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Top Rural Routes stories of 2019

The Calgary Ghostbusters met a familiar face in Crossfield near the set of Ghostbusters: Afterlife – original Ghostbusters actor Dan Aykroyd. (Left to right) Sean Nicholson, Candace Schneider, Aykroyd, Jessica Smith, Eldon Smith and Myrick Smith (front). File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

Who ya gonna call?

It was the summer of spotting stars in Rocky View County (RVC), as filming for Ghostbusters: Afterlife took place in Beiseker and Crossfield in 2019.

Celebrity sightings aside, the mayors of the municipalities said filming of the blockbuster in their communities created economic benefit and will hopefully mean more interest from future productions.

“They've gone out of their way to search out opportunities to support local [businesses], whether it's the restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations – even just interacting with the public,” Crossfield Mayor Jo Tennant said.

She added locations in Crossfield were compensated for their use in filming. A hardware store, two restaurants, an automotive shop, a school and a building that was once a liquor store were among the spots utilized.

The production crew renovated a private property on Main Street in Beiseker that was an eyesore for years, according to Mayor Warren Wise. He added a local owner took over the property once the film crew was done with it.

Originally referred to as ‘Rust City’ to avoid unwanted attention on set, details about the film were sparse until a trailer was released in December. Residents are sure to recognize at least some of the locales in the trailer, and likely more when the film is release in July 2020.

Bear rehab

YIR-BearRehabAfter being successfully rehabilitated at the Cochrane Ecological Institute, orphaned black bear cub Charlie was returned to the wild in July. Sadly, the bear was shot and killed in June. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

Two black bears were separately released into remote, forested areas of southwestern Alberta June 20, following a hard-fought, year-long rehabilitation at the Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI).

Charlie and Maskwa arrived at the facility in May and July of 2018, respectively, becoming the first black bears to be successfully rehabilitated in Alberta since the province announced a new policy that April to accommodate the need.

However, CEI maintained the process of returning the bears to the wild wasn’t ideal. CEI felt the bears should have been released to the Kainai Nation, which was interested in allowing the bears on its land if they were returned to the wild during the winter – at a more appropriate time of year. However, the bigger concern for CEI was the fact the bears needed to be tranquilized during the process because “they were under so much stress.”

Sadly, just 12 days after Charlie was returned to the wild, the black bear was shot and killed after wandering onto private property nearly 120 kilometres from its drop-off point.

According to Alberta Environment and Parks, Charlie came too close to children, which made it “clear that it was habituated to people” – a claim CEI adamantly denied.

“Just because the bear walks through somebody's property does not mean that they are habituated,” said Lisa Dahlseide, CEI education co-ordinator. “I think…Environment and Parks [needs to] reevaluate how they identify that term and how they use it, because it's often used to justify killing an animal – I think that's incorrect.”

No charges were filed against the person who shot the bear.

Westbrook School

YIR-WestbrookSchoolWork on a new Westbrook School building got underway in July. The new building will replace the original school, which was constructed in the 1950s.File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

Following RVC council’s Nov. 27, 2018 approval of a $100,000 capital funding request to allow Westbrook School to construct a gym, Rocky View Schools (RVS) agreed to a matching loan in February.

With an understanding the school’s fundraising arm, Friends of Westbrook School Society (FWSS), would apply for grant funding and fundraise over the next five-plus years to repay the loan, the approval allowed the project to move forward.

In November 2017, RVS approved the complete rebuild of the aging Westbrook School facility – originally constructed in 1952 – at a cost of $6 million. In the ensuing years, that price has increased to $7.2 million, due to rising construction costs and changes to building codes.

The design of the redeveloped Westbrook School began in spring 2018, and originally included a gymnasium of 430 square meters (sq. m), to meet Alberta Education specifications, but community consultation indicated a desire for a 84 sq. m expansion.

Construction of the new Westbrook School building – located just north of the original building – began at the end of July. RVS anticipates students will be in the new facility in fall 2020, and demolition of the current building will occur once the new one is finished.

Langdon high school

YIR-LangdonHighSchoolFamilies in Langdon celebrated the Nov. 1 announcement that the Province of Alberta's budget included funding for the design of a new high school in the hamlet. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

Years of lobbying, letter-writing and media interviews appear to have finally paid off for parents in Langdon.

On Nov. 1, the provincial government announced funding for 25 education projects throughout Alberta, including the design of a new junior/senior high school in the hamlet.

It was an emotional piece of news for Langdon Community Association chair Chrissy Craig, who has been fighting to bring a high school to the community for years. While the funding – the amount of which was not revealed – is only for the school’s design, she said it is an important step.

“We’ve put so much work and effort into this,” she said. “What was so emotional about it was that we have fought for this school in a positive, well-meaning way, and were rewarded with some of the funding. There were no fights, comparing or ugly means – it was the way politics should be done.”

With a population of about 5,000, Langdon is one of the largest communities in Alberta without a high school, according to Rocky View Schools (RVS) trustee Patty Sproule. Bringing a high school to the hamlet was the top priority in the district’s 2018-21 capital plan.

While the government has not yet promised money for the facility’s construction, Sproule said the build can start as soon as funding is confirmed and the design is approved by the Ministry of Education.

Langdon Ball Diamond

YIR-LangdonBaseballDiamondThe planned Langdon quad baseball diamond project received significant funding from Rocky View County July 23. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

The Langdon Community Campus quad baseball diamond project received a huge boost July 23, when Rocky View County (RVC) council surpassed a funding request and approved $2.25 million – covering the construction costs of all four diamonds.

Prior to the approval, the North Bow Community Facility Board (NBCFB) had raised $550,000 to put towards the construction of one of four playable baseball surfaces. Those dollars came primarily from developers, but fundraising had been slow-going.

According to an administration report for council’s July 23 regular meeting, County staff met with the board and recommended at least two diamonds be constructed – allow for regular tournaments to be hosted in Langdon until the final two fields could be constructed – prompting administration to approach council with a funding request for the second field.

Deputy Reeve Al Schule, area councillor, proposed extra money be devoted to the project, and made a motion to approve the $2.25 million, taking the funding from the General Regional District Reserve. The request was granted 8-1, with Coun. Samanntha Wright opposed.

The funding from RVC will also allow NBCFB to seek a matching grant from the provincial government, which Craig was confident would come through.

Indigenous Day

YIR-IndigenousDayMembers of the Stoney Nakoda Nation shared their culture and history during an Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration held at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park Aug. 23. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

For years, Alberta’s Indigenous people corralled bison in the coulees and established tipi camps on the uplands and lowlands we now know as Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. To honour this rich history, Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation (GRPF) celebrated its inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day with a “large-scale event” Aug. 23.

“They moved across these lands. They set up at temporary settlements, with tipi, along these lands as they hunted here,” said Sarah Parker, executive director of GRPF, noting tipi rings and bison kill sites have been identified throughout the park.

To respect that history and the park’s relationship with Indigenous people, Parker said the foundation worked closely with Indigenous communities in the development of GRPF’s celebration.

“This whole celebration was first brought to Elder Virgil Stevens of the Stoney Nakoda Nation,” she said. “Much of the focus has been around what he and other Stoney Nakoda community members have wanted to see at this event.”

The event was originally planned for June 21, to correspond with National Indigenous Peoples Day, but was postponed due to significant rain. Rather than cancelling the event, GRPF felt it was important to reschedule for later in the summer – especially considering the amount of work that went into the celebration.

NHM Farmers’ Market

YIR-PrairieHorizonNew Horizon Mall announced in April that Prairie Horizon Fresh Market would become its latest anchor tenant. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

Residents of the Balzac East area will have a new destination to shop for fresh produce and other items when Prairie Horizon Fresh Market announced it will open at New Horizon Mall (NHM).

Airdronians Ken Aylesworth and his wife Tracy, who run the operation, bring 15 years of experience in the farmers’ market industry in Calgary – they previously managed the Avenida Food Hall and Fresh Market and the Symons Valley Ranch Farmers Market.

The market will feature 40-plus vendors, according to Aylesworth, and operate out of a 23,000-square-foot space on the mall’s main floor. The focus, he said, is on fresh produce, along with international options such as Mexican and Indian foods, and pierogis.

Aylesworth said he expects Prairie Horizons to not only bring customers to the mall, but also generate interest from other potential entrepreneurs who could set up shop at NHM, which experienced slow growth following the opening of its doors in May 2018.

Meadowlark Trail

YIR-MeadowlarkCrews installed bridges for Meadowlark Trail over Crossfield Creek on a sunny day Nov. 26, then withstood much colder conditions the following day while constructing the bridge over Rosebud River. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

Initial work on Meadowlark Trail – which will connect the communities of Beiseker and Irricana – began in June following a development permit approval from RVC council, with bridges installed along the route in November.

“We were very pleased,” said Jeannette Richter, chairperson of Meadowlark Trail Committee. “People will be able to walk from Beiseker to the Rosebud River. They’ve been denied that since 1910.”

While the crossings are installed, she said the committee will focus its attention on meeting the County’s conditions for the second development permit. This will include determining the location of trailheads, parking and washrooms, as well as coming to an agreement with nearby ranchers who will need to drive cattle across the trail occasionally throughout the year.

Once complete, Meadowlark Trail will be a 10-kilometre recreational pathway, connecting the two communities by running along a former branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway that is now owned by Alberta Trail Net Society.

Local orchestra

YIR-OrchestraSpaceMembers of the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra perform in their new space at the Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts during a gala in January. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

RVC’s art scene grew this year with a local orchestra to taking up residency in East Balzac. The Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra began rehearsing at the Polaris Centre for the Performing Arts near Century Downs Racetrack and Casino in 2018, said Music Director Carlos Foggin, and began hosting performances at the space in March.

“This space is wonderful,” he said. “The problem with traditional rehearsal space is we’re usually in a school band room or a church basement – there’s not a lot of purpose-built space, even within the City of Calgary.”

Being in a too-small space can result in overwhelming sound, Foggin said, leading to the orchestra of between 45 to 50 players reining themselves in.

Occupying a space outside Calgary also helps make the orchestra accessible to those who might otherwise not attend or participate in the performing arts due to cost or location.

The Farm

YIR-TheFarmRocky View School's new alternative program, The Farm, is giving students an opportunity to learn about agriculture, while fulfilling the core curriculum. File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

A new RVS program, The Farm, is providing students across the division a hands-on chance to learn about agriculture.

“[The Farm is] a community-based school where most of our teachers are people from outside [RVS] who can come and visit us and explain or give their perspective on the ag world, or we go and actually do a field trip to a wide variety of different places,” said teacher Mark Turner.

The Farm launched its inaugural year in September, after a parent in RVC suggested the division offer an agriculture-focused program.

Students across the division applied last year to take part in the year-long program, with 35 students in Grades 9 and 10 selected to participate. Applicants ranged from those with a background in agriculture to those, according to Turner, “who didn’t know where carrots came from.”

Core classes like math and social studies are interspersed with daily chores and agriculture tasks, Turner said.

“A lot the curriculum does tie really nicely into, what does it mean to operate a farm,” he said.

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