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Observation tower could be coming to Cold Lake Museums

The radar dome at the Cold Lake Museums won't be the only noticeable part of the skyline. File photo.

COLD LAKE – A new addition could be gracing the skyline at the Cold Lake Museums in the future.

The Cold Lake Museums Society is hoping to add an observation tower, and they’re looking for financial support.

“We feel the addition of an observation tower at the museum location would be a game-changer regarding visibility and attendance for the museum,” Cold Lake Museums Society deputy chair Kael Rennie told MD council during their June 3 committee meeting.

The plan to add an observation tower to the local museum grounds came after Rennie visited the Vegreville museum, where they had their own wooden structure built.

“I looked at where they had their tower located, they had no view. I thought, ‘man, that tower would be absolutely perfect at the Cold Lake Air Force Museum up on the hill,'" he recalled.

With the project ringing in at roughly $180,000, the Cold Lake Museums Society was requesting $50,000 from the MD to assist in paying for the structure.

They’ve also made presentations to the City of Cold Lake and asked for funding from Cold Lake First Nations and Primco Dene. The society has secured $60,000 from the Medley Society from 4 Wing Cold Lake, and are also looking into applying for provincial grants to assist with covering the costs.

Rennie noted the price tag was a bit more than they were anticipating when they were comparing it to the Vegreville structure for a few reasons.

“Instead of all-wood with metal brackets, we’re proposing that we use a steel frame, which will last quite a bit longer,” he said. “We’ve done a bit of research and we found that other towns that have had observation towers, if you build it with wood you get maybe 20 years out of it and if you build it out of steel, it’s pretty much 50-plus years.”

When considering ways to save money, Rennie said an aspect they don’t want to sacrifice with the design is height.

“The current design puts your eye level just under 50 feet and if you go any lower than that you start to lose some of the advantages of the height. We want to keep the rough height of the design as it is.”

Rennie described the tower as a “fantastic tourist attraction right in the centre of Cold Lake.”

He continued, “Our goal is to obviously bring families up to the museum site, where they can take advantage of the best view in the Lakeland and our picnic area.”

Coun. Dana Swigart agreed the observation tower could increase the museum's attendance, which is roughly 4,000 people a year.

“I just wish we could attract more people to that museum because that’s a gem up there and we’ve got to do a better job. I’m in favour of something like this.”

The tower is phase two of the society’s three-phase plan for the museum. The first phase saw a radar dome being brought to the grounds.

“As those that have lived here from the 50s to the 90s, we used to have three radar domes when it was part of the 42nd Radar Squadron,” Rennie detailed. “That was really important for us to get a dome and radar back at the museum skyline to add to the historical context.”

The third and final phase will see the addition of a CF-18 to join the other aircraft in the airpark.

According to Cold Lake Museums Society chair Chris Holoboff, the museums are set to open in the coming weeks after following the provincial mandates when it comes to COVID-19.

“Since we only have 20 to 25 visitors per day, we don’t anticipate any days where we’re going to have too many people crowding at once.”

Council accepted the presentation as information, and Reeve Greg Sawchuk said they would likely coordinate their next steps with the city.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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