2009 has been another exciting year in the valley for news hounds.
The community has seen big changes this year, and is facing an exciting future. There have been some tough times along the way, but even in the face of a recession it has been a year of progress and excitement. Every year The Mail takes time to look at its reportage over the last 12 months and compile a list of the top 10 stories of the year. While not a scientific method, we judge these stories by their impact to readers and the community. Please feel free to share your opinions on the list.
1 Olympic Torch to arrive
While the build up began more than a year ago, the community has been anticipating the arrival of the Olympic Torch. Since it was announced that Drumheller would be a celebration community on November 21, 2008, a committee was struck and preparations began. Slowly the details rolled out that Corb Lund would be the headlining act, with support from local singers and dancers. Special Olympics coach Martin McSween was selected to light the cauldron at the Canadian Badlands Passion Play Site on Saturday, January 16, where the community can celebrate the torch’s arrival.
More than the event itself, is the excitement members of the community making way for the torch that has become a great part of the story. A giant pair of mittens stitched together by Tara Semchuk now adorn the World’s Largest Dinosaur. Young dancers from Carol Todor Dance School and singers from DCHS are working to make sure their performance on the day will be impeccable, and Downtown Drumheller has decided to “Paint the Town Red” the day before the arrival which includes street hockey, hot chocolate, music and a fireworks display. The Mail has also announced a number of residents that will be carrying the Olympic Torch including Rav Lal, Chris Lacher, Melanie Mazereeuw and Delia student Jordan Phillips.
2 Community facility
This story also began building more than a year back, but has been continually expanding since that time. The Badlands Community Facility project continues to progress since it was given the green light from the plebiscite held on November 3, 2008, where 63 per cent of voters said yes to allowing John Anderson Park to be used to build a community facility.
By February the committee released the scope of the primary construction to include gymnasium space, a field house, community centre and house the Drumheller Public Library. Committees were struck and on November 11 the fundraising campaign began with the Calgary Flames Alumni taking on local Drumheller hockey players. EnCana has also pledged $500,000, and a group of resident has joined the Founders Club donating $50,000 or more to the project. Earlier this winter the town awarded a contract to begin site work on John Anderson Park, is are expecting to release tenders for the major construction early in 2010.
3 Traffic flow
The summer of 2009 saw stop and go traffic over the Gordon Taylor Bridge and the transportation controversy continues to this day. The Mail first reported on March 1, 2007 of the proposed changes to the Gordon Taylor Bridge which included the subtraction of a north bound lane, and the removal of the left hand turn on the south side of the bridge below the World’s Largest Dinosaur. It wasn’t until construction began on the bridge that the ire of residents went up. This single issue garnered a flurry of letters to the editor as the construction took shape. Lane changes caught residents by surprise as they relearned how to navigate downtown Drumheller. This issue hasn’t gone away. Because of the changes in traffic flow, the Town of Drumheller commissioned a transportation study for downtown Drumheller. At Drumheller Council’s November 9 meeting, they moved to approve the transportation plan which will see the elimination of angle parking on 3rd Avenue in Downtown Drumheller. The town has created two new parking lots to make up for the lost spaces. While some downtown businesses see the plan as manageable, others see it a threat to their viability, and recently a poster campaign disapproving of council’s decision was launched.
While it comes every year, for a weekly paper, for April Fool's Day to fall on a publishing day, it is a chance to have a little fun. This year, judging by readers' response, most everyone had a chuckle. The Mail led with stories that included the impending doom of Sam’s Saloon in Rowley, Ray Laval being honoured by Laval University, and of course the Drumheller Aquaplex allowing swimming in the buff. To see The Mail’s Rob Arnold on the starting block dressed in a snorkel, and not much else was alone worth the price of a subscription. Those that read to the end of the story were let off the hook. There were few who didn’t catch on right away. Lorraine Foesier of Rowley fielded a call from an anonymous person demanding to remove County officials. Others may have thrown out their swimsuits. We thank all the people that were in on the joke and helped us with the gag. By the way, the next April Fool's Day on a Wednesday is in 2015.
5 Speaking of naked… The first ever Naked Bike ride in Alberta was right here in Drumheller. On June 13 of this year, about 22 cyclists took to the street under pedal power, donning the bare essentials for the event. More than twice as many came out to see the spectacle. Overall feelings about the event were mixed and the RCMP who sent a letter with their concerns to organizer Jennifer Chow, said they could not condone such an event. Nonetheless the event went off without a hitch. There is no word on whether the event will be repeated this spring.
6 Campaign to keep rails
The train whistles in the valley fell silent just last winter, but with a little work, and even more investment there is a possibility the Lyalta to Oyen line will operate as a short line railway. Municipalities who are share holders of Palliser Regional Municipal Services have hatched out a plan to restore service on the track. They have formed a company and are looking for investment to make a substantial deposit to make an offer to CN for the line. Since its initial share offering, the group has raised $65,000, and is hoping to carry that momentum forward. The group has scheduled two more days in January to make presentations and to sell shares.
7 Dino -capital
Drumhellerites and their supporters left no doubt that Drumheller is the Dinosaur Capital of the World. What started as an innocent post on a blog at Smithsonian.com, asking where the Dinosaur capital of the world was, turned into a forum for residents to show their pride. The Mail brought readers the story of the blog in its July 15 edition. At that time, Drumheller was well behind in the polling with 67 votes to Glen Rose Texas’ tally of 860. Two days after The Drumheller Mail’s story was published, the creator of the blog took notice of the story because of the votes coming in. Two weeks later the number was up to 3,000 votes for Drumheller. Today there are more than 5,000 votes for the Valley as being the capital. Looks like no letterhead needs to be changed.
8 Morgan Jayne Project
The Morgan Jayne Project is a grass roots charity that has a simple goal in mind; to save children in Roatan who were born testing positive for HIV and AIDS. The project, spearheaded by Fred Makowecki had its most eventful year ever. The project raised enough funds to build the Morgan Jayne Infant Care Centre on the Island. In September, the charity was rocked by the murder of Dallas Martens, a volunteer for the charity from Martenville, Saskatchewan who had moved to Roatan with his wife Krissy. While difficult, the project continued its work and collected enough gifts for an estimated 400 children on the Island so they could have Christmas. The only snag was they were not able to ship the gifts through the United States. On Sunday, December 6, Makowecki had an idea. By the next weekend the project raised in the area of $6,000 to purchase everything needed to bring Christmas to the children and families served by the Morgan Jayne Project.
9 School modernization After years of planning Drumheller will soon see some of the most modern schools in Alberta completed. Construction is underway on the new St. Anthony’s School in Midland, while at the same time a multimillion dollar renovation of DCHS is showing signs of great progress. These two projects will serve children in Drumheller for years to come.
10 Wheatland East School
Golden Hills School Division also came to a decision on how to provide the best education for students in the area. Golden Hills School Division has, for years, been working on a solution for declining numbers and depreciating Schools in the Standard, Gleichen, Hussar and Rockyford area. In the spring, during the division’s preparation of its capital plan, the school division added a centrally located K-12 school to serve the students of Standard, Hussar and Central Bow Valley in Gleichen. There would be no changes to Rockyford School, delivering K-8 classes. While It has been identified as a priority by the division in its Capital Plan, no funds from the province have been committed to such project.