October '11 Newsletter

Town Council News

October 2011                                                                                                                          Volume 6, Issue 5
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Revellers filled the Riverfront in Athabasca on Sept. 17, celebrating the Town's 100th anniversary and gathering for an historic group portrait.

Athabasca Birthday Party and community portrait well-attended

Athabasca resident Joan Veenstra is proud to be an Athabascan and that is why she is a keen supporter of the community and works diligently to promote the community at every opportunity.

Athabasca’s recent Centennial birthday celebration is one example of the events and projects that Joan contributes time and attention to. The successful event, held on Sept. 17, was well-attended and included free food and refreshments, entertainment, Centennial plaque presentations, and the opportunity for anybody present to be included in an historic Athabasca Centennial community portrait.

Joan was the organizing force behind this event and the previous two Athabasca birthday events, held each year in the Town Common on the Athabasca Riverfront. She believes that it is important for Athabasca to hold informal events like this to help bring the community together and she thanks the Town of Athabasca for contributing to the cost of the Sept. 17 birthday party.

“I believe that people like to get together in an informal setting,” says Joan. “We don’t do it often enough and when we do, we tend to not include the whole community. Knowing each other is part of small town charm.”

Centennial plaques presented

One of the highlights of this year’s birthday celebration was the presentation of recognition plaques to representatives of several longstanding families and groups in the area.

Joan sent out an invitation to the community seeking families and businesses that have been in the area for 100 years or more. Those who responded and were represented at the Sept. 17 event were officially acknowledged and congratulated by Town Councillor Paula Evans.

On hand to receive plaques on behalf of the original homesteaders were representatives of the Sale, Olson, Dupilka, Pearson and Vilsmeyer (Richards) families.

Representatives of the Athabasca Health Care Centre and the Athabasca Fire and Rescue Department also stepped up to receive recognition and plaques for 100 years of service in the community.

Athabasca Centennial Community Portrait

Following in the tradition of group portraits taken during the 98th and 99th Athabasca birthday events, revellers again gathered together in the Town Common for an historic 100th Birthday group portrait to commemorate the Town’s 2011 Centennial.

A table was set up where volunteer Eileen Chamberlain and the ladies assisting her attempted to record the names of everybody intending to be in the group portrait. With all of the activity going on, some photo participants may have failed to mark their names down.

“I believe the final number of registrants was 502,” notes Joan, “but Eileen thought that there was likely quite a few more that didn’t register, but were in the photo.”

Due to circumstances that developed on the day, the group photo formation that had been originally planned could not be arranged.

“The photographer had planned the portrait with everyone standing in a semi-circle along the tree line on the west and north side (of the Town Common),” Joan explains. “We couldn’t do the portrait that way and didn’t realize it until the last moment.”

An alternative formation was chosen. Joan enlisted the aid of local businessman Trevor Martin who made a valiant effort to round up and position the crowd while trying to follow the instructions and hand gestures of the photographer who was high up in a bucket truck.

“Trevor is a great guy for helping when called upon,” says Joan. “He’s great to work with and his enthusiasm is infectious.”

Volunteers, participants and donations acknowledged

Volunteering with Joan for the day were Town Councillor and Centennial Committee chair Paula Evans, Committee member Kelly Lynn Spafford, community member Eileen Chamberlain and her registration table helpers, and community member Lillian Polak.

“Crooked Creek Conservancy together with Science Outreach and the Tawatinaw Watershed Stewards volunteered to conduct an interpretive hike of the Athabasca Riverfront and Lower Tawatinaw River,” notes Joan. “Ron and Luke Laframboise (Tru Hardware) giving away popcorn, and everything the Athabasca Native Friendship Centre people did was all voluntary.”

The Heritage Society sold Centennial clothing on behalf of the Centennial Committee while selling and promoting their own items. Sharan Khurana and his helpers flew kites and helped others do the same.

“Sharan is a super person to have in our community. He has never refused me when I have asked for his help and the kites made a lovely addition to the party,” says Joan.

Ty Hart and Friends were hired to provide musical entertainment for the afternoon. Ty doubled up as the emcee and did his best to accommodate announcements as he was called upon to do so.

Buy-Low Foods donated 500 hot dogs and condiments, having done so for the past three birthday events, and A & W provided root beer, as they often do for community events.

A successful Centennial event

Athabasca’s 2011 Birthday Party was a success in that it brought the community together.

“The turnout was great,” declares Joan. “I am proud to be an Athabascan. Our town does pull together to make things happen.”

Other events around town that added to the attraction of the day included guided tours of the historic Grand Union Hotel and the annual Taste of Athabasca food sampling event held in the Athabasca Regional Multiplex later in the day.

The Sept. 17 celebration was one of a number of Centennial-themed events held throughout the year by a variety of groups and organizations.

Town Councillor Paula Evans appreciates the effort put forward by contributing members of the community.

“It has been a pleasure to see how the community found so many ways to make this year so special,” says Paula.

Visit the Athabasca Centennial 2011 website for additional details about the year’s events.


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Looking west and east over the Alberta Transportation highway interchange reconstruction zone, late in September.  The project will replace the aging bridges and grade separation structure that currently make up the interchange.

$14.2 million highway project underway in Athabasca

Work on the Alberta Transportation Highway 55/813 interchange reconstruction project is well underway in Athabasca.

The east end of the town’s riverfront changed rapidly in September as crews began preparing the area for construction that will involve three stages over the next couple of years. The $14.2 million project will replace the aging bridges and grade separation structure that currently make up the intersection. The contract completion date of the project is October 15, 2013.

Michael Botros, Regional Director, North Central Region, Alberta Transportation, notes that the existing intersection configuration was constructed in the late 1950’s, and that continual ground movements of the Athabasca River valley have required constant maintenance of the bridges crossing the Tawatinaw River (Highway 55) as well as the Highway 813 grade separation structure.

“Both of these structures are nearing the end of their structural lives,” says Michael.

Due to the geotechnical issues and the limited life span of the bridge structures, a functional planning study was conducted in 2001 to review possible configurations for the Highway 55 and Highway 813 intersection.

“Five alternative configurations were investigated, including retention of the current configuration, which were presented to the Town of Athabasca through open houses,” says Michael. “The technical recommendation from the study proposed a strategy that relocated the intersection away from the main area of geotechnical instability of the Athabasca River valley.”

The existing grade separated intersection is to be replaced with a standard highway-to-highway intersection, shifted slightly to the west where ground movement is minimized. The plans include the provision of a new intersection for 50th Avenue at the new highway intersection. Included with this work is a realignment of a portion of the Tawatinaw River.

The reconstruction project is to be completed in three stages.

“Stage 1 includes the construction of the Highway 55 detour and construction of a new Tawatinaw River Bridge,” Michael explains. “Stage 2 will see the construction of a new Tawatinaw River channel, spawning marsh area, drainage culvert installation on existing Tawatinaw River and some road work. The removal of two existing bridges and completion of all road work will be completed in Stage 3.”

Work on the new Tawatinaw River channel is expected to proceed in the spring of 2012.

Contractor for this Alberta Transportation highway reconstruction project in Athabasca is Carmacks Enterprises Ltd.

To view a copy of the configuration drawing click here

To view a copy of the Tawatinaw River redirect click here

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Intermunicipal Development Plan

Athabasca County and the Town of Athabasca have partnered to produce an Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) designed to facilitate development in the area surrounding the Town.

Area residents were initially invited to an open house on June 28, held at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex, where the first draft of the document was presented to the public.

The final draft is now complete and has passed first reading at Town Council. Before the document goes to second and third reading, town residents will have another opportunity to respond to it during a public hearing scheduled on October 4 at the Town Office, 7:00 p.m.

Athabasca County is going through the same process and will host a public hearing for county residents.

Doug Topinka, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Athabasca, notes that the IDP serves the mutual interests of both the Town and the County. The plan respects both parties as it outlines some of the rules and policies of development.

“The Intermunicipal Development Plan guides future development,” says Doug. “It is for the benefit of both municipalities and is a means to make for orderly development around the town.”

The 28-page IDP will be available for review on the Town of Athabasca website complete with details about the background of the plan, the purpose, vision statement, administration and implementation of the plan as well as a series of IDP policy maps.

In part, the document states that the purpose is to establish a framework for development in the area surrounding the Town. The plan outlines the vision and goals that have been determined by representatives from both the Town and the County and encourages development that is appropriate and blends in with the existing land use.

The basic aim is to ensure that future development will compliment the current land use of the surrounding areas, will work with the current amenities and services, and will promote sustainable and consistent development.

This allows the Town and the County to be future-oriented in their planning efforts and build on their existing services and infrastructure in an efficient and productive manner. It ensures that the land uses in the area will not hinder the expansion of the Town of Athabasca and it represents the desire of the Town and the County to work together to facilitate development.

The document includes information on the Municipal Government Act and on the specific policies of the document, including land use policies and policies governing environmental issues, transportation, utilities and servicing, and annexation.

The maps section of the plan includes 11 maps that outline a variety of physical constraints and strengths found in the plan area, as well as a map of planned land uses for the IDP area.

The vision statement indicates that the plan area will acknowledge the area’s history, respect the area’s natural features, and will help support economic stability and growth.

There are three primary objectives relative to the overall land use areas. They are to reserve land for urban expansion, to develop using urban standards, and to pre plan areas before allowing development.

The categories covered in the plan are Residential Development, Agriculture, Commercial Development/Highway Business, Industrial Development, Environmental Issues, Transportation Routes, Utilities and Servicing, and Annexation Areas.

Town residents are advised to review the plan to learn the specifics of each section and how it relates to the overall development of the area surrounding the Town of Athabasca.

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