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Willow Creek council tables decision on John Zoeteman Park

The MD of Willow Creek will wait a month before it decides how to proceed with a park near Fort Macleod that is currently closed.
The provincial government will not lease the land on which John Zoeteman Park sits to the municipality until council pays for a survey.
The MD of Willow Creek as a result closed the park last year.
Earlier this year council sent a letter to the province suggesting the municipality will open the park anyway.
Council on Wednesday reviewed correspondence from Martin Foy of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, stating there was no way around paying for the survey.
Foy suggested the municipality could be included in a pilot project that would reduce costs to about $4,000.
“As far as the government is concerned, no survey, no lease,” MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti said.
The biggest issue with opening the park without a government lease, Vizzutti explained, is the MD of Willow Creek will then have trouble insuring the park.
The cost of a survey to the municipality would be between $6,000 and $10,000.
Coun. Maryanne Sandberg disagreed with paying for a survey, saying as a land owner she would not expect a renter to pay for a survey of her land.
Sandberg asked why the government is asking a renter, being the MD of Willow Creek, to pay for a survey of land the government owns.
“This is really downloading,” Sandberg said. “This is not right at all.”
Coun. Henry Van Hierden said when there are costs of doing business, the MD of Willow Creek pays them.
Van Hierden cited examples such as the municipality providing funds to the Claresholm Curling Club when its ice plant needed upgrades.
“We have to move on, for our ratepayers,” Van Hierden said.
Council did send a letter that all seven councillors signed, indicating the municipality will not pay for a survey and will re-open the park.
“I think we should wait,” Coun. John Kroetsch said.
“We sent this letter and we all signed it,” Kroetsch later added.
Vizzutti responded they need a timeframe for a response.
“This sets a precedent,” Sandberg said. “This is their land, they own the land.”
“If it was my land, I would be paying for the survey, not someone else.”
Vizzutti replied the precedent has already been set, as other rural municipalities, such as Cardston County, have already paid for surveys of provincial land they lease.
Vizzutti has raised the issue with other provincial organizations.
Reeve Neil Wilson asked why the survey is a requirement.
Vizzutti said when she asked that same question, the answer was simple: “No survey, no lease. End of discussion.”
Vizzutti added the province has not responded to council’s letter, but the minister’s office sent a request for a new set of maps of John Zoeteman Park.
Coun. Glen Alm suggested waiting a month.
Van Hierden said he was meeting Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Kyle Fawcett on Friday and could raise the issue.
Sandberg wondered since it has to pay for the survey if the MD of Willow Creek could take over John Zoeteman Park, as it had other former provincial parks.
Council agreed to table making any decision until its March 11 meeting.

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