Local families will be pleased to learn that “the hill” will remain open.
Several Beaverlodge residents have expressed concern in recent weeks that access to the Research Farm would be restricted or prohibited.
But the popular walking destination will remain open to the public, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).
“The most notable priority for the department is making sure that the research isn't being compromised,” said Heather Holmen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
“It is important that people know that they can still access it, they're just not going to be able to access it from any entry point that they want,” Holmen told Town & Country News.
“The fencing will ensure that there's one way in and one way out.”
Pat Wearmouth penned a letter to Town of Beaverlodge council last month, expressing his concerns after seeing a gate go up and flagging stakes around the perimeter.
“It is a privilege, not a right to walk in there on private land, but we'd be quite willing to pay attention to whatever rules they have,” he said.
Another concerned resident, Susan Mills, wrote a letter to the editor of this newspaper in which she suggested “in the interest of public consultation this might be time for the Farm and a town council … to discuss a co-ordinated approach to maintain and enhance the walking and recreational potential of the area.”
Holmen says that the fence is halfway completed and should be completed by the end of the week.
Joanna MacGillivray-Pelly lives adjacent to the AAFC site, and its new fence runs parallel to her own at the back of her property. She said the chainlink fence went up Monday “without warning from anyone.” Her fenceline contained a gate which opened onto the research farm site which she would use for daily walks with her children and dog. Since the new AAFC fence runs only about a foot and half from her fenceline, access to the research farm site is no longer possible, or even access to the back of her own fence.
“For me it's unfortunate because now if I want to utilize the research farm for walks, I have to basically go (all the way) around ( to the farm entrance),” she said.
Donald Ferguson, another property owner backing on to the research farm, told Town & Country News the fence “doesn’t make much of difference” to him and he understands why the farm would want to limit the access.
Holmen told Town & Country News the fencing project costs approximately $76,000.
In the past, she said AAFC staff have discovered a random array of things on the private land, including a treehouse, an archery range, and a putting green.
“There's also been a number of incidents of vandalism, and the area has been used for quadding and snowmobiling,” she noted.
“(All of this) poses a liability to both government and staff,” she said.
Holmen said the issues are not unique to Beaverlodge. Other research centres that are situated within a community have faced similar problems, including the one in Lacombe.
The Lacombe Research and Development Centre is one of AAFC’s network of 20 research and development centres.Beaverlodge Research Farm is listed as its satellite location.
Holmen wants to remind the public that “there's actual research taking place here and there's, monetary investments in there, and there's a lot of value on that research for Alberta's agriculture industry as well as the Canadian agriculture sector.”
She acknowledges that a fence may be a hindrance to some, but when damage is done to the crops, that also sets the research back.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News