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Pincher Creek town councillors and administration sit at chambers table and one is on-screen, attending virtually. Four have hands raised, voting in favour of new curling rink plan.

Pincher Creek to build new curling rink, pending borrowing bylaw

The motion, tabled by Coun. Mark Barber, triggered a lengthy deliberation at chambers Monday, drawing input from all six councillors and Mayor Don Anderberg as they weighed the project against the town’s acute, chronic housing shortage, the potential tax increase to pay for the build, and the state of the existing facilities at the CRC. 

Council several times acknowledged the long-running contributions by the local curling club, which has long operated the current curling rink at 837 Main Street at its own expense. 

Council set aside $1.25 million of the estimated $4 million build in its 2023 capital budget. The remaining $2.75 million will be funded by a long-term loan, pending council’s upcoming vote on a borrowing bylaw, which will be the subject of a public hearing. 

Speaking in favour of Barber’s motion, Mayor Anderberg said that, in a worst-case scenario, council could pay for the project with a three per cent municipal tax increase. Council will apply for a federal grant that would cover up to 60 per cent of construction costs, provided the build goes ahead on a “net-zero” carbon footing, he told the public audience. 

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

Coun. Gary Clelland cast the vote as an “11th-hour” decision that would determine the curling club’s future.

“This is the time for us to take a positive step forward in our community, and say, ‘We want hundreds of people involved in this (curling) centre that for 100 years paid their way, have been leaders in the community … paid taxes in the community for 100 years, and still do today,” he said.  

Coun. Sahra Nodge objected that the long-term borrowing costs and subsequent maintenance of the rink would overly burden taxpayers, adding that the CRC’s gym and bowling alley are approaching their end of life.

“My role on council is to make sure that the monies that are spent by the town are done so responsibly, and with the due diligence and transparency that our community expects,” she said. 

Echoing Nodge, Coun. Brian Wright asked council, “How do we not bring a tax increase in order to get this to move forward?” 

 

Ad for Shadowbar Shepherds Training in Pincher Creek

 

Anderberg noted that residents surveyed in Pincher Creek’s March 2021 master recreation plan identified an upgrade to the curling rink as a top priority for indoor recreation.

“If our community tells us that a new curling facility is high on their list of priorities, I’ll follow their direction,” he said. 

Coun. David Green said housing solutions should take priority over the proposed curling rink. 

The town’s population has marginally shrunk in the past 15 years. Its housing vacancy rate was less than 1.5 per cent in 2017, when most of the town’s and neighbouring village of Cowley’s housing stock was close to 40 years old, according to a 2018 housing-needs assessment commissioned by council. 

“The lack of adequate and affordable housing for low-income families is a barrier to the economic growth and stability of (Pincher Creek) communities,” the assessment found.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Coun. Wayne Oliver, who attended the meeting remotely due to illness, said he trusted Anderberg’s business savvy. 

“Yes, housing is extremely important. But, I think we could work parallel on housing while building a new curling rink facility,” Oliver said. 

Barber’s motion passed 4-3 after Anderberg called the question, with Couns. Barber, Clelland and Oliver in favour, and Couns. Nodge, Green and Wright against. 

Council then unanimously passed Barber’s motions to apply for the federal grant and to tack $2.75 million onto 2023’s operating budget. 

Council must now decide whether to authorize a $4-million loan through a borrowing bylaw. The loan would  cover construction costs not already budgeted for if council’s grant application fails, but Anderberg said the town probably wouldn’t spend the full amount.

 

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

 

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Annie Saunders Pincher Creek Pioneer

Town council to name future street after Annie Saunders

The history of the western expansion of Canada is a fascinating account of perseverance, courage and conflict. For a long time, the focus of this time period emphasized the experiences of white settlers who immigrated from Great Britain, the United States and central and northern Europe.

Recent scholarship and activities like Black History Month, however, are now making an effort to ensure other historical voices are heard — and Pincher Creek is taking steps to celebrate its own unique portion of the history of black pioneers in southern Alberta.

During the Feb. 22 regular council meeting, Coun. Wayne Elliott presented a motion to rename a street after “Auntie” Annie (though some sources have her first name as Amy) Saunders, a black woman who immigrated to southern Alberta in 1877.

“Being it’s Black History Month, it seems kind of fitting that we honour someone to that magnitude that doesn’t seem to ever get any recognition,” Coun. Elliott said.

 

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Ms. Saunders was born in the United States and met Mary Macleod, the wife of Lt.-Col. James Macleod, the North West Mounted Police officer the town Fort Macleod is named after.

In 1877, Ms. Saunders joined the Macleod family and worked as a nurse for the children on their ranch just east of Pincher Creek. She eventually operated multiple businesses in Fort Macleod (then known as the Town of Macleod) and Pincher Creek, including a restaurant and boarding house, and worked as a laundress.

Understanding the historical context makes Auntie Annie’s story all the more noteworthy. Western Canada experienced a great influx of immigrants throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. Although the Canadian government actively promoted the area as the “Last Best West,” it also sought to exclude and dissuade specific groups of immigrants, including Chinese, Jewish and black people.

 

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As a former member of the British colonial empire, the Canadian government operated under the notion that white settlers were superior to other races and better suited to homesteading on the Prairies.

Despite the prejudice, about 1,500 black Americans settled in Alberta and Saskatchewan between 1905 and 1912, most leaving Oklahoma to escape rising levels of racial violence.

Rising political pressure from white constituents on the Prairies led to Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier signing an order in council in the summer of 1911 banning black immigrants from settling in Canada because they were “deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada.”

Though the order was never enforced, aggressive marketing by Canadian agents in the United States discouraging black Americans from moving to Canada cut down the number of black settlers, as well as unfair practices at the border that made it more expensive for them to travel into Canada.

The fact Ms. Saunders was one of the first black pioneers to settle in Alberta, along with making her own success despite the racism and general prejudice of that time, is remarkable. She passed away in 1898 and is buried in Pioneer Cemetery in Pincher Creek.

 

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Coun. Elliott mentioned Auntie Annie was a figure in his own family’s history.

“Going back, I was talking to my mom and she said my grandpa talked about what his dad said about her, and she was a very good cook,” he related. “So that’s going back into the 1880s, 1890s, so there is some history on my side.”

To honour the memory of Ms. Saunders, and her role in Pincher Creek’s history, Coun. Elliott proposed renaming a section of Veteran’s Street to Auntie Annie Saunders Way, Avenue, Street or Parkway.

Pincher Creek businesswoman Annie Saunders

The proposed renamed section would span from Scott Avenue to the eastern corner of Pioneer Cemetery.

While entirely supportive of naming a street after Ms. Saunders, other members of council expressed concerns with renaming an existing road.

“I’m completely in favour of honouring our historical figures, but I’m not in favour of changing street names,” said Coun. Scott Korbett. “New developments is where we should be doing this as we move forward, and I also wouldn’t want to honour someone with a street that’s not open.”

A better location, Coun. Lorne Jackson added, would help commemorate Ms. Saunders better than the proposed section.

“Annie Saunders was an amazing person, someone of colour back in those days that became an entrepreneur and was very successful and one of the richest people in town after a time,” he said.

“I think a new street somewhere in town that’s a viable and well used street, and a sign that people would see and drive by all the time, would honour her in a better way.”

 

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek

After discussion, Coun. Elliott agreed to amend the motion to add Ms. Saunders to the town’s prioritized list of future street names. Auntie Annie is second in line after Warren Winkler, whose name was previously selected in a motion from 2017.

Mr. Winkler grew up in Pincher Creek and was selected in 2007 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to be the chief justice of Ontario. He was also named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2016 for his contributions to the advancement of Canadian labour law.

More information on the history of black settlers immigrating to Canada can be read online in The Canadian Encyclopedia at http://bit.ly/CAN_PEDIA.

 

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