CANMORE – The Town of Canmore is considering implementing paid parking at Quarry Lake as part of an application of stimulus grant funding from the provincial government.
Elected officials were presented with two capital projects Tuesday (Sept. 1) the municipality intends to apply for grant funding for through the UCP's recently announced Municipal Stimulus Program – improvements to sidewalks and roads in Teepee Town and infrastructure enhancements at Quarry Lake.
The improvements being considered for the popular swimming area include the introduction of paid parking – something council and Mayor John Borrowman were interested in pursuing as a result of how busy the Quarry has been this summer.
"Given the experience we have had at Quarry Lake this summer, I think the timing is perfect to have this stimulus grant available to do some of the work that is needed up there," Borrowman said. "It will not accomplish all the work we would like to have done up there, but it is positive to see the province acknowledging municipalities need additional funding."
Manager of public works Andreas Comeau said the $626,000 being sought from the stimulus fund would be able to accomplish some, but not all improvements considered in a recently approved concept design for the area.
"Similar to the concept design council approved back in May this year, there are four key locations for improvement," Comeau said.
Paid parking and a washroom are proposed for the parking lot area; a washroom and garbage bins are proposed at the south beach near the Peaks of Grassi neighbourhood and improvements to an access road to service them are also needed. A jumping platform is proposed on the embankment as well to manage erosion of the shoreline.
"We did have the shoreline surveyed to ensure we have sufficient distance below the waterline," Comeau said. "These are just concept ideas and the final plans we will be looking to bring those back to council and the Rocky Mountain Heritage Foundation sometime in the future."
The foundation manages Quarry Lake in partnership with the municipality. Comeau said the plan pre-COVID-19 was for the foundation to undertake fundraising to pay for the improvements. However fundraising during a pandemic will be more difficult and the increased use of the recreation area this summer has highlighted the need for improvements sooner rather than later.
"The big piece is adding the paid parking infrastructure in there," he said. "The intent is to use part of those funds to offset the maintenance required for the washrooms, for example."
General manager of municipal infrastructure Whitney Smithers said due to the high levels of use seen this summer at the Quarry, which demanded more resources to manage, there is a need to improve the experience for all users and protect the environment.
"We have been looking at paid parking as a solution to help deal with the impacts," she said, adding it is "not a done deal at this point" and would still require council approval to be implemented.
The Municipal Stimulus Program announced at the end of July provides $500 million to Alberta municipalities as part of the provincial government's economic relaunch strategy to create jobs and stimulate the economy.
Manager of financial services Chelsey Richardson said Canmore is in line to receive $1.66 million and after careful consideration of the program's eligibility requirements the Quarry Lake enhancements and road improvement work in Teepee Town were chosen to apply for the funds.
"There are some significant criteria around the eligibility and what we can put forward for projects," Richardson said.
One of those requirements is that the project should not have increased operating costs that would then result in a tax increase for residents. The program also requires municipalities to submit a report in 2020 and 2021 on how they are reducing red tape. Richardson said if the reports are not to the satisfaction of the minister, the funding can be revoked.
Councillor Joanna McCallum noted that grant reporting usually involves details related to the project's implementation – not an unrelated issue.
"Is that normal for a grant application when looking for money? It seems very parental," McCallum said. "I understand the need for accountability, but it seems very subjective. Are we confident we are going to be able to jump through these arbitrary hoops?"
Richardson said administration is confident the work being undertaken by the Town's economic development department will meet the grant program's criteria. The municipality is forming an economic recovery task force to help the local economy deal with the effects of COVID-19 and has funded an economic recovery program.
Manager of engineering services Andy Esarte provided an overview of the work being considered for the Teepee Town neighbourhood after a recent area redevelopment plan update was approved by council.
"We have been envisioning undertaking work in Teepee Town for a number of years," he said.
Esarte noted that the $1 million in grant funds being applied for, plus $380,000 from off-site levies, would only allow administration to begin the first phase of much needed road improvements in that area.
"The roads were in rough shape to start and there has been a lot of construction activity – we have potholes on potholes on some of those streets," he said, adding improving the degrading quality of Teepee Towns streets is a priority for the municipality to reduce the amount of repair and maintenance work required each year in that area.
Only 20 per cent of the streets would see improvements with the stimulus funding and any roadways that require deep utility upgrades would not be included in the project.
In addition to asphalt being replaced, the project proposes to improve sidewalks, lighting and stormwater drainage.
If approved by the province, Esarte said a significant amount of work needs to be undertaken this fall and winter to be ready for the start of construction. That includes a public engagement process for the design before upgrades begin.
"We are really looking for the low-hanging fruit in Teepee Town," he said. "There is quite a lot of work to do this fall that will lead to a detailed design over the winter and construction next summer."