24, 2010
While Olympians continue
their quest for glory this week in Vancouver, there are those in
this city and region quietly moving forward with dreams of their
Before the recession dropped like a bomb in late 2008 Red Deer was
positioning itself for an exciting and prosperous future with
ambitious Olympian-like plans for the Riverlands that featured a
canal-driven development concept with an ultimate goal of making the
city a major tourism destination point.
But after a less than thorough process, the City opted for a
Vancouver-imported plan that was less ambitious on the tourism
generating scale and more directed towards a glitzy revitalization
project for a new Red Deer community.
The latter proposal, while credible, was without any theme that was
either historically, culturally or geographically relevant, or even
remotely interesting, for the city or anyone visiting.
Now comes an idea from the Forth Junction Heritage Society, which is
pitching a concept it believes would be a world-class tourism
attractor. And it is certainly interesting, and relevant. The idea
is based on a ground transportation theme, particularly the railway
and its past and future role in the region. The concept envisions
using the Riverlands as its base in the city while stretching into
Red Deer County where the municipality is embracing open spaces,
trails, and heritage, with the latter underscored by its recent
acquisition of the historic Mintlaw trestle railway bridge.
Like the past proponents of the canal idea for the Riverlands,
society members are urging the public to think bold and big. They
note, even in spite of the recession, the timing is just right to
aim for the stars, particularly with Red Deer's 100th anniversary
just three years away in 2013.
What should appeal to the many naysayers of the past canal idea is
that the society has moved slowly and methodically with its
ambitions, and has come up with a plan that is original and
relevant, not transplanted from Texas or Canada's west coast.
The society was formed 10 months ago from a group of local
transportation historians and model railroaders. There is now a
board, society bylaws, business plan, non-profit charity status and
a web site. With Paul Pettypiece as president, the society also has
The early and cautious word from City Hall is that the idea is an
interesting one and worth exploring.
While everything at this point is just preliminary, Pettypiece and
his people have certainly done their homework, far more so than the
well-intentioned proponents of the early canal idea.
And while any refined and final approved concept is still a long
ways off it is encouraging to know that dreams of glory, thinking
grand and big, are flourishing in this community. Like any great
Olympic performance, that is worth celebrating.