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Creek enhancement project pitched for Olds athletic park

Olds town council has endorsed an idea from the Rotary Club to hammer out a memorandum of understanding for a project to enhance Olds Creek

OLDS — The Rotary Club of Olds wants to work with the Town of Olds and community to enhance Olds Creek that runs along a portion of Rotary Athletic Park. 

Town council is supportive of the idea, so last month, after hearing a pitch from the club, town council voted to receive the club’s presentation on the concept. 

A motion on the matter also called on administrative staff to work with the Rotary Club and others to flesh out the idea and bring it back to council for further discussion later. 

Rotary Athletic Park is located on the western edge of town, just northwest of Walmart. 

Specifically, the club wants to hammer out a memorandum of understanding with the Town of Olds to move the process forward. 

No cost estimates were provided, as the first task was to get council permission to flesh the idea out further. 

Rotary Club members Jim Smith, Randy Smith (no relation) and Darlene McDonald made the pitch, noting it was inspired by Rotary International’s decision to make the environment a focus for protection and improvement. 

It was suggested that the Olds project could include the planting of trees and shrubs in the area of the creek which in turn might attract small wildlife to the area and perhaps fish in the creek. 

“We all know that with trees and shrubs, we’ll bring back small animals, birds, possibly fish, that rely on biodiversity in order to thrive,” McDonald said. 

“And maybe even some day we’ll see kids fishing in the creek along the way, because fish will be happy to return.” 

It was also suggested that the revamped creek area could have an educational component. Signs denoting different species of trees or shrubs could be set up, for example. 

It was also said that the project could create “an edible forest” with fruit trees or shrubs that can survive in this climate. 

Jim Smith noted the creek runs into the Little Red Deer River, which runs into the Red Deer River and in the end, water from there becomes town drinking water. 

Council members were told that if all goes well, perhaps initial work on the project could begin this fall. They were told it might take two or three years to complete the entire project. 

“We see this as kind of a jog, rather than a sprint," Jim Smith said. 

In general, council members were supportive of the idea, although Coun. Heather Ryan said cost could well be an issue. 

Ryan also pointed out that the Town of Olds is short some staff members. 

Jim Smith likened the project to improvements that were made to land that became Confederation Park in Calgary. 

“I don’t know if any of you have been there recently,” he said. “But it’s become a fabulous park. It’s matured into a wonderful natural asset for Calgarians and for those of us who happen to hang out around the edge of Calgary.” 

He stressed that the concept is just that – a concept right now, with many more details that need to be hammered out. 

“We have a whole lot more questions that still have to be answered, but we wanted to share this idea with you,” Smith said. 

All three speakers stressed they hope to gain input and help from the entire community – from town staff, other service clubs, residents at large and Olds College landscape program representatives and/or students.  

"It was important to us to find a project that the entire community could be engaged in,” McDonald said. "It’s been a rough couple of years, so we wanted to make sure we could find a project that would allow people to participate however they could." 

Randy Smith said, “While we want to take the lead on this, we see this as building partnerships in our community and beyond. We’re looking at a sustainable project. We don’t want this to be a one-shot deal.” 

It was noted that representatives of the club have already held preliminary discussions with town staff about the idea. 

Coun. Wanda Blatz praised the concept. 

“I believe this is a wonderful project and I think it is something council should consider endorsing, absolutely,” Blatz said. 

Ryan liked the club’s idea of taking the lead on the project yet also striving to involve a good cross-section of the entire community. 

She got in a little pun, saying “it certainly does need to come from the grass roots, for sure.” 

Coun. Darren Wilson also praised the concept, adding that if the area is left as natural as possible, that might cut down on maintenance costs. 

Jim Smith stressed that flexibility will be key for the project.  

He noted for example, that designers will want to make sure the area is planned in such a way that any trees planted don’t create a hazard for people utilizing the toboggan hill slated to be built in the park. 

“We’d be happy to work with the Rotary Club and other interested parties to move this along and present to council in the future for more consideration,” chief administrative officer Brent Williams said. 

"I also feel that this is a (worthwhile) project to move forward with and I look forward to the finalized plan coming forward to us for a decision," deputy mayor Dan Daley said. 

Doug Collie

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