The Government of Alberta, during the mid 1970s, created two designations that protect, for posterity, the Frank Slide’s “sea of debris” and its infamous profile as an internationally known cemetery.
The first designation protects the area’s natural resources, its unique valley-bottom population of plants and animals, and its watershed values. The vision: preservation of the environment.
The second designation, created a year later, identifies the Frank Slide as a provincial historic resource. This ensures protection from development under the Historical Resources Act.
I worked for Alberta Culture for 38 years preserving, protecting and presenting Alberta’s history.
For 35 of those years, and based out of the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, I studied the geology of Turtle Mountain and its potential to produce a second rock avalanche. I came to know the mountain’s features intimately. I learned the history of the town of Frank, the people who survived and those who died. It’s reasonable to suggest I know the history of Turtle Mountain, the Frank Slide and the lives of the early residents of Frank more thoroughly than any living person.
As I stand on the rocks above the part of town that was buried, I feel for the people impacted by the slide. Walking within this vast limestone cemetery, I recognize the victims and the survivors, and I think about their lives. I tell them I will remember them. Always.
Millions of people have come to gaze in awe at the Frank Slide, the premier tourist attraction in Crowsnest Pass. It’s studied by scientists, recognized by people from around the world. I’ve shared my knowledge — the dramatic history of Alberta — with an audience spanning the globe.
The Frank Slide must be protected as designated and defined by the Government of Alberta. It must never be subjected to what has happened to the Okotoks Erratic. There, what was once an arresting glacial feature in an expanse of prairie, profoundly significant to Indigenous people, is now surrounded by development to the point that, driving by, you might not even see the erratic. Its sense of place has been lost, squandered because the historical resource designation failed to include an appropriate amount of surrounding land.
Thankfully, people are still stopped in their tracks as they look across the Frank Slide at the fractured face of Turtle Mountain. They, in disbelief, marvel at the volume of rock that blankets the Crowsnest River valley. The viewscape is jaw-dropping. It’s a spiritual place. A sacred place.
The Highway 3 twinning plan, poorly designed, includes a new road and interchange, and a huge expansion of the existing highway’s footprint, all within the Frank Slide. This vision, if allowed, would degrade and violate the Government of Alberta’s twin designations that safeguard and preserve, for posterity, the integrity of the Frank Slide. These designations, profound and significant, protect the majority of the critical Turtle Mountain/Frank Slide viewscape. They must be respected.
The Frank Slide and its dramatic profile in Alberta’s history must be saved.
Resident of Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
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