Top sto­ries of 2016

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE -

2016 is com­ing to an end. For some, it was a good year and for some, the end couldn’t come soon enough. In a tra­di­tion of The Mail, we are list­ing the top 10 sto­ries of the year. It is a great chance to look back on the year, cel­e­brate the vic­to­ries, and also hope for bet­ter things to come.


It’s the econ­omy - like all over Al­berta, Drumheller too has fallen vic­tim to the crash of en­ergy prices. Lo­cally the val­ley is see­ing more un­em­ploy­ment as a num­ber of high-pro­file com­pa­nies with of­fices have down­sized, while oth­ers have pulled up stakes in­clud­ing Tri­can. Out­side the val­ley much of the work in the re­source sec­tor has dried up, so even those who worked out­side the area are wait­ing in limbo. This is com­pounded by un­cer­tainty due to poli­cies such as the car­bon tax that is adding to the anx­i­ety of those hop­ing for a swift re­cov­ery. The slow­down has rip­ple ef­fects as crews that would use lo­cal busi­nesses and ser­vices have also slowed down. There are some pos­i­tive signs as crude is sit­ting at about $52 to end the year. Cen­ovus has an­nounced it will be drilling about 50 hor­i­zon­tal wells and 60 strati­graphic wells in the Pal­liser block, a re­gion south of Drumheller and the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Oil Drilling Con­trac­tors Rig Count has been steadily in­creas­ing since sum­mer, and Al­berta sits at about a 36 per­cent utiliza­tion, lead­ing all other prov­inces. En­ergy com­pa­nies are also look­ing to­ward al­ter­na­tive en­ergy and there are two wind power projects and one so­lar project in the works in the area. While we are not privy to a crys­tal ball, we can only cross our fin­gers.


One story that be­gins in tragedy, in many ways showed the re­silience and the spirit of com­mu­nity, and that was the wild­fires of Fort McMurray. For many that call the north­ern city home, it may be years be­fore life will ever ap­proach nor­mal. How­ever, they should rest as­sured know­ing that when the chips are down, Al­ber­tans come to­gether. On May 3, fire de­stroyed about 2,400 build­ings and forced the evac­u­a­tion of the city. Thou­sands poured out of the city with lit­tle more than the clothes on their back. Im­me­di­ately Al­ber­tans sprung into ac­tion to help col­lect the ne­ces­si­ties of life for the dis­placed com­mu­nity. In Drumheller, col­lec­tions of ev­ery­thing from food to clothes, and ne­ces­si­ties were freely given. When fam­i­lies did ar­rive at the doorstep they were treated as one of the com­mu­nity, with chil­dren en­rolling in school, in­di­vid­u­als, and busi­nesses do­ing their best to make the dis­placed feel at home. The wild­fire not only de­stroyed homes, but it halted much of the oil sand pro­duc­tion, the lifeblood of the com­mu­nity. It de­stroyed some of the camps, mak­ing many won­der how long un­til they could be­gin work­ing and re­build­ing. Phased re-en­try be­gan on June 1. For some, their homes were in­tact, for oth­ers, they lost ev­ery­thing. About 2,000 found their homes were in­tact, but were de­clared un­safe for re­oc­cu­pa­tion.


Hol­ly­wood shone its bright light on the val­ley this year as a num­ber of pro­duc­tions looked to Drumheller to film. If you thought that a num­ber of scenes in tele­vi­sion and movies looked fa­mil­iar, you are right. In Jan­uary, a crew was in Star­land to shoot a Su­per Bowl com­mer­cial for Budweiser, and the ac­tiv­ity con­tin­ued. In the spring, a crew was shoot­ing So­lutrean, a his­toric drama that is to be re­leased this com­ing fall. The val­ley also saw the tele­vi­sion se­ries Tin Star, star­ring Christina Hen­dricks of Mad Men and Tim Roth. Af­ter that, the CBC se­ries Heart­land used the val­ley as a back­drop to mimic Mon­go­lia in this year’s se­ries. While North­lander was shot last fall, it has been win­ning awards all around the world and in De­cem­ber re­turned to the val­ley for a red car­pet pre­miere. While it was not shot in the val­ley, Dean Ko­hut is an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer for She Has a Name and fea­tures Gio­vanni Mo­ci­bob, who is known in the area for his work at Rose­bud Theatre. This will be screened in a Drumheller pre­miere Jan­uary 30. Look­ing ahead, Beiseker will be trans­formed into the city of Eden Val­ley, Min­nesota for the tele­vi­sion se­ries Fargo.


While no longer res­i­dents of the val­ley, The

Mail’s story of Ed and Mar­lene Grin­nell win­ning the 2016 STARS lot­tery Ed­mon­ton Show home warmed many in the val­ley’s hearts. The Grin­nell’s trag­i­cally lost their son in a ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent 10 years ago. Since that time, the Grin­nell’s have been sup­port­ing STARS, rec­og­niz­ing the value and the com­mit­ment of the Air Am­bu­lance in how it as­sisted them, and all Al­ber­tans. On April 14, their name was drawn for the $975,000 show home in Ed­mon­ton.


Horse­shoe Canyon has ex­isted for lit­er­ally cen­turies, so what could be new about it? This year Knee­hill County pur­chased a large por­tion of the tourism icon that sees in the area of 150,000 vis­its each year. It worked with its part­ners to se­cure the ma­jor­ity of the site, and also raised funds to make some im­prove­ments to pro­tect it and al­low more to safely en­joy the at­trac­tion. The up­per view­ing area has been im­proved with new trees, view­ing plat­forms and land­scap­ing. They have also built a safe stair­case into the canyon and im­proved

path­ways to re­duce ero­sion, so gen­er­a­tions can en­joy it for years to come.


Last week, The Mail learned that stu­dents will be fi­nally mov­ing into the Wheat­land Cross­ing School. The new, state of the art school, has been in the works for a num­ber of years as a so­lu­tion to ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture and de­clin­ing en­roll­ment in the area. In June of 2014, they broke ground on the school. How­ever, this sum­mer the weather didn’t co­op­er­ate with the con­struc­tion sched­ule. While this spring they were con­fi­dent the school would be open to start the 2016, school year, the date came and went. Last week Golden Hills Su­per­in­ten­dent Be­van Dav­erne told The Mail, stu­dents will be mov­ing in this Fe­bru­ary.


An­other good news story for the val­ley is the ex­pan­sion of the Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum. The

Mail re­ported in April the Al­berta Govern­ment’s bud­get in­cluded $9.3 mil­lion for an ex­pan­sion, adding to the learn­ing cen­tre fa­cil­i­ties as well as new space for con­fer­ences and ameni­ties. Min­is­ter of Cul­ture and Tourism Ri­cardo Mi­randa made the an­nounce­ment of­fi­cial about a month later. Right now the de­sign is be­ing fi­nal­ized with an eye to break­ing ground in 2017. It is ex­pected to be com­plete come 2019.


While the flood of 2013 is lit­er­ally years in the past, the Town is still work­ing on get­ting fund­ing in place to mit­i­gate the val­ley against fu­ture dam­age if high wa­ter comes again. While the town was able to se­cure grants un­der the Com­mu­nity Re­silience Pro­gram, these are not 100 per cent funded. The Town has agree­ments with the prov­ince go­ing back to the 1980’s. While the Town lob­bied fever­ishly, the Al­berta govern­ment has not hon­oured those orig­i­nal agree­ments. The Town con­tin­ues to ex­plore other op­tions and is look­ing to­wards fed­eral pro­grams that may pro­vide more op­tions.


While it wasn’t the best year for tourism, the growth of sports tourism con­tin­ues to be a force. This year the val­ley saw an in­crease in its num­bers at the Drumheller Di­nosaur Triathlon and the Gran Fondo Bad­lands. While many road races in the prov­ince saw de­clines in num­bers, the Di­no­half marathon once again posted strong par­tic­i­pa­tion. The val­ley also saw the an­nual Tough Mud­der make its mark. An­other great event in the val­ley was the tough­est two min­utes in sports. The Drumheller Fire Depart­ment hosted a re­gional Firet­fit com­pe­ti­tion in the shadow of the World’s Largest Di­nosaur, bring­ing fire­fight­ers from across the coun­try to take on the gru­el­ing course. These are all great events that in­crease vis­i­tor­ship and are well en­joyed by par­tic­i­pants.


There were some scary mo­ments for the com­mu­nity of Mid­land in Oc­to­ber as dur­ing some roof re­pairs, the build­ing caught fire. The Drumheller Fire Depart­ment im­me­di­ately re­sponded and was able to save the build­ing. The Mid­land­vale Hall holds his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance as it was the orig­i­nal Mid­land­vale Cot­tage School. Just as pre­cious were the rare ar­ti­facts that were stored in the base­ment and the ap­prox­i­mately 20 portraits of min­ers and com­mu­nity lead­ers that adorn the hall. Lo­cal artist Bonita Krueger was com­mis­sioned to paint mu­rals, and thanks to the swift ac­tion by fire­fight­ers, all were spared.

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