City council has given first reading to rezoning land east of Lion’s Campground for an aboriginal cultural centre and housing development.
A public hearing is set for the June 10 meeting when nearby businesses and stakeholders will be able to offer their input as well.
At this week’s council meeting, officials with the Red Deer Native Friendship Society were thrilled with council’s unanimous support to pass first reading. The facility would be called the Asooahum Centre.
Council was told that Lions Campground, the surrounding park system and trails would still be fully accessible.
Since September 2012, a joint steering committee has worked with City staff to identify appropriate land space for this project. Over 20 sites were explored as possible options.
Ultimately, the City-owned site on Riverside Dr. was recommended as the most suitable site that aligns with the vision of the Asooahum Centre and the long-term vision for City planning.
Stakeholders say the housing and culture site includes outdoor space for programs and ceremonial uses. There would also be a community garden, office space and other interpretive elements.
“This is the perfect spot for this development because it gives us a unique opportunity to expand an existing park node and incorporate an interpretive element for the benefit of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, the aboriginal community and our community as a whole,” said Lisa Perkins, director of corporate transformation for the City.
“We don’t know exactly what the facility will look like just yet, but we want to make sure we have conversations with those located near the site so that we can address any questions and concerns people might have before we rezone this land,” said Perkins.
She added that the facility would add another interpretive ‘node’ to the Waskasoo Park system – like Kerry Wood Nature Centre and Fort Normandeau.
“It would focus on our community’s aboriginal heritage.”
Councillor Lynne Mulder said it’s important to remember that the recommended site comes out of extensive research. “I think what’s really important is that we recognize (this recommendation) wasn’t made on a whim. I certainly respect it, and I would be delighted to see this move forward.”
Councillor Cindy Jefferies agreed. “I welcome the opportunity to be part of this and see it through to fruition.”
The RDNFS will start work on the design with the help of the community when they host a design charette in late June. At that time, the RDNFS would also need to apply for the appropriate permitting needed prior to any construction.
Meanwhile, officials with the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre were pleased with council’s decision to grant first reading on Monday.
“It is about building a cultural centre and housing for aboriginal people who are moving to Red Deer for the first time, or for people who already live here but want to connect with the aboriginal community in a new way,” said Tanya Schur, executive director for the Red Deer Native Friendship Society. She added that it’s vital the community be involved in forming design plans as well.
She’s also excited about the potential that the area holds. “We’re very excited about doing something good for Red Deer, good for the aboriginal community and something good for the future – for our young people.”