Council commits up to $300,000 for skatepark, subject to matching funds

·4 min read

The Municipality of Jasper will commit up to $300,000 for a new skatepark, conditional on matching funds.

During their Feb. 2 regular meeting, council passed two motions on this matter. The first was to approve up to $300,000 in matching funds for a new skatepark, subject to matching funds being secured from external sources.

The second is that council consider allocating a portion of the land known as Diamond A in Centennial Park for construction of the skatepark.

Council members have expressed strong support for a skatepark in Jasper many times since the Jasper Skate Park Committee presented requests for funding starting in 2017.

There has been mention at recent meetings of funding to the skatepark of $100,000 each, from two foundations, although their identities remain anonymous.

Mayor Richard Ireland said the commitment is confirmed but contingent on the raising of other funds.

“We would have liked to have seen more fiscal allocation, but I won’t stand in the way of a skatepark,” said Coun. Jenna McGrath.

Other councillors lauded the importance of a skatepark in town.

“It’s time to make some progress,” said Coun. Bert Journault. “The motion is very straightforward. It’s conditional on matching funds. I think it’s very key at this stage, after all the discussion, that council demonstrate leadership in this project.”

Government supports

A greater number of residents than usual have been accessing supports available through Community and Family Services (CFS), said director Kathleen Waxer in a report to council.

“The actual frontline services – we’ve never seen the numbers that we have, as in 2020: more services, more people wanting to connect to applications and government services,” Waxer said.

Waxer noted how people are facing long waiting lists to connect to some government services.

“The things we’re seeing in the population is the ongoing stress and strain of the isolation and lack of employment,” she said. “What people are really reporting is the exhaustion from pivoting: going to school, not going to school, working from home, not working from home.”

She said her department is getting ready for the upcoming tax season, preparing its volunteer income tax program for an influx of people needing help filing taxes. There are five times the number of volunteers this year.

“There will be more people who will require it this year, significantly more, and the tax situation will be much more complex as a result of the pandemic, CERB, things like that,” she said.

Waxer said the department has helped folks by using Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) funding, specific funding to assist local residents.

She later confirmed a total of $27,000 has been received as the result of three successful ARDN applications.

“One of the highlights of that has been trauma counselling and it’s been used almost completely and we’ve had to renew the funding,” Waxer said. “We’ve also assisted with families unable to pay for their utility bills.”

Coal Development Policy

Initiated at their Jan. 19 regular meeting, McGrath had made a motion that council direct administration to write a letter to the province about their decision to rescind the 1976 Coal Development Policy.

She emphasized how the environment and the Rocky Mountains need to be protected. The motion included a request to issue an immediate stop work order for all existing coal exploration permits on the eastern slopes of Alberta until public consultation takes place. The motion also called for a reinstatement of the 1976 coal policy.

Following a long discussion, McGrath’s motion was defeated. Comments made at the Jan. 19 meeting were echoed at the Feb. 2 meeting, that although councillors agreed with the importance of protecting the environment in connection with coal mining, such a letter was not in the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Jasper.

“I have no doubt that most Jasperites probably share, in large part, the concerns that you’ve raised but I am not convinced that those residents want our council to engage on an issue that is entirely within provincial jurisdiction,” Coun. Paul Butler told McGrath.

Butler referred to the Jasper Interconnection Project to connect the Jasper area to the Alberta electric system, which was a similar issue that came up several years ago.

“There were strong objections raised to that project on environmental grounds and my recollection is that council was actually asked to engage on that issue,” Butler said.

“And, in fact, we were asked to oppose the interconnection project on environmental grounds. We talked about that and we considered it and we felt even on that issue, which was certainly closely connected to our community, that we should not engage because the specific environmental question was not really ours to decide. It was essentially an issue for Parks Canada and the provincial regulators, and we chose not to engage on that.”

Journault added, “A letter from seven individual councillors to the Premier of Alberta would be far more effective than one letter from council.”

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh