Walking along Riel Drive on a summer evening you can hear the laughter of children, the cheering of parents, the encouraging roars of coaches, the chanting of teams and loudspeakers announcing scores and results of the games being played.
Men, women and children of all ages come to Riel Park to participate in the activities that define a vibrant and engaged community.
Riel, however was not always so.
When my wife and I moved to St. Albert in 1980, Riel was a small industrial business park. And on the west side of Riel Drive, bordering the Sturgeon River, it was a designated sewage lagoon and the local landfill. Many times, along with other St. Albertans, we deposited our solid waste in this local landfill. This was the standard practice of the day.
Times change. Cities grow. Environmental standards adapt to current realities. St. Albert recognized the necessity to close and remediate the Riel landfill and sewage lagoon. Looking at the case for the future, St. Albert chose a bolder plan that invested in long-term advantages.
St. Albert turned an environmental liability into a dynamic civic asset. They envisioned a future which included new soccer fields, rugby pitches, football fields, a BMX track, rodeo grounds, a RV park and a general use park with a playground included.
Did this decision require the citizens of St. Albert to invest scarce tax resources? Yes – in excess of $30 Million. Was it worth it? Yes!
Take a moment and consider St. Albert without Riel Park. Would you want to go back? No!
Our outstanding community of the present, owes gratitude to the strong visionary leadership of previous decision makers. Many who contributed to building Riel Park are no longer with us, but we who remain, benefit daily from the fruits of their labour.
May we follow their example and make the necessary sacrifices today, to fund initiatives that have lasting benefits for future generations of St. Albertans to enjoy.