Skip to content

Budget handcuffing Athabasca’s efforts to spruce up town

Bike stands, water barrels, and graffiti removal some proposed ideas following Communities in Bloom report
Coun. Sara Graling suggested an incentive program for water barrels as part of the Town of Athabasca's efforts to implement recommendations from Communities in Bloom.

ATHABASCA – Town of Athabasca councillors are ready to move forward with the recommendations Communities in Bloom (CiB) judges gave them following Athabasca’s first-place finish in its 2023 population category.

Councillors discussed the 19-page report again during their Feb. 6 council meeting where they weighed the pros and cons of certain projects. One issue they quickly identified was the budget; there were no funds set aside for CiB projects in 2024.

“Not to be a ‘Donnie Downer’, but we didn’t budget any money for any of this stuff, so it may need to wait,” said Mayor Rob Balay during the discussion. “Maybe we should be making recommendations for 2025 and seeing if there are some things we can do that aren’t big items?”

The report focuses on the six areas judges rate communities on: community appearance, environmental action, heritage conservation, tree management, landscape, and plant and floral displays. Athabasca finished with an 83 per cent, just good enough to sneak into the highest rating.

Several of CiB’s recommendations are already underway — a suggestion to give the downtown core a bit of TLC would be addressed by a tax incentive program councillors had previously discussed, and the Municipal Climate Change Action Committee has looked into an electric vehicle charging program the report suggested. Methods of highlighting the importance of growing native fauna instead of invasive species are also being discussed by the municipality’s committees.

“I really like the catch-basin water barrel type projects, especially as we are looking at potentially a drier climate,” said Coun. Sara Graling. “I’m wondering if we could look at something to incentivize that type of development?”

Chief Administrative Officer Rachel Ramey said the town had run a similar program in the past where it provided incentives for rain barrels — while it hasn’t existed for years, it was floated as a possibility to return.

“You could take one or two suggestions from this report under the municipal (section) and that would be more than enough,” said Coun. Ida Edwards, who sits on Athabasca’s CiB committee. “I’m interested in more immediate graffiti removal on businesses, I don’t like our community being tagged, I don’t feel good about it.”

Another recommendation that had council support was the creation of more bike stands, particularly in the downtown core. While it would cost a small amount to build and install, Coun. Edie Yuill felt it would be well worth the effort.

“It could be around different areas and not just down at the waterfront,” said Yuill. “There’s a whole bunch of recommendations here that we could pick at. It could be bike stands on main street so if people are out riding around, they would have somewhere to park their bike.”

Councillors finished their discussion by circling back around to the downtown core. One cashless project would be the town’s unsightly properties bylaw, which has been a common topic of discussion.

“We’ve talked at length about redoing our unsightly bylaw, so once that’s done, we could really enforce that. We all know there are some buildings that are unsightly,” said Coun. Jon LeMessurier.

Councillors will be further discussing the suggestions during their budget discussions for the 2025 year, and certain recommendations, including the one for bike racks, were forwarded along to the riverfront design committee via a unanimous motion.

“We don’t have to do big ticket things, it can be little things that are doable,” concluded Edwards. “Even just saying, when you grow that beautiful clump of tansy in your yard, you’re spreading one of the most noxious weeds in the world through our community.”

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks