LAC LA BICHE - The large construction sign along Lac La Biche's Main Street says it all — The Richard Devonian Park Improvements Project is completed.
The improvements to the park were finished in July. The upgrades to the park-space — flattening a grassy hill and replacing aging curbs and a small bench with new curbs and sidewalks, as well as a small walking path, community garden planters, decorative seating and artistic wall panels — are part of the partially-completed Main Street Streetscape plan. A construction fence that surrounded the project for more than a year came down in August — but the construction sign remains months later.
That big sign and some patchy grass isn't doing much for the view of the new, outdoor community space, says Lac La Biche County Mayor Paul Reutov.
"It's a beautiful park, and yet it's blocked by the big sign," said Reutov, who recently advised administrators to "throw the sign away... and cut the grass, so you can see the park as you are driving by."
The park is an upgrade to the original green-space along the Lac La Biche Main Street that is named in recognition of the late Sid Richard, a community leader and respected community supporter. Along with many aspects of his community work, Richard became known as the "Mojo Man" by many families in the community in his later years as he would always hand out the sweet and chewy candies from a seemingly never-ending supply.
Only phase one
The park upgrade was part of the first phase of the multi-phase Streetscape plan for the Lac La Biche hamlet's downtown core. The Streetscape plan had been discussed and debated within the community for more than four years. The first phase of the plan began in 2020 and included the upgrade of water and sewer infrastructure on Main Street from 105 Street to 103 Street, as well as new curb and gutter, grasswork and road re-paving. The first phase of the project was completed in late 2021. The park upgrade was completed late this summer.
The estimated cost for the first phase of the Streetscape plan was about $4 million. Phase two of the project was supposed to begin this past summer, replacing aging water and sewer pipes in the main downtown corridor. But in June, council put a hold on the project, questioning the much higher than expected price tag to complete the infrastructure work and re-design many surface aspects of the area including parking, traffic flow and sidewalk sizes. The total cost for the entire Streetscape plan, including the Richard Devonian Park, was initially set at $16 million. When councillors opened tenders to begin the actual project this summer, the lowest bid was more than $10 million over that budgeted price.
Since council halted the overall plan, there has been no public discussions about re-visiting it.
Almost 50 per cent of the $975,000 costs associated with the Richard Devonian upgrades were covered by a federal grant.