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Tag: Rhonda Oczkowski

Rhonda Oczkowski – woman with shoulder-length brown hair wearing black and white plaid jacket and black pants – holds two pair of cross-country skis

Free lending of skis and snowshoes in Pincher Creek

Pincher Creek’s recreation office and municipal library are once again offering residents the chance to borrow snowshoes and cross-country skis free of charge through their lending program.

The program is intended as a cost-effective way for community members to get outside and get active this winter.

The idea took shape five years ago when Rhonda Oczkowski, Pincher Creek’s recreation programmer, applied for the Choose Well grant. With the funds, the original pairs of snowshoes and cross-country skis were purchased, and since then, the inventory has continued to grow annually with the popularity of the initiative.

“We wanted to make sure that this program is accessible to everyone, so the program is free and available for anyone to come in and borrow equipment,” says Rhonda.

Prior to last year, the recreation department and library struggled with accommodating everyone that was interested in taking advantage of the loan pool. Adult-sized cross-country skis in particular were often unavailable due to the limited number of sets.

To navigate this issue, the recreation office and library partnered with Syncline Castle Trails Association, also known as SCaT, to expand upon the lending program, while promoting the Syncline Trail Network.

With money acquired through the Return to Play grant, SCaT was able to purchase and donate 30 pairs of adult cross-country skis and poles to the program, along with 45 pairs of adult-sized boots. According to Rhonda, the association has made an additional donation of skis and skiing equipment this year to fill sizing holes found in the lending initiative last year.


Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.


“Last year, we were running out of larger ski boots and equipment for adults, so now we’ve filled that gap and I think we’ve covered our bases in terms of sizing,” she says.

While the hope is to avoid a lack of equipment to lend out, Rhonda notes that the issue of not having enough equipment does suggest that the program is a popular one that is getting residents outdoors and active.

To borrow equipment, you need to either have a library card or sign up at the library for an equipment rental card. A library membership costs $10, while the equipment rental card is free of charge. Once you have one of the cards, you can simply head to the library, identify what size of equipment you need, rent it and be on your way.

Once you’ve rented the equipment, you may hold onto it for up to one week before returning it to the library.

Previously, there was no need for a library membership or rental card. The change was made to alleviate the manual work library staff had to do to keep tabs on rentals.

According to Rhonda, the recreation department has a few exciting plans coming up regarding skiing and snowshoeing, including pop-up lessons for novices and guided snowshoe/cross country skiing tours. Those interested are encouraged to keep an eye on Pincher Creek recreation’s Facebook page for updates and information.

For more information about the lending program, you can contact the library at 403-627-3813 or by email.




Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek


Communities in Bloom awards silver, Pincher Creek’s highest ranking to date

Following its participation in this year’s Communities in Bloom challenge in the Circle of Excellence – Evaluated category, the Town of Pincher Creek has received a rating of five blooms – silver.

Communities in Bloom, a Canadian non-profit organization, uses a multi-tiered competitive evaluation process to help municipalities cultivate community strength and encourage continuous improvements.  

In July, CIB-trained volunteer judges Colleen Stockford and Larry Hall travelled to Pincher Creek to assess the town based on a variety of criteria. This included community appearance, environmental action, heritage conservation, tree management, landscape and plant and floral designs.

Communities are evaluated using a “bloom” rating, determined by the total score of the evaluation, and are ranked from one bloom to five blooms. Given that the town scored five blooms as a national/international competitor, Pincher Creek also received the silver rating, one of four exclusive levels.

Based on the town’s rating, Pincher Creek scored somewhere between 87 and 89.9 per cent on its evaluation.

In addition to the town’s overall rating, Pincher Creek was given a special mention for its Wayfinding Signage, which really caught the attention of judges. In their joint evaluation, Larry and Colleen expressed how they felt that the signs are “not only practical and informative, but also provide a unity to the community.” 

Rhonda Oczkowski, the town’s recreation programmer and CIB committee member, played a large role in ensuring the town was prepared for the challenge. She feels the community should be proud, as this is the first time Pincher Creek has received the silver rating, the town’s highest score to date.

“We did very well, especially after a five-year hiatus, but the judges did give us a lot of things to consider going forward as to what we could do to continue to improve,” she says.

Results were released Sunday during CIB’s 2023 national/international symposium and awards ceremony in Fort McMurray. For a complete list of results, head over to

Woman in orange dress and sweater and man in jeans and blue t-shirt with yard-of-the-week sign in a nicely landscaped yard

Pincher Creek names latest Yard of the Week

For 25 years, Mel Kubasek’s rich and unique yard has been thriving in the Pincher Creek community. Now, it’s being awarded this week’s Yard of the Week.

“I like to have my place looking attractive,” says Mel. “It’s something I enjoy.” 

Mel’s love for yard work was certainly picked up on by the previous winner, Dale Ferguson, who selected him as part of this Communities in Bloom “paying it forward” initiative.

This isn’t the first time Mel’s pristine yard has won him recognition. He notes receiving an award for best-maintained front lawn in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

When Mel settled in Pincher Creek many years ago, he did all of his own landscaping. His many plants have since evolved and adapted to the local environment and the ever-present wind touching his hilltop property.

“You’re never fully done when you’ve got a landscape to take care of,” he says.

Rather than embracing a typical flower-based garden, the mature yard relies on contrasting colours and textures from the bushes and trees. Some notable plants in Mel’s yard are his buckeye nut tree, flowering crab tree, juniper, Turkistan burning bush and ninebark bush.

“Some of this stuff has a mind of its own,” Mel says, noting the curious ways some plants grow, or the new plants that are blown in, like his bluebells, “volunteering” their presence. 


Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta


There are even some wildflowers Mel can’t identify but which, nevertheless, bring more character to the garden.

“I keep things down to a dull roar,” he says.

The plant life isn’t the only thing bringing dimension to Mel’s yard; his two front-lawn boulders also bring a special touch.

“Rocks are some of my favourites,” he says, noting that the rocks have been there since 1996, and were a gift from his neighbour. “I love rocks and boulders.”

With them comes moss — another special aspect of his yard.

Looking at Mel’s yard, you can really see the results of many years of work and adapting to the area.

“I try to plant things that are wind-tolerant,” he says. “It’s a lot of trial and error.”

Mel also shares the secret to completely weed-free rock beds: laying down high-quality landscaping mesh, about a foot of gravel, then topping with the rocks.

Mel’s victory this week brought him some gardening goodies from Miracle-Gro, the Yard of the Week sponsor, and a Communities in Bloom sign he can display.

“You gotta have something to do, and this is what I enjoy doing,” he says.

Mel will be looking for the next winner this week, which you can read about in a future issue of Shootin’ the Breeze.

Woman with long dark hair and sunglasses, dressed in a blue shirt and jeans, lounges in an empty spa tub

Get ready for the Reuse and Recycle Fair

Spring is in the air and so is spring cleaning! As folks tackle annual decluttering jobs, there are always items that can be passed along, reused or recycled. If you’ve been cleaning closets, now is the time to gather your goodies, as the Town and MD of Pincher Creek team up to bring back the Reuse and Recycle Fair.

The event runs Saturday, June 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, at the MD administration building parking lot and eco centre.

The fair provides an opportunity to hand over unwanted household items for possible reuse or for proper disposal. 

“If you’re cleaning out your basement or garage and have unwanted items, rather than disposing of these items at the landfill, bring them to the fair to be recycled,” says Rhonda Oczkowski, recreation programmer for the town.

“Someone else might see your discarded items as a treasure.”

Town and MD staff will act as volunteers to help residents properly dispose of their items and potentially walk away with a hidden gem.


Ad for Sara Hawthorn, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass realtor



This is the first time the MD is part of the event, which in the past was predominantly looked after by town staff.

“We’re super pleased that the MD will be partnering with us in order to host this,” says Rhonda.

“In the past, we’ve had the fair at the Pincher Creek Co-op parking lot,” she adds. “But this year, we’re moving it to the MD parking lot because they’re straight across from the eco centre, so you can do everything at once.” 

Town and MD staff will be joined by DBS Environmental, an Alberta-based company that provides waste-management solutions. DBS will assist locals with household hazardous waste, which may otherwise be difficult to dispose of properly. 

This provides an opportunity to get rid of hazardous items such as paints, batteries, sprays, cleaners and much more.

The Pincher Planters will also be at the fair doing a plant exchange. If you’re looking to pick up a new plant or drop one off, this is a great chance to do so.


Ad requesting memorabilia from CNP music festival


The Lions club is expected to have representatives on-site with a drop-off station where they will accept glasses, cellphones and hearing aids.

This year marks the fair’s long-awaited return after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to Rhonda, the town received multiple calls from residents interested in bringing the fair back, so it seemed like a no-brainer for the town and MD.

Rhonda also noted that the fair provides an environmentally responsible way to manage disposal rather than having things end up in the landfill.

Items left at the end of the day will be disposed of in an appropriate manner.

Folks are asked to not show up before the 10 a.m. start time, to ensure that volunteers can properly set up to run the event safely and smoothly. 

Residents are expected to use their better judgement to differentiate what can be reused and what is hazardous waste.



The following is a list of household hazardous waste commonly taken to waste collection sites that can be brought to the Reuse and Recycle Fair for safe disposal:

—Abrasive Cleaners


—Aerosol paints and sprays 

—Air freshener (aerosol)

—All-purpose cleaners (solvent-


—Ant/wasp spray


—Autobody filler

—Barbecue starters


—Brake and transmission fluid

—Butane refills

—Carbon tetrachloride



—Car (lead-acid) batteries

—Car waxes and polishes
solvent and water based)

—Contract cement

—Degreasers (petroleum based)


—Drain cleaners

—Fabric softeners

—Floor wax strippers

—Hair sprays (aerosol)



—Laundry starch

—Laundry stain removers

—Lighter fluid

—Liquid cleaners


—Mildew removers

—Muriatic acid

—Nail polish and remover

—Oven cleaners



—Paint thinners and strippers

—Paints (oil and water based)

—Photographic chemicals

—Propane gas cylinder

—Rubbing alcohol

—Septic tank degreaser

—Shoe polish

—Silver and brass polish

—Solvents, turpentine, varnish,

—Spot remover

—Spa and pool chemicals

—Toilet cleaner

—Tub and tile cleaners

—Used oil (where recycling is not

—Weed killers

—Windshield washer solution
ontaining methyl alcohol

—Wood preservative