by Phil Ambroziak

The future of the historic Meadow Lake Stampede Grounds could be in the hands of the community itself.

The city is encouraging residents to complete an online survey designed to garner public feedback about the Stampede Grounds before making a decision about the facility’s ultimate fate.

“We made the decision back in the fall when the engineer’s report came in (outlining the current condition of the grandstand located on the grounds) that we had to address this, and we did so in the sense we did not budget any money this year to repair the grandstand,” stated mayor Gary Vidal. “We will not make a permanent decision on what’s going to happen, however, until we have an opportunity to conduct some public consultation and this online survey is one way of doing just that.”

Vidal said the city is looking for feedback from the people who use the facility most in order to to see if there are any other ways we can address this situation.

“This survey is simply a tool we can use to gather the necessary information to make an informed decision,” he added.

In November, city council voted not to make repairs to the grandstand, but instead to close it to the public. Every two years, the grandstand requires an engineering assessment before it can be insured. In 2015, this assessment called for repairs of $36,000 to the structural beams, a cost that was offset by a donation from the Meadow Lake Lions Club. The 2017 assessment, however, indicated the need for additional repairs in the range of $15,000 or more. Meanwhile, the Lions Club did not renew its contract with the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association for 2018 because of the current condition of the grandstand.

“The survey will help us make the right decision,” Vidal reiterated. “This is something that doesn’t just affect the City of Meadow Lake. Yes, it’s ultimately our decision and our tax dollars that would be spent, but the Stampede Grounds is an area utilized and appreciated by people throughout the region, and we want to have a chance to include everyone in the decision-making process.”

The mayor also shared some of his favourite memories of the Stampede Grounds.

“When I was a child, the Meadow Lake Stampede was a really big deal,” he said. “The Calgary Stampede is a huge deal, and we used to say we were second only to Calgary. Back then, Meadow Lake and probably the Ponoka Stampede were the next best thing so to speak. There is a sense of history and that is something we also have to consider.”

Among those who would like to see the Stampede Grounds remain operational is Meadow Lake area resident Renée Marshall.

“Of course I would like to see the grandstand maintained, rebuilt or replaced in one form or another, but I don’t know if that’s reasonable, financially or not,” she said. “That remains to be seen, but I would like to see the Stampede Grounds stay rather than be pushed under only to have an apartment complex put up.”

Marshall frequents the Stampede Grounds through her involvement with the Prairie N’ Forest Equestrian Club. That group hosts an annual show on the grounds, as well as other events such as horsemanship clinics and more. She also encourages as many people as possible to complete the survey.

“People need to have their thoughts and opinions known,” she added. “There’s no use talking or complaining about an issue if you don’t talk to the right people. City council cannot read minds. This survey is a good thing because at least it gives people the option of making their thoughts known.”

The survey, which will remain available at the city’s website (www.meadowlake.ca) until March 15, includes nine questions. Feedback being sought includes how many events a person has attended at the grounds in the last three years, the most important project the city should be investing in and where the best location for the Stampede Grounds is among others.

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