Environment File: Red Willow plans and solar showcase


Red Willow plans

St. Albert residents can help plan the future of the BLESS platform and Red Willow Park at an open house on Tuesday.

The City of St. Albert is holding an open house on the Red Willow Park West master plan and the Big Lake Environment Support Society observation platform Feb. 27. Both initiatives involve the lands around Carrot Creek, Big Lake, and the Sturgeon River west of the trestle bridge.

While the city’s Red Willow Park master plan does cover some of these lands, it hasn’t been updated since 2003, said city parks planning specialist Margo Brenneis. That means it’s missed out on a slew of new developments such as Ray Gibbon Drive, Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park, the John E. Poole boardwalk, and the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park. Administration is updating the plan now because of the new Riverside subdivision.

The update is meant to plot out the rough locations of trails and facilities in this region, especially around Carrot Creek, Brenneis said.

The plan (which was still in development when the Gazette spoke with Brenneis) will include at least one new canoe launch point on the Sturgeon River and flag certain areas as likely spots for fishing, Brenneis said. It will also include suggestions for parking lots, pedestrian bridges, and shelters.

Most of the areas in this plan, especially Carrot Creek, won’t actually be built out anytime soon, Brenneis said. Trails around the white spruce forest and the Meadowview region would likely start development in the next few years.

Capital projects manager Meredith Willacy said her team would also be at the open house to get comments on plans to fix or replace the BLESS platform, which closed last summer due to severe structural problems. She refused to discuss the specifics of those plans.

Last December, city council learned that demolishing the platform would cost $100,000, while fixing it would cost $200,000 to $360,000. A new platform would cost $600,000 and take five years to build.

Brenneis said she hoped residents would come out and comment on the plans at the open house, which would also be posted online for the first two weeks of March. Expect a revised Red Willow Park plan by this spring and a finalized version for council by the end of the year.

The open house runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kinsmen Banquet Centre (47 Riel Dr.). Contact Brenneis at 780-418-6697 for details.

Solar showcase

St. Albertans will get to cook s’mores with pizza boxes next weekend as part of a free showcase on all things solar.

The Solar Energy Society of Alberta is holding its third annual solar trade show this March 3 at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

The free show is meant to help people connect with the resources they need to get into solar energy, said Rob Harlan, the society’s executive director. About a thousand people typically attend.

New this year will be a pair of paid family-fun activities. For $20, kids can build their own solar-powered car and race it for prizes. There’s also a $5 workshop where guests will learn how to turn a pizza box into a solar oven using paint and plastic.

“It gets quite hot inside,” Harlan said, and they’ll be using the ovens to make s’mores.

In addition to visiting displays put on by about 40 solar industry representatives, guests at the showcase will also get to sit in on free workshops on the solar industry by people such as Leigh Bond of Threshold Energies Corp. and St. Albert’s Ron Kube who will speak about the solar panels he installed on his house. Former Toronto mayor David Miller will also be there to give an overview of the upcoming Cities and Climate Change conference – a major international conference coming to Edmonton in early March.

The trade show runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the NAIT Centre for Applied Technology (corner of 106 St. and 118 Ave.). Visit solaralberta.ca for details.


About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.