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Costs increase and McArthur Park will close to large events starting this year

McAthur Park closed to events starting this spring. Main ball diamond removed this year

LAC LA BICHE - Time-frames for the McArthur Park upgrades have decreased — but the costs have increased.

Costs to transform the current Lac La Biche Recreation Grounds and McArthur Park into a multipurpose leisure green-space over the next three years are now at $7.3 million.

The project was first presented in 2021 as a five-year plan with a $4.5 million price tag. Initially, the project was to be staged, leaving several existing features in operation until the final years. The new, shorter timeline and higher costing also means that the park area will be 'decomimssioned' beginning this spring.

"To accommodate the development of the McArthur Park development, the ball diamonds will be removed in the spring of 2023," explains Darrell Lessmeister, the County's associate CAO of Recreation and Community Services, going further to say that community events like the upcoming Summer Days will also be affected by the accelerated planning. "With the development of McArthur Park within the next three years, due to construction activities, the County will be unable to host major events."

The Paul Richard Memorial Spray Park and the playground area of McArthur Park is expected to remain operational during the construction period. Construction is not expected to affect areas needed in McArthur Park for the September 2024 world archery event being hosted in the community. The project will also unfold in a coordination with Lac La Biche's $31.5 million Main Street re-development project that is also expected to begin in 2023 and run for at least three years.

Discussions to take place with groups

Lessmeister said County staff will be speaking with other local groups, however, that will be affected by the closure of the historic long-serving recreation grounds.

"We have to talk with them and work with them," he said, suggesting the Lac La Biche Ag Grounds or the Bold Center area as possible alternative sites. 

Lessmeister says the inconvenience to community groups and community members will be short-term, but the results of the new plan will have long-term benefits.

"Once it's all done, people will be very pleased — but there's always going to be growing pains with that construction," he said.

The most recent increase in costs — jumping from the $6.3 million approved last October to $7.3 million, is due, in large part, to a million dollar infusion to improve plans for the all-ages bike skills park and skate park.

Pickle ball, new sand, pollinator gardens

Other features of the new McArthur Park plan that will be taking place in 2023 include enhanced parking areas around the existing museum building, along 99 Street and near the existing Rotary Club outdoor exercise park. The first-year upgrades are also expected to include the creation of an enhanced shoreline, the installation of a small hand-launch boat dock, a modified beach with imported sand, a day-use picnic area near the beach area. The second year will see more upgrades to the beach area, a boardwalk and pier, the construction of pickle ball and basketball courts near the existing beach volleyball area and a three-kilometre multi-use trail that will wind through the property. The final year of construction will include the creation of a large open space, replacing the current Main One baseball diamond, plus a cultural garden, a pollinator garden trail, a covered group gathering area, and a large holiday tree to be planted in a public plaza and meeting area.

John Buchko with EDS Group, the firm that has created the detailed design and is handling the construction management for the project, says the multi-million upgrade will create a "long-lasting and memorable experience for all." 

Tenders for the first phase of construction could be sent to contractors as soon as early March.


Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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