STONEY NAKODA – The site of a new commercial development on Stoney Nakoda First Nation has a long history of Indigenous trade, sport and seasonal gathering – hence its Stoney name: Aktakiyebi Wida, which translates to “a coming together of people.”
Goodstoney Meadows, the future home of a new gas bar, take-out restaurant and retail space, lies adjacent to the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino on Highway 40, one of the busiest tourist corridors in Canada and the gateway to the traditional lands of the Îyârhe Nakoda (Stoney Nakoda) First Nation.
At the centre of it all is the “Sky Tipi” – a collection of lights positioned above an outdoor courtyard that shoot skyward to create the shape of the conical shelter traditionally used by Indigenous peoples across much of North America.
“It will be like a beacon to draw people in,” said Ray Greenwood, CEO of Goodstoney First Nation (formerly Wesley). “It’s so tall it looks like it could take you to the moon.”
The light teepee, which had to be approved by Transport Canada, is meant to capture the attention of Highway passersby without overburdening the night sky.
The eight lights that make up the monumental-sized light sculpture are meant to represent each current and future tenant space that the development will house.
Goodstoney Meadows will take up 1.6 hectares (four acres) of land, but it will have room to expand with another 1.6 hectares (four acres).
The current plans include two buildings. One will be comprised of two to four commercial rental units ranging in size from 109 to 228 square metres (1,177 to 2,458 square feet) of space, plus restrooms and an outdoor patio. The other will have two floors consisting of a convenience store, restrooms, a take-out area and a drive-thru on the main level, with a meeting area, office, and staff room on the upper level.
The gas bar will be located nearest to the convenience store.
The site will also include a wooden teepee structure at the centre of the outdoor patio, with a firepit, art installation, picnic tables and a playground nearby.
The development is planned to open before the end of 2022. Construction began prior to the sod-turning ceremony on July 11, which saw Goodstoney chief Clifford Poucette and council, Chiniki First Nation Chief Aaron Young and council, Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung, Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards, Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert, Alberta Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson, and other dignitaries attended the sod-turning ceremony where development plans were unveiled to the public.
Greenwood said Goodstoney First Nation couldn’t help but notice opportunity was knocking for a development like this to be built with the amount of traffic that passes through the area each year heading to or from nearby Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis Country, and Calgary.
“We’ve been talking about this with Chief and council for about the last year-and-a-half to two years,” he said. “Throughout COVID-19 and now as things begin to relax, the area has been really, really busy with people wanting to get out and about in the mountains.
“On top of that, the Bearspaw Travel Centre that opened here in 2019 has been extremely busy, so this presented a good opportunity to move in on this and expand Goodstoney’s economic development portfolio.”
Goodstoney Meadows is expected to create a number of jobs for Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation. Greenwood believes it will be a successful endeavour in pushing the Goodstoney band toward self-sufficiency.
He added it’s just one of many projects and developments they have in the works at the moment.
“Chief and council have had many conversations with Goodstoney members and we felt it was time we start taking on a few more advancements,” he said. “So, we’ve got three or four more things that will be cropping up in the next couple of years.”
Greenwood said the development will be competing with the Bearspaw Travel Centre on gas sales, but not much else.
“We don’t want to take away their business,” he said. “The gas canopy will not allow for any big hauling trucks to come in and we’re not selling diesel.
“We hope, if nothing else, that it will only help to draw even more business to the travel centre and to the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino.”