June '11 Newsletter

Town Council News

June 2011                                                                                                                          Volume 6, Issue 3


The parking lot and surrounding grounds of the Athabasca Regional Multiplex were filled with recreational vehicles, campers, trailers, tents and other vehicles while the facility hosted evacuees of the Slave Lake wildfires from mid-May through early June.



Athabasca Emergency Plan meets Slave Lake needs

Last month, when raging wildfires forced the residents of Slave Lake out of their community, and when they began arriving in Athabasca, seeking sanctuary, and when leaders and volunteers here began to receive them and tend to their needs, it was no accident that the process went as smoothly and effectively as it did. Athabasca was prepared. We just didn’t anticipate that it would be somebody else’s emergency that we would be responding to.

Town of Athabasca mayor Roger Morrill is proud of how community members from throughout the Athabasca region came together and responded to this sudden emergency. He notes that the success of the community’s relief effort is due to both the sense of social responsibility and volunteerism that many Athabascans uphold, and the fact that a well-prepared emergency plan had prior been developed.

“People from outside the community asked how we were able to bring it together so quickly,” says Roger. “This was not thrown together. We had a plan in place.”

Years of planning have gone into the Athabasca emergency response plan with input and support from municipalities, organizations and groups throughout the region. The value of that foresight and preparation became evident on the evening of May 15 when the call was received at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex indicating that Slave Lake evacuees were heading this way and Athabasca’s help was desperately needed.

“The social aspect of this town really came through front and centre,” says Roger. “I am proud to say that in this crisis, the Athabasca area and its residents were here for everyone who needed us, and for as long as they needed us.”

He acknowledges the staff of the Multiplex who went above and beyond, as well as the staff of Family and Community Support Services who lead and organized the volunteer effort. “Working together, both organizations did an outstanding job,” says the Mayor.

Many are to be praised for their support and contribution of time and resources, he says, from service clubs, to church groups, businesses, organizations and countless other caring and concerned individuals. Donations of goods and supplies were overwhelming. Some of the donations came from outside of the Athabasca region.

“A group of church and business leaders came from St. Paul with a load of supplies,” notes Roger.

One example from within the community is the Athabasca Reformed Congregation who recently purchased the former Pleasant Valley Lodge building. The congregation opened the doors of the facility to displaced residents of Slave Lake, providing both lodging and meals to those in need.

Roger notes, too, the immediate response and attention received from provincial and federal government leaders who spent time in Athabasca to view the relief efforts firsthand. He appreciated visits from Alberta premier Ed Stelmach and cabinet ministers, Athabasca–Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson, who is an area resident, and Fort McMurray–Athabasca MP Brian Jean.

“I was impressed that despite the security risks that could be present in an emotionally charged event such as this, Premier Stelmach made a point of walking amongst the Slave Lake people in the Multiplex,” says Roger. “I appreciated the cooperative effort of the provincial and federal governments. It’s comforting to know that they are behind you in a situation like this.”

Many other provincial and federal representatives, party leaders, and municipal officials and representatives also toured and spent time at the Multiplex evacuation centre in Athabasca, including: Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee; members of Slave Lake town council, RCMP and fire department; Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen, a resident and evacuee of the town; Brian Mason, Leader of Alberta’s NDP; Danielle Smith, Leader of the Wild Rose Alliance Party of Alberta; Westlock–St.Paul MP Brian Storseth; and councillors from the Town of Athabasca and Athabasca County.

Roger says that the Slave Lake evacuees were very gracious guests. He believes that as unfortunate as the devastation in their town has been, this experience may serve to create a closer bond between this community and theirs.

“I believe that interrelationships between communities are important and a lot of good will could come out of this for Slave Lake and Athabasca,” says the Mayor.

Multiplex makes the grade as an effective evacuation centre

Rob Balay, manager of Regional Recreational Services, admits that it was a demanding two-and-half weeks for the staff of the Athabasca Regional Multiplex and for leaders and volunteers in the community, but notes that it was a rewarding experience to have assisted another community in such a vital way.

“The Athabasca community responded unbelievably and I’m proud of our community for handling it the way they did,” says Rob. “It would have been impossible to undertake without the hundreds of volunteers who responded how they did.”

Organizing and maintaining a relief effort of this magnitude takes a great deal of commitment and effort. Local organizations, community leaders, Multiplex staff and volunteers all helped to keep the Multiplex running 24 hours a day to attend to the needs of the Slave Lake evacuees.

“If we didn’t have this facility, we wouldn’t have been able to respond so effectively,” says Rob, noting that partnering with local organizations like Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) and government offices and agencies was a significant factor in the success of the effort.

“FCSS was awesome to work with, and it was key that we had the support from the Government of Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA).”

Once the Slave Lake residents were allowed to return to their fire-ravaged town, members of the Athabasca community were then able to take a step back and consider one of the benefits gained from the experience.

“An emergency like this brings a community together,” Rob reflects. “It creates a closer knit community and builds community pride. That is awesome.”

Back to main page


Weather permitting, hot air balloon rides will be one of the featured Centennial events in Athabasca during Homecoming Weekend at the end of July. (Photos courtesy of Air-ristrocrat Balloon Rides and Promotions)


Up, up and away during Homecoming Weekend

The Town of Athabasca is now halfway through its Centennial Year and a variety of events have already come and gone, sponsored by local groups and organizations. Many more events are on the horizon, including the Town’s Homecoming Weekend, July 29 – 31.

One unique feature of the Homecoming Weekend will be hot air balloon rides, weather permitting, scheduled to launch from the Deerland Equipment site on Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30.

“We chose the Deerland site because it is close to the riverfront and is accessible to people,” notes Sara Graling, Centennial Committee assistant. “We encourage everyone to come down to the site on those days and take in the event, perhaps take part in the balloon rides.”

Professional ballooning services are being provided by Air-ristocrat Balloon Rides and Promotions. Subject to ideal weather conditions, two types of rides will be available: untethered aerial flights that last for approximately one hour, and tethered rides that last for about 10-15 minutes. Each flight or ride holds four passengers.

“We are going to be auctioning off half of the aerial flights,” Sara explains. “There is the potential for 16 spots in total over the two days. The highest bidder will have the opportunity to purchase up to eight spots.”

Interested parties can place their bids on July 2, at the Magnificent River Rats Festival where the Centennial Committee will have an information booth. The auction will open at noon and will close at 4 p.m. The second highest bidder will have the option to buy any spots not purchased by the highest bidder, and so on until all eight spots are spoken for.

The remaining eight spots will be available through a draw process. “People can enter their name into the draw for an opportunity to buy a spot on an aerial flight,” says Sara. “If they win the draw, the cost for the spot is $250. When spots are purchased, they are tied to the date. If a flight doesn’t go, nobody pays for it.”

The draw will run until July 15. A draw box will be available at the Centennial Committee booth during the Magnificent River Rats Festival, and draw boxes will also be placed around town.

Included with each aerial flight is a complimentary bottle of champagne as well as post flight refreshments. Weather permitting, aerial flights will leave early morning and late evening to take advantage of optimal conditions.

Tether Ride Tickets Also Available

Tether ride tickets will be available at the Centennial Committee booth during the Magnificent River Rats Festival and in other locations around town leading up to the July 29 – 31 Homecoming Weekend. The ticket price is currently set at $15.00 each.

“We are trying to make the hot air balloon experience accessible to everyone,” says Sara. “We know the competition of the aerial flight auction could bring a bit of a premium to the ride. The flight draw will open up the opportunity to a few more people. But offering tether rides at a lower price point will allow a much broader spectrum of the community to participate.”

Sara invites anybody with any questions to stop by the Centennial booth during the River Rats Festival. “We’d love to see you,” she says.

She also reminds the community about the Centennial parade on July 2.

“The parade theme is ‘100 Floats for 100 Years’ and we encourage everybody to enter something. Parade registration is at 10 a.m. behind Extra Foods".

Visit the Athabasca 2011 Centennial website and the Town of Athabasca Centennial 2011 page on Facebook for more Centennial information.

Back to main page


Work has begun on the planned Riverfront project, but rainfall is impeding progress.  Development will include basic grading, storm water lines, underground irrigation lines, curb and gutter work and paving.


Town Outside Services Notes

East Hill Playground


Due to the anticipated Highway 55/813 interchange redesign project being planned by Alberta Transportation, the playground on Athabasca’s east hill has been dismantled and removed. Although a new location has not yet been determined, the Town does intend to relocate the playground.

“There is no definite decision as to where it will be relocated to,” says Michael Tratch, Outside Services Superintendent. “It is currently in the review process.”

While the playground has been dismantled, the start date and timelines for the highway interchange project have not been publicly released.

Paving Projects Minimal


Michael advises that there are no major paving projects planned in Athabasca this year.

“No paving projects are planned, other than patching up from winter water breaks and the paving that is part of the Riverfront project,” he says.

The area of riverfront currently being developed is located between 48 and 49 streets. In addition to asphalt, this phase of the project will involve basic grading of the area as well as development of the curb and gutter, the parking and driving area, the storm water lines and the underground work to allow for irrigation setup.

Winter Water Breaks


There were a few water breaks this past winter and the Town regrets any inconvenience these breaks may have caused residents and business owners.

“There were no unusual breaks,” notes Michael. “They were the typical breaks that can occur every year. Breaks can be caused by shifting soil, or older pipes. Some are just service line leaks.”

If water breaks could be anticipated or problem areas identified in advance, he says, something might be done to prevent them, but this foreknowledge is rarely the case.

“We can’t foresee them,” says Michael. “We wish we could.”

Back to main page


Text-Size: AAA