November '08 Newsletter

Town Council News

November 2008                                                                        Volume 3, Issue4


Community input needed for Nov. 29 Centennial Committee Meeting

Plans are underway for the biggest Athabasca event in 100 years, but more community ideas, input and participation are needed to help make the historic celebration an outstanding success.

The Town of Athabasca will celebrate its Centennial in 2011. Athabasca Mayor Colleen Powell has designated all Town Councillors members of the Centennial Committee to emphasize the importance of the event.

Councillors John Traynor and Paula Evans are leading the initial move towards planning for the event and while the response from the community has been good so far, they are hoping to see an upsurge in interest and support.

The next meeting of the Athabasca Centennial Committee is on Saturday, Nov. 29, 1 p.m. at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex. Everyone in the community is encouraged to attend, in particular groups, clubs, organizations and anyone with a Centennial-related event they would like to propose.

“We would like to see every group represented,” says John. “Whether it is a community group, a business organization, any kind of organization – we are looking to create a cooperative community vision for this celebration.”

The Centennial Committee will elect an executive at the Nov. 29 meeting. John notes that nominations for the executive are still open and anyone with a desire to provide leadership to help make the event a success is welcome and encouraged to put their name forward.

“The executive will not have to organize and run the Centennial events,” he explains. “They will oversee and coordinate the planning. Committees will take charge of individual events and will be responsible to organize and run them.”

Given the uniqueness of a centennial event and the significance it has to a community, John considers advance planning to be vitally important to the process.

“It’s going to be a year-long celebration and we want to make sure we have a plan,” he says. “It’s coming up quick and we want to be prepared.”

John hosted a public Centennial planning meeting on Oct. 18 where many ideas were presented and discussed. Since events can be held at anytime through the year of 2011, they can employ seasonal themes or tie in with existing annual events like the Magnificent River Rats Festival.

“We’re trying to encourage Centennial events all year and hoping to culminate it all on one date, hopefully to cut the ribbon on Canada Day,” says John.

Events being considered include:

-          Centennial Parade

-          Athabasca Klondike Dinner and Dance

-          Midway games and King and Queen of Athabasca

-          Canoe Races and River Games

-          Athabasca Picture Book

-          Dinner Theatre

-          Time Capsule

-          Logo Contest and Flags

-          Centennial Cake Contest

-          Rodeo

-          Wagon/Sleigh Rides

-          Air Show and Parachute Jump

-          Big-Name Music and Fireworks (Magnificent River Rats Festival)

-          Winter Carnival

-          Centennial Coins

“We encourage everyone to come up with their own ideas and their own event committee,” advises John. “The event should highlight something from Athabasca’s history or should have some obvious relevance to the community.”

Ideas and suggestions can be brought to the Nov. 29 meeting where the Centennial Committee can verify and record confirmed events for ease of coordination with other planned events.

John notes that some larger commemorative projects are being considered and that he is presently researching some sources of potential Centennial funding. Details will be provided as they come available.

For information about the Athabasca Centennial Committee, contact John or Paula via their contact details at the Town website.

Rotary Club of Athabasca to Host 2011 Rotary District Conference

Already, one local organization is giving the community cause to put its best face forward during the Town’s Centennial year. The Rotary Club of Athabasca is hosting the Rotary International District 5370 Conference here in 2011.

With 60 Rotary clubs in Northern Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, the 2011 District 5370 Conference is expected to attract 300-500 people to Athabasca for the event.

The year 2011 is significant for Athabasca Rotarians in that it marks the 25th anniversary of the club in this community. The Athabasca club was sponsored by Westlock Rotary Club.

For information about Rotary International, contact Jackie Hobal, 780-675-3808.

Jackie is presently on the executive of the Rotary Club of Athabasca and is a past president of the club. In 2010-2011, she will assume duties as District Governor of Rotary International District 5370. 

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Historic Athabasca Train Station to be moved

The days are numbered for the current location of the Athabasca Train Station. Road salt and other damaging effects from traffic passing by on busy 50 Street have emphasized the need to move the historic building in order to help preserve it.

“There is no way we can keep the front protected,” says Doug Topinka, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Athabasca. “It is to be moved one building width back and eight metres to the east.”

The move will not take place anytime soon, however. The move plus necessary restorative work to the building’s exterior will take place over a period of time, but not before it has been presented to Town Council for budget approval.

“It will be put forward for consideration in the 2009 budget,” advises Doug.

Fortunately, one hurdle in getting the building moved has already been overcome. In September, Doug notified Council that approval for the move had been received from Alberta Historical Resources.

Councillor Christine Nelson notes that Alberta Historical Resources approval is a big step because of the sensitive nature of recognized heritage resources such as the Train Station.

“In order to retain its historical designation, we need to get permission to move it,” Christine explains. “The exact number of metres it is to be moved has to be confirmed and approved.”

Moving the building is only the first step in the effort to protect and preserve it. The exterior needs to be restored as well and there is some concern regarding former layers of paint.

“We have to test to see if there are any signs of lead in earlier layers,” says Christine. “It’s a slow process.”

At this point, there is no telling when the move will take place or how long the process of restoration will take, but Christine would like to see some of it underway before the Town’s big celebration in 2011.

“We would hope to have some progress made in time to tie in with our centennial year,” she says.

To date, interest from the community has been in support of the move and restoration, although details of what the Train Station will be used for after it is moved will not be determined for some time to come.

“It’s clear that the citizens of Athabasca want to keep the Train Station,” notes Christine, “but no decisions have been made about its ultimate use.”


Train Station an original CNR Prototype

Identified in 2006 as one of the 25 most significant historic resources in the Town of Athabasca, the Athabasca Train Station stands as a well-known landmark on 50 St., originally known as Strathcona Street.

Built in 1912, the Train Station, Canadian Northern Railway prototype P100-39, was designed by architect Ralph Benjamin Pratt (1878-1950). In addition to a variety of other character-defining elements, the building has a wood frame structure with a distinctive three-gable combination on both the front and back and living quarters upstairs originally intended for the stationmaster.

Although threatened by the Great Fire of 1913 that destroyed 32 downtown buildings at a total estimated value of $500,000, the Athabasca Train Station survived, making it one of the most important businesses during the years of recovery following the fire.

The Athabasca Train Station remains today as a rare example of a railway station built in rural Alberta prior to WWI.

Read more about the Train Station here: Athabasca Train Station  

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Town taps into Solar Power

(l-r) Installers Randall and Benn with Off-The-Grid Renewable Energy Systems make final adjustments to the new solar array on the Town Office roof.  Athabasca is participating in the Alberta Solar Municipal Showcase.  Photos courtesy of Alberta Solar Showcase.

Every hour, enough light energy from the sun reaches the earth to meet the world’s demands for a whole year.

And now, the Town of Athabasca is demonstrating one way that interested citizens can begin tapping into that source of renewable energy. A grid-connected solar photovoltaic system was recently installed on the south-facing portion of the Town Office roof.

Photovoltaic – often called PV or solar electric – systems are being installed on highly-visible public buildings across the province as part of the Alberta Solar Municipal Showcase, a renewable energy demonstration project involving more than 20 municipal organizations throughout Alberta, including Athabasca.

The photovoltaic system on the roof of the Town Office is comprised of six 190 watt PV collector modules. The system is designed so additional modules can be added later to increase the amount of electricity generated. PV systems have no moving parts and require virtually no maintenance. The cost for the present system was $16,000.

Members of Athabasca Town Council view the Alberta Solar Municipal Showcase project as a way to highlight renewable energy alternatives and to show that such systems are becoming much more accessible.

“The idea is to illustrate to the public the use of solar power and promote renewable energy,” notes Doug Topinka, Chief Administrative Officer with the Town. “We’ll be looking at doing more education and public awareness in connection with renewable energy and this project.”

At present, more information about the Alberta Solar Municipal Showcase project can be found at the project’s website at

Information at the website explains that when sunlight hits the solar module, the energy is converted to direct-current (DC) electricity. The DC electricity passes through an inverter, which converts it into alternating-current (AC) electricity, which the building can immediately use. When more energy is required than the PV system can produce, energy is drawn from the grid and read by a meter.

For each municipal installation in the Alberta Solar Municipal Showcase project, a website monitor transfers real-time information about the PV system to the project's website.

Climate Change Central, supported by the City of Medicine Hat, is leading the Showcase. All participating municipal organizations are contributing equal amounts of funding for the project. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is matching the municipal contributions through its Green Municipal Fund.

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Sisters in Spirit Vigil

Athabasca has joined communities across Canada in recognizing the need to address the issue of violence against Aboriginal (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) women, particularly racialized and/or sexualized violence.

Taking the cause and their concern to the street, a procession of participants in the Sister in Spirit Vigil marched from Athabasca United Church to the Native Friendship Centre where they released environmentally friendly balloons to spread messages of healing and hope and participated in an emotional Sharing Circle.

The Athabasca event, held on October 4, was organized by resident Jane Gray in response to her concern for fellow resident Berna Barore.

“I was moved by Berna’s story about her sister, Ruth Cox,” explains Jane. “Seeing Berna struggle with what was happening, I looked into finding some help and support for her and then I found the Sisters in Spirit organization.”

Ruth went missing near the end of March and it was months later before her body was found. Berna felt that throughout the ordeal, she and her family did not receive adequate support and cooperation from the RCMP.

Months later, she was still struggling emotionally with the helplessness of the situation and that is when Jane stepped in to offer support. Her efforts lead them to the Sisters in Spirit organization.

Sisters in Spirit is a nation-wide initiative focused on improving the human rights of Aboriginal women and addressing the violence they face, in particular the high rates of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

“I made contact with Sisters in Spirit in Ottawa and got the information to sponsor the Sisters in Spirit Vigil in Athabasca,” says Jane.

“We sent letters to all the church groups, put up posters and informed others about it by word of mouth. The youth group at the Native Friendship Centre made 20 signs.”

The purpose of the Sisters in Spirit Vigil is to bring to light the over 500 Aboriginal women that have gone missing or have been murdered across Canada over the past 20 years. The Vigil is an annual event held on October 4 each year. It began on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and is gaining support in communities across the country.

Although the first Athabasca event was organized on short notice, Jane is pleased with the results. Local supporters were joined by participants from Calling Lake, Smith, High Prairie and other places.

“We achieved our purpose,” she says. “We created public awareness and we managed to create a very safe place for people to share their stories. We heard firsthand accounts of what is happening to Native women. The whole event really gave them a voice.”

Jane makes special note of the support received from Athabasca Mayor Colleen Powell.

“We are very grateful that Colleen participated in the walk and the vigil. What she said was powerful and respectful.”

Colleen emphasized the need for all people to be vigilant in highlighting the issue of violence against women, particularly Aboriginal women, in all communities including small towns. The Sisters in Spirit Vigil in Athabasca is important for that reason, she said.

Jane is looking to expand the event next year and is counting on support from the community to help get the word out earlier and get more people involved in advance planning. Additionally, she sees potential for other communities to hold their own Sisters in Spirit Vigil.

For information, contact Jane at 780-675-3642.

Additional information can be found at

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