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Save the Trees, Save Ethel Tucker Park, Save the Ratepayers

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Save the Trees, Save Ethel Tucker Park, Save the Ratepayers

Arts and Learning Campus Phase 1: New Library Building and Plaza

Town Information Page: www.okotoks.ca/campus2020

OKOTOKS HISTORICAL TREES AND PARK - DEMOLITION TO BEGIN **DURING PANDEMIC** - SCHEDULED ON OKOTOKS TOWN SITE TO BEGIN IN 3 DAYS – WORK STARTS MONDAY APRIL 13th 2020.

https://www.okotokstoday.ca/local-news/trees-to-be-removed-from-ethel-tucker-park-2243370

“In preparation for future construction of the provincially grant-funded Okotoks Arts and Learning Campus, trees will be removed along Riverside Drive in Ethel Tucker Park. The park will be closed during this work. While trees are being removed from the area, a detailed planting plan will be developed once campus plans have been finalized.

Other prep work during this time will include snow clearing and removal of playground equipment, picnic tables and benches from Ethel Tucker Park.” – Town of Okotoks

There are a number of reasons why the construction of the new Arts and Learning Campus should be paused from the current Pandemic creating uncertainty in government finances to the closure and destruction of a long-time town historic landmark. At this time, we, the undersigned, implore the Town and Council to stop this project BEFORE REMOVING MATURE TREES and investigate other sites such as the existing Bighorn building, town lands up at Wedderburn, or other locations that preserve the trees, grass, and natural beauty in our town’s biggest central park.

The current plans for the Phase 1 Arts and Learning Campus involves a 3 storey building right in the middle of the existing park. The area between the new building and the existing Okotoks Public Library would be made into a concrete plaza. While this will still allow for some events to continue, it destroys the natural beauty of the main entrance to the Okotoks Sheep River Valley. Many residents utilize the park for recreation, family photos, and connecting with Nature. Replacing the greenspace with a concrete pad and 3-storey building destroys these uses and replaces our small town central park with an urban monstrosity.

Site Plans: https://www.okotoks.ca/sites/default/files/pdfs/planning/ALC%20Site%20Plans%20Apr%202020.pdf

What is Ethel Tucker Park? Who is Ethel Tucker?

Okotoks Resident Nicole E. Watkins mentioned in a Facebook Post:

“Born at Davisburg in1912, Ethel Tucker devoted her life to the community. She was named the town's first Citizen of the Year in 1976 for her tireless volunteerism with such organizations as the Okotoks Food Bank, Arthritis Society, Canadian Red Cross, Okotoks Horse Show, Okotoks Oilers and Foothills Bisons hockey teams. Ethel also managed the Sears catalogue office in Okotoks. She never married, however, she considered the citizens of Okotoks to be her large, extended family. Ethel passed away in 1995 and friends offered this tribute: "Ethel stood out as a symbol of all pioneer women of Western Canada -hard working, courageous, bearing pain without complaint, always ready with a helping hand. Her heart was as big as the outdoors." Centennial Park was renamed Ethel Tucker Centennial Park in 1995.“

“I find the fact that an important woman in Okotoks history is being dishonored by "revising' her "tribute" via a Centennial Park deplorable and unacceptable. Will we later rename the McAlpine Bridge? My viewpoint is simple...You don't honor someone and then when most people can no longer remember their legacy, remove their honor and in essence dishonor them! This is not Okotokian. Its just plain wrong. Is it even legal to repurpose something designated as a Centennial site?”

“Okotokians were NOT ASKED if we wanted to surrender our park. Sure we were asked about supporting the Arts, and many do. That is again irrelevant to the fact that we were not given a VOICE on the fact that trees and a centennial park were involved and going to be affected.” 

Ethel Tucker Park is arguably our most beautiful park in town. It acts as a gateway to the Sheep River Valley, including walking paths, greenspace, and majestic mature trees. Converting that natural beauty into a concrete pad and 3-storey building effectively builds a wall closing off residents to the park and the rest of the River Valley. If the River Valley is so important to this town that we must buy up land to preserve it, why are we trying to build a building right in the middle of it?

Many events occur in the current park including the Night Market, Youth Festival, Ribfest, Music in the Park, and many more. These events help connect Residents to the park and greater Sheep River Valley. Now these events would have to occur on a concrete pad, or around the back of the building, closing them off from the street. It changes the small-town feel that many residents love and turns it into a Big City Urban concrete jungle. Many residents do not want that and do want our best park to stay as it is.  

Location Issues

The current location, even if it was not involving the bulldozing of a historic park, raises significant concerns. The proposed building is in the flood fringe of the Sheep River which exposes the building to future flooding. The lack of parking and access for Residents will make it more difficult for the aforementioned events to attract visitors. Local infrastructure does not allow for good pedestrian access to the rest of downtown. Proximity to the CPR Train line adds noise, vibration, and danger.  

It will become very evident very shortly that Riverside Drive will need to be improved to handle more traffic, more parking will be required (the current lot, scheduled for demolition, is often full with Library staff and Municipal staff already), upgrades to the 3-way intersection at the old library, and better access to Elizabeth Street will all be necessary for this site to work, although none of that is in the current budget. The new lot proposed at the Creamery site is a long walk from the main entrance of the Library and will be a significant issue during winter and for anyone with mobility concerns, wheelchairs, pushing strollers, or carrying piles of books.  

This petition is not asking for cancellation of the Arts and Learning Campus but is instead asking for a pause and rethink of the location to preserve our largest central park and the beauty of Riverside Drive.

Timing and Pandemic Concerns – STAY HOME!

In the project plans it states that tree removal and demolition of park structures will begin on April 13th and last for 2-3 days. This is BEFORE the public hearing regarding the permit that is to occur on April 27th. Why is the destruction of the park commencing before Permits are approved? Why are we encouraging non-critical and non-essential work to be done during the Pandemic? Governments worldwide are encouraging people to stay home and isolate to stop the spread of Covid-19. Why would we be bringing tree removal and demolition crews on site to do this work at this time? As a town we are sending a mixed message. Stay Home! Close your Business! Stay away from family over Easter! Meanwhile we’ll start demo on a park when permits haven’t been approved, for infrastructure that does not deliver critical services to residents. We have a library. It’s currently closed due to the Pandemic. It is still offering online services. Why not retool the Library’s service delivery and postpone this build for a few years and do it in a more acceptable location? 

The Pandemic is a perfect reason to take pause, re-evaluate, and conduct some legitimate and thorough engagement with the citizens as a whole. As Citizens of Okotoks, we ask you to stop demolition of Ethel Tucker Park, stop the removal of mature and precious trees, and take a long, hard look at this project and its location. The new reality of our world is forcing all of us to stop, pivot, and make changes to our best laid plans. We ask our Town and Council to do the same.