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Saddlebrook open to residents

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By Kevin Rushworth

 

EDITOR

Though provincial and town authorities understand it’s not home, construction work is ongoing to make Saddlebrook, the first of the temporary neighbourhoods, comfortable and livable for the 1,200 people registered to move in.

On July 23, Rick Fraser, Minister of High River’s recovery, and Mayor Emile Blokland invited media to the site between Cargill and Aldersyde for a tour of the living arrangements

As of July 24, the first 100 people will move into the temporary housing area, followed closely by another 220 the next day.

“As we prepare people to come into the temporary neighbourhoods, it’s still not lost on us that this isn’t their regular home,” Fraser said.

He said the province of Alberta would continue to work with the Town as well as the MD of Foothills in order to get people into their homes as quickly as possible.

In the mean time, the Saddlebrook community provides a good temporary living space that is dry, safe and offers surprising amenities.

“We’ve tried to think of everything we could to make it a community again,” Fraser said. “That’s what our focus will be on this site and any other site that we’ll put up.”

Much of the site is still under construction, but currently, six family units, two Jack and Jill style 38-person dormitories, eight offices, three restaurants and recreation facilities are available.

“We’re going to have four recreation centres, four parks, a soccer field and a large dog park,” explained Doug Finamore, regional manager with Outland Camps.

He continued by saying they are going to do whatever is needed to make sure people are as comfortable as they can be. Community was a major focus for the development of the temporary neighbourhood.

Finamore said parking would be available on the north and south regions of the community.

The three restaurants, High River Café, the Saddlebrook Grill and the Globetrotter, are all personalized. Even the walkways have names that many will recognize from High River.

While 2,200 people have registered for temporary housing, some 1,200 people will be living in Saddlebrook on its completion, according to Fraser.

Those people who have been living at the University of Calgary or University of Lethbridge will be moved into the Saddlebrook community, he noted.

“We clearly can’t keep people at the University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge and it’s just not economical to keep people in hotels,” he said.

The ultimate objective is for people to return to a community where they would be close to their hometown, their businesses as well as their jobs

“The goal is to bring people back into a community atmosphere and let them start the rebuilding process from an emotional, spiritual and personal standpoint,” he said.

During the first 90 days of living in the temporary community, nobody will be charged any rent, but after that period, the government will make an assessment.

“We’ll make an assessment as to what government programs that possibly could cover some of the costs as we move forward,” he said. “That’s yet to be determined.”

The community will be populated in phases and the first people to move in will be those at the academic institutions.

“Certainly, we will be looking at everyone’s need on an individual basis, but it’s basically those who can’t keep their accommodation now,” Fraser explained. “That’s the priority.”

Saddlebrook will be operating for as long as necessary, Fraser said, answering a reporter’s question as to the long-term time frame.

Mayor Emile Blokland said he understands that it isn’t home, but that it is a step up from many people’s situations in High River.

“I’m really pleased with the province,” he said. “They’ve (come through) on their commitment to get this done as quickly as possible.”

Blokland said he is looking forward to meeting many of the residents who will come to call Saddlebrook home for the time being.

“I’m (also) looking forward to seeing the inside of these homes for the very first time,” he said. “I hear they’re quite nice.”

 

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