BY KALISHA MENDONSA
The Town of Blackfalds has had a relatively steady year, according to MayorMelodie Stol, with some highlights including the new infrastructure, recreational spaces and developments in town engagement opportunities.
In terms of infrastructure, the town saw permits for 120 new dwellings, on-par with growth rates in 2015.
Stol said many of these new home developments occur because of the town’s nicheas a family-oriented community with many facilities continuing to pop up.
“I think people are drawn to come to Blackfalds because of some of the facilities we have, of course I always speak highly of the Abbey Centre, but this year’s biggest add-on in terms of facilities was our new school. The Iron RidgeIntermediateCampus was opened this year, and we know St. Gregory the Great will open next year,” Stol said.
“People with families and children are still being drawn to come to Blackfalds. It’s a great place to live, and with local schools and facilities, it’s also a great place to raise a family.”
She said the development of the new schools, as well as the land designation for a high school, were sparks in the community to continue growth and development of other youth-oriented facilities.
This year, Wolf Creek Public School District (WCPSD) added a pre-kindergarten program at the existing elementary school. As well, Lacombe and Blackfalds FCSS groups co-ordinated an effort to bring ParentLink to Blackfalds, with a new,permanent home being built for the program at the Blackfalds Community Hall.
“You see one investment being made in a certain aspect of the community – for this purpose, young people – and then you begin to see spin-offs beginning to continue from there,” Stol said.
“It’s been a great way to be sustainable in an economic downturn because people see us as having that family-oriented niche and want to invest with us in that direction.”
This year, Blackfalds citizens also saw the movement of the historic Wadey House to All-Star Park, where the house will serve as a home to the Blackfalds HistoricalSociety as well as the local Chamber of Commerce.
With grant money from the Canada 150 fund, the house was moved and renovations have begun with a completion timeline of summer 2017. The Blackfalds Historical Society is currently housed in the Civic Centre, at the Blackfalds Library,which is an issue according to Stol because the library is often filled and needing more space for their own programs.
She said being able to move the Historical Society’s location and archives is a big investment in the community’s development.
She also said the inclusion of the Chamber of Commerce in the facility will help theChamber to remain actively visible in the community, building their capacity and awareness for the future.
Stol added, “I believe a business investor would be excited to invest in Blackfalds because of the energy that comes out of ourChamber of Commerce.”
This year’s addition of the brand-new Bark Park was also a way for the Town council to address the wants of citizens in the active community. Stol said this was a highly identified issue before council and that she is pleased to have been able to open that space. She said it has already become a very well-utilized public facility and is happy to have seen that addition to the town this year.
In terms of addressing the needs and wants of Blackfalds citizens, Stol said there has also been a push to add more engagement opportunities to residents through online forums and surveys, open house meetings and a number of public consultations. However, Stol said she hopes to see even more engagement through these channels in the coming year.
“We hope people make use of the engagement opportunities to properly channel their concerns and information to the Town council and administration. We’re partners in building our community and we want people to take an active role in that,” Stol said.
“We are encouraged that people are starting to understand there is a productive way to channel their opinions into the community. We’re really trying to facilitate those opportunities and we look forward to growing those engagement levels in the future.”