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YEAR IN REVIEW: Kananaskis, MD of Bighorn, Stoney Nakoda in 2021

Kananaskis, MD of Bighorn, Stoney Nakoda: 2021 year in review.
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A Chinook Rafting tour lead by guide. Makes its was through a series of rapids on the Kananaskis River on Saturday (July 3). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

January

Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin expressed dismay and disappointment on Alberta MLAs travelling outside of Canada amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One week later it was made known she had travelled to Saskatchewan to visit family during Christmas.

The Stoney Nakoda RCMP detachment opened Jan. 4, with the unit drawing officers from the Kananaskis and Cochrane RCMP detachments to form a semi-autonomous centre.

The Alberta government backed away from a plan to delist provincial parks after heavy public pressure against the plans.

MD of Bighorn council approved tax relief for homes that were impacted by the groundwater flooding in 2020

February

A home on Stoney Nakoda was destroyed by a fire Feb. 8 and left a man and his two teenage daughters temporarily homeless. A fundraiser was created to help the family.

The Alberta government announced Kananaskis Country had a record 5.4 million visitors in 2020, which was an increase of 1.2 visitors from 2019. The growth in visitation also came with a call for more conservation officers, RCMP and fish and wildlife officers to strengthen public safety.

The Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation provided $440,000 to the Canadian Rockies Public School (CRPS) division to cover school fees and pay for enhanced learning opportunities.

March

The Alberta government announced its 2021 budget, which featured an aim to double tourism spending in the province by 2030. The goal, which is part of its tourism recovery plan, would see $20 billion spent annually on tourism by 2030.

April

CRPS and FrancoSud school board opted out of the highly unpopular and contentious draft K-6 curriculum introduced by the province earlier in the year. Christ the Redeemer opted into the math curriculum, but declined to test any other section.

Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin joined 16 other UCP MLAs – one-third of the party's caucus – in opposing new COVID-19 public health restrictions. The group fell back in line with the rest of the party, but it was a sign of growing tensions in the UCP.

The proposed UCP bill that would have expanded coal mining on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains prompts a Private Member’s Bill to head to the legislature after growing public dissent for the policy is voiced.

A 37-year-old man, Bryan Kelrick House Jr., was charged with the death of a 23-year-old Stoney Nakoda woman after she was found unresponsive on Highway 1A. He was later charged with multiple drug charges. Friends and family later gathered to celebrate the life of Keesha Crawler

The Kananaskis Conservation Pass was created by the province and is set to begin on June 1. The province stated the revenue from the pass would entirely go back into Kananaskis Country, but they declined to make the figures public.

The Outlook runs a four-part series called Buried in the Aftermath that focuses on specific avalanches, how the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides deals with them and the supports available for guides who live through an avalanche.

May

A third-party review by BCG Engineering of the Jura Creek flood mitigation design near Exshaw raised concerns, including legal questions for elected officials. Flood mitigation had become a priority following the 2013 floods and the first of three phases was completed in 2016.

Grizzly bear No. 152 was struck by a truck on Highway 40 on May 13, and while monitoring by conservation officers and bear technicians found her to be injured, she was still mobile.

June

The Stoney Nakoda First Nation showed support to the 215 children who were found at the Kamloops Residential School on the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation. Throughout the year, several ceremonies and walks took place on Stoney Nakoda to recognize the work being completed to remember children who died in residential schools.

CRPS passed a conservative budget, largely holding the line on expenses from the prior year. The 2021-22 budget was passed at just under $30 million, as the division felt the financial crunch that came with COVID-19 impacting its outdoor learning and international students programs.

CRPS’s school board approved the 2021-25 education plan that was ultimately approved by the province’s Ministry of Education. The plan focuses on student growth and achievement, teaching and leading and learning supports.

A group of Stoney Nakoda residents held a walk to raise awareness on the harms of drug use and also to petition the removal of drug dealers from the First Nation.

The MD of Bighorn council approved 3-2 to award contracts for the Jura Creek debris flood mitigation despite the uncertainty on the land found by a third-party review the previous month. The Exshaw Residents Group also asked council to delay the project until the concerns were addressed.

A 16-year-old male from Stoney Nakoda was charged with second-degree murder after the Cochrane RCMP responded on June 2 to report a stabbing. The victim was identified as a 19-year-old Stoney Nakoda male.

The Francis Cooke landfill began a soil remediation project after contaminated soil from 6,800 tonnes of petroleum hydrocarbon were found on site.

As COVID-19 public health guidelines are loosened once again, the Bow Valley sees an influx of tourists begin returning as tourism organizations express optimism for the coming summer.

The Stoney Nakoda First Nation was named the top COVID-19 spot in Alberta per capita as infection rates climbed on the nation. Exshaw School also shifted to online learning after positive cases were confirmed.

The MD of Bighorn passed on bringing on Roam transit after staff determined it would be too expensive for residents, with an estimated cost of about $630 per resident.

The Outlook released its Changemakers 2.0 series, which focused on the positive impact being made by residents on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

The MD of Bighorn approved a motion to seek proposals for a groundwater study in Exshaw, after a series of issues were brought forward by residents and prior concerns over engineering work.

July

Kananaskis Public Safety said they are on track to make more rescues than the previous year, which was its busiest year-to-date when it came to rescues.

A wildfire broke out near Lac Des Arcs on July 23 and burned 4.4 hectares of forest before it was brought under control by Alberta Forestry, with help from Exshaw Fire-Rescue and Canmore Fire-Rescue.

Friends of Kananaskis Country celebrate its 25th anniversary. The organization has been a driving force behind educating people on ecological integrity and maintaining and building trails.

August

A wildfire began near Dead Man’s Flats on Aug. 13 – the second large wildfire in the Bow Valley in the summer – and was as large as 10 hectares until it was brought under control by Alberta Forestry.

A mountain peak in the MD of Bighorn was renamed to its Stoney traditional name of Any Katha Ipa (Bald Eagle Peak). The provincial announcement came in Sept. 2020, but the 1,279-metre peak was formally renamed Aug. 23.

The CRPS school board announced Aug. 23 it would be mandating masks in common areas as part of its back-to-school plan.

September

The MD of Bighorn approved the addition of three capital projects totalling about $15 million to its five-year capital plan. The projects would see a new operations shop, fire hall and administration building constructed if council ultimately goes ahead with each one.

Blake Richards was re-elected for a fifth term for the Banff-Airdrie riding in the Sept. 20 federal election. Richards collected 57 per cent of the vote in the conservative stronghold, while a total of nine candidates ran in the riding.

The MD of Bighorn council approves a long-awaited groundwater study to attempt to find a solution to the flooding issues faced by residents of east Exshaw.

The Outlook celebrates 20 years of covering the Bow Valley since its initial issue in September 2001.

A Stoney Nakoda woman, Sarah Beaver, pleaded guilty to hitting and killing a Morley woman with her vehicle in early 2020. Iliena Wildman, 40, was a mother to five children.

An outdoor recreation study completed by the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta calls on the province to invest in more infrastructure on Crown land for the use of outdoor recreation.

October

The Kananaskis Country Conservation Pass raised about $10 million in its initial year, but questions remain on the transparency of where the funds are going.

The Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission approves its capital and operating budget for 2022. The operating budget is set at 6.7 million and a goal to achieve a 10 per cent increase in ridership – the last full year without the impact of COVID-19 – is set for the coming year.

The MD of Bighorn re-elects Paul Clark and Lisa Rosvold – who is later selected as reeve – and welcomes newcomers Jen Smith, Joss Elford and Rick Tuza. CRPS has new board member Brian Callaghan elected and Carol Picard re-elected, Dale Craig, Luke Sunderland and Arlene Rheaume, who is also named the chair.

CRPS introduces a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for teachers and staff that will begin on Nov. 24.

The Bow Valley Waste Management Commission passes a largely status quo budget for the 2022 year, with estimated expenses of $3.9 million and a projected income of $3.1 million.

November

The province formally asks for construction bids on a long-awaited wildlife overpass on the Trans-Canada Highway to be built near the Bow Valley Gap east of Lac Des Arcs.

A 51-year-old Stoney Nakoda man was killed in a house fire on Nov. 21 near Chiniki Lake.

December

A public hearing to give residents of Dead Man's Flats a chance to voice opposition or support for a proposed visitor and flexible accommodation development of more than 100 units has been delayed until at least January after an error in the public notice was found with the incorrect address for the MD of Bighorn.