The proposal for a women’s addiction recovery site near Jarvis Bay and Birchcliff on the east side of Sylvan Lake was the topic of discussion at Lacombe County’s Feb. 3 developer meeting. Approximately 50 stakeholders participated in energetic discussions and varied opinions around the proposed development.
The Sylvan Lake Lakeside Recovery Centre would be located on 80 acres of land that includes a 10,000-square-foot building previously used as a conference centre and church. Adeara, the organization behind the proposal, provides long-term, research-based and faith-based programming to women in need in a residential setting.
Adeara wants to use the existing building on site as a residence for up to 12 women who will be part of a 90-day program, with preference given to women from central Alberta. Most of the women who arrive have lost guardianship of their children and the first three months provide time to have their children returned to them.
The developer meeting was addressed by three Adeara clients who successfully completed the program and are now thriving in their personal and professional lives.
Since its inception in 1998, Adeara has helped over 650 women overcome addiction challenges, shared Adeara Recovery Centre board chairman Mark Evans. “We provide hope, an alternative to that lifestyle. A place for refuge, a place where people can be free from addiction, a place where they want to change the trajectory of their lives,” he said.
As Adeara representatives shared the plan to repurpose the existing house into a recovery centre for 12 women, area residents weighed in with support and concerns.
Concerns surfaced around the possibility of future development of 80 dwellings on the spacious site, the recovery centre’s proximity with two youth camps, lack of resources in the area to reinstate the graduating women into the community, and the overall safety of area residents, among others.
“I can say today and I can say for the next few years, we are not going to be putting 8o dwellings on this facility. What we are looking for right now, for the next while is up to 12 women and currently, we are not having children on-site because we find that there is a lot of need for single women who need a place to go and children aren’t really a part of their lives right now,” said Evans. He added information released by Adeara regarding future developments was a representation of the potential and not the plan for the 80-acre-land.
The non-profit claims they have never had to report any incidents requiring investigation as a result of the clients they serve. Program attendees undergo a rigorous intake process, are confined to the property unless arranged for by the organization and have limited weekly visiting hours which often go deserted, said Kate Wyse, clinical program director.
“There would be someone living on site and there would be councillors 24/7,” said Evans. “We have the ability to provide an opportunity to help women that are in a three-month program and then if need be we could move them into the Edmonton facility for a longer-term,” he added.
“We plan for our children and we don’t plan for them day by day, we plan for them years to come,” said a meeting attendee. “The ladies who spoke here today… they got to stay two years. They had that support system. It was stable. This is going to be 90 days. You are going to be quick and dirty here. 90 days in the life of an addict is just a blink… unless you plan to get your cabins built,” added another attendee.
A potential drop in area property values resulting from the development was another concern brought to light. People also feared the suitability of the remote location as a recovery centre.
Birchcliff Mayor Roger Dufresne shared their council is “going to have an independent assessment of the treatment centre to see what the social and economic impacts are.” He said results of the finding would be shared with Birchcliff residents.
Heather Donald, a member of the Alliance Community Church in Sylvan Lake was among the project supporters. “Every day I see the whole gamut of trauma in people’s lives including what these wonderful ladies spoke about today of not just trauma for them, but for generations. I see inter-generational trauma has come into people’s lives and they are passing it on to their kids,” she said, adding, “What is happening here is nothing short of miraculous.”
Several people complained about the lack of transparency and miscommunication on behalf of Adeara, to which Evans responded, “Thank you for bringing out the disconnects with our marketing. We will deal with our communication team to resolve any unnecessary disconnects that have been brought to light. That is not in our heart, that is not who we are, but I take 100 percent accountability for it.”
The project is a partnership with the PAR (People at Risk) Foundation, which bought the property after its owner Maureen Ranaghan died in 2019. PAR is fundraising towards the $2.5 million purchase cost.
An application has already been submitted to Lacombe County to amend the land use bylaw to allow the treatment centre as a special discretionary use on the scenic property.
Adeara invites locals to share thoughts around the treatment clinic through a survey available at adeara.ca/survey. The survey findings are to be included in a report that will be presented to Lacombe County council as part of a first reading in the upcoming months.