Editorial – Is there ‘too much park?’

Jeff Burgar

A “Thumbs Down” last week from a reader is food for thought. The item said, “A reader passes this along. To all people in High Prairie! Stop the fighting and work toward building a better community.”

We think that is the whole point of the recall petitions circulating in that town. Citizens are tired of a council that seems to have little interest, as judged by actions, in building a better community. The lightning rod for this is of course, the failure of council to purchase the old hospital land, 11 acres of it, in High Prairie in early 2023.

Compounded by the confusion of some councillors saying they never heard of deciding not to buy the land until September of 2023, compounded by some backtracking to an April 2023 meeting they knew about, but so far say they did not know the price offered from Alberta Health Services to the Town was only $148,000. That April meeting? So far (as of April 11), there is no agenda, no minutes and no approval of such minutes in following meetings.

Add to this an unrelated list of missteps and “misunderstandings.”

As reported in this week’s newspaper, council has their supporters. At the April 9 High Prairie council meeting, a group of about eight or so citizens patted council on the back for “not buying the hospital land.” Council is not in the business of developing commercial property, one added.

Except that – actually – lots of towns and counties do exactly that. Anybody who has seen the huge industrial development land north of Grande Prairie should be aware that was started by the County of Grande Prairie. And built because the City of Grande Prairie was trying to annex the land to do the same thing.

Right now, Slave Lake is looking at developing industrial land in three different locations. There are similar stories right across Alberta.

But, wait a minute! Please!

It has to be said, after the nice comments to council, former High Prairie mayor Linda Cox, in attendance, pointed out the hospital land was NEVER intended for commercial development. In fact, since the new hospital was going ahead, gaining ownership of the old hospital land was pursued by her council. Cox, with the support of her council at the time, had a vision for the 11 acres of land as ideal for a park and/or recreation area, Ideas for the land included: senior’s outdoor gym, tennis courts, outdoor rink, walking trails, horseshoes, splash park and more. Commercial development, even though advocated by several people, was never on the agenda.

Interestingly, neither present Mayor Brian Panasiuk or Councillor Donna Deynaka, both of whom sat on council with Cox, deemed this worthy of mention.

A beautiful park area in the middle of town? It has to be said, in fairness to council, there has indeed been thought to a park. But apparently, mowing grass and other such maintenance items were deemed just too expensive for taxpayers to shoulder such a burden. Can you imagine the horrific costs of maintaining horseshoe pits, park benches, new trees, tennis and pickleball courts and more?

And note: Never any mention of what the public thinks.

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