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Event group asks for consideration

A group of event organizers has come together to ask the municipality for a communication protocol when changes to Centennial Park are being considered.

A group of event organizers has come together to ask the municipality for a communication protocol when changes to Centennial Park are being considered.

The Events and Festivals Collective of Canmore was in front of council last week to ask for direction in having administration create a policy where any department considering work or changes in a park would consult the major users of it.

Made up of the Canmore Folk Festival, Canada Day, Highland Games and Cause Canada half-marathon, the collective depends 100 per cent on Centennial Park to host its events.

“We come before council in the spirit of collaboration, not criticism, and with one simple request,” said the group’s representative, Carol Picard. “That some kind of protocol or policy be crafted and put in place for all Town departments that have impact on Centennial Park and its surrounding streets to communicate with us as a body long before their work schedules and budgets are in place so we can have input on the impacts of their decisions and advance notice for our own planning purposes.”

Picard said the group has been blind-sided in the past without notice of projects and that gap in communication needs to be fixed.

She said the group realizes its needs will not always be paramount in the planning process, but improved communication and the events being represented by a single body should make it easier for all involved.

The group represents the four event users of the park. but there are other users, said Picard, including minor soccer, Lawrence Grassi Middle School, playground users, adjacent neighbours and the community as a whole.

“That said, we collectively represent a not inconsiderable impact on the town as a whole as significant tourism drivers, which is paramount in the Town’s Sustainable Economic Development and Tourism strategy approved by council last year,” she said.

The strategy sets out as a top priority to enhance tourism and events as a sustainable, environmentally responsible economic driver for Canmore by increasing visitation and economic impact by 10 per cent, or $13 million, by 2015.

The folk festival, the longest running of its kind in Alberta, has an annual attendance of up to 15,000, with 80 per cent of that coming from out of town. Picard said more than 50 per cent use commercial accommodation for one to three days.

The annual budget of the event is $500,000 with more than 7,000 volunteer hours.

The Highland Games’ annual budget sits at approximately $200,000, with 5,000 volunteer hours each year to put it together.

Attendance at the games reaches up to 8,000, with 80 per cent from out of town and a survey last year estimated its economic impact was $1 million for the town.

The Canada Day committee’s annual budget is $35,000, all of which comes from local donors and sponsors, with about 900 participants, 75 per cent of which use local hotels.

Picard said the events generate significant downtown retail exposure and business for restaurants.

CAUSE Canada’s half-marathon includes 2,000 runners, with 92 per cent from outside the valley.

“We cannot continue to offer an excellent experience, nor to increase our attendance, when our landscape is being incrementally nibbled away and rearranged,” she said.

Picard said the events already face hurdles with declining volunteer and sponsorship base and the municipality should not represent another barrier.

This summer, the engineering department has a project to reconstruct Sixth Avenue between the Bank of Montreal and Centennial Park. The project is set to begin the day after the folk fest.

Picard said the timing is appreciated by the folk festival, but the construction project will affect the Highland Games without vehicle access to the main gate for handicapped and senior drop-off.

She added having a communication protocol in place for 2012 would be beneficial.

Next year, Fifth Street will see major reconstruction that will dovetail with potable water improvements for the park, which the folk festival is financially contributing to.

“We and the Highland Games would like to be able to provide input on that street design, as without the parking that street affords us for our events we are severely impacted,” Picard said. “A small change that may not be perceived as a big deal is huge for us who have to deal with it.”

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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