A big thanks to all our recent fundraising donations!
There is a quiet beauty to the prairies with their diversity of grasses and wildflowers, views that go on forever and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Camrose is also blessed with our little Stoney Creek and its valley which adds another dimension. That beauty has been enhanced with the careful management of our public spaces and parks and in the care taken of private yards. In a 1931 news article a visitor referred to the town as one of “Trees, Birds and Flowers.”
Visitors were impressed with the trees lining the streets and boulevards. Eight years after this article, the town’s Parks Committee decided to enlarge the nursery grounds and set up a program of planting a certain number of saplings each year. In 1938, 1,800 small trees were set out and in 1941, fifteen hundred small trees were planted. The urban tree canopy we enjoy today is the result of planning, planting and caring.
Rotary envisions a swimming pool along Stoney Creek
One of Rotary’s first park projects was the construction of a swimming pool in 1926 and 1927 along the Stoney Creek. The pool was located on Stoney Creek between the Government Road Bridge (Highway 13) and the CPR Dam − considered an ideal spot for the project. It was 80 yards long by 50 yards wide and shallow enough at the sides for little tots to paddle, and deep enough in the centre for swimming. Safety zones were to be marked by a railing with warnings posted. Dressing rooms were also built. All that year, a steady flow of clean and pure water had been coming over the dam. The plan was to distribute sand on the sides and bottom and generally improve the grounds around the pool. But…
That “pool” and the surrounding park were dismantled after 1929 when Calgary Power expanded its reservoir. There was great excitement about how this reservoir would enhance the natural beauty of Camrose. As reported in the 1929 Camrose Canadian:
“The sparkling waters of the reservoir will be damned on the south by a four hundred-foot barrier which will be topped with a ten-foot walk for pedestrians. The main highway running in from the west will be diverted a short distance away from the present bridge, at the foot of the hill, to connect with a handsome new traffic bridge some seventy feet in length. The road will then continue to the heart of the town. As times goes on the reservoir and its confines will constitute a real beauty spot.”
I think we can all agree that Mirror Lake (previously called “The Dam”) is a wonderful asset and well worth the removal of the swimming “hole.” But Camrose still needed a swimming pool. Somewhere safe and more appealing than the swimming hole below Tucks Hill (just south of the bridge on 47th street). With the 1930s depression and 1940s war it was not until 1945 that Rotary began to advocate for a swimming pool. The budget was $40,000 at the time – well beyond the scope of any one community organization.
So, the whole community got together to build a pool. The pool was to be a memorial to those who laid down their lives in the Second World War. Many clubs held fundraisers to raise money for the pool, along with organizing and running a direct canvas in 1946 and 1947. In 1947, a site for the pool was chosen at the south east corner of 50th street and 47th Avenue. The land (150 by 600 feet) was donated by the town, along with one of the army huts to be converted into an entrance and change rooms. The town applied for and received a $7,000 provincial government grant.
Work started on the 35-foot-wide and 75-foot-long thoroughly modern pool with filtration, chlorination and heating plants, dressing rooms, showers and bleachers for spectators. This size would allow for 5 lanes 7 feet wide. Four lengths of the pool would make a 100-yard dash. Work started on the Camrose Memorial Swimming Pool in June of 1947. The pool was completed that summer and the grand opening was held at the end of August with an audience of 2,000.
Rotary’s involvement with the pool did not end with the opening. There were still funds to raise ($2,500) and Rotary actually operated the pool for a few years. One way the club used to attract more swimmers was to pay for swimming lessons in 1948. The Amateur Athletic Association and the Town of Camrose eventually took over the running of the pool.
camrose Swimming pool from the Glenbow
Photos of the grand opening – from the Camrose Canadian
Rotary Park #1
In July of 1939, Frank Farley, spokesman for the club, approached Town Council about using six lots at the corner of Government Road (48th Avenue) and 47th Street to create a woodland park. Approval was granted and work was to get underway immediately on the 300 by 150-foot park. The park utilized the existing large shade trees and the club cleared away the underbrush. Frank Farley organized the scouts to plant spruce trees on the perimeter of the park. Rotary was to equip the park with benches, tables, a slide and swings.
In 1942, Frank Farley reported the park was being well used and asked the club to consider bringing water to the park by a pipe from one of the nearby residences. During the 1950s, there were many proposals to improve the park by adding washrooms and shelters. Sometime in the 1960s, the decision was made to sell the lots and invest the funds in the Mirror Lake or Jubilee Parks. In 1971, an apartment building was built on the Rotary Park site and the club moved its park to the current location at the south end of Mirror Lake. This is the part of the lake where Rotary has installed a number of fountains.
Rotary Park #2
As mentioned, Rotary Park #2 was located at the south end of Mirror Lake. Any improvements the club may have made immediately after it took over this site would have been destroyed in the flood of 1974 when the spillway had to be replaced and the shoreline around Mirror Lake was severely damaged. The lake had to be drained; it was not a pretty sight. In the fall of 1975, the club approached City Council with a plan to beautify Mirror Lake.
A consultant was engaged to draft a preliminary plan of the area; the plan was to be submitted to Council and the club for ultimate approval. In the spring of 1980, the club approved a project to beautify the Mirror Lake shoreline with a $5,000 expenditure to plant trees, install paths and park benches. Volunteer labour would clean up debris.
Rotary installed a playground adjacent to the Bill Fowler Centre, in 1993. It was a much-loved stopping place for families visiting Mirror Lake until it was replaced by the city in the late 2010s.
Rotary Park #2 is opened in 1986
The fountain in mirror lake has a long and storied history and is the fifth Rotary Fountain installed. The first was a well-intentioned “homemade” attempt that soon took on water. The second fountain was installed in 1976. It immediately started to corrode and clog with fish and weeds. With a lot of TLC, it was kept in operation until it was replaced in 1983.
The 1983 version three was designed to be overwintered in the bottom of the lake. Dr. Ken Rayment and his dive team cared for this fountain with skill, ingenuity and strength until it wore out. It was replaced by fountain number four in 1997. As a lightweight fountain, this one was designed to be removed each fall for service and cleaning and reinstalled in the spring with the aid of a backhoe. By 2010 the fountain needed replacing again.
The fountain had become a recognizable symbol of Camrose. What would Camrose be without the Mirror Lake fountain? After the issues experienced with the first four fountains, the club and the city decided it was a project better handled by the city’s professionals. The most recent fountain, installed in the mid 2010s, was funded 50/50 by the city and Rotary Club and is maintained by the city.
Rotary “Roses for Camrose” Campaign
During the 1955 Alberta Golden Jubilee year and the year Camrose became a city, an historical section of the Camrose Canadian was entitled “From Seedling to the Tall Blooming Rose.” Perhaps this was the impetus for Rotary’s campaign the following year to make “Camrose the Real Rose City of the West.”
The project to promote the culture of roses was chaired by Jim Anderson. The club ordered 1,000 hardy roses in pink, red, white and yellow and went door to door offering the roses for $1.25 each. The final tally was about 1,100 roses planted in Camrose (400 red, 400 yellow, 200 pink and 100 white) − a good start in our claim to the nickname the” Rose City.” Profits went to support work in Rotary Park.
Rotary Four Seasons Park
In 1993 (with the aid of an Alberta Urban Parks Grant), the City of Camrose developed a system of paved trails in the creek valley, starting from Rotary Park south across 44th Avenue to the Railway Trestle. This paved trail increased the use of the park. In 1994, the Rotary Club of Camrose began a program called 1000/1000 in which $1,000 were allocated towards landscaping and improvement of the trails, and 1,000 hours of voluntary hours towards cleaning the area. This program also resulted in the planting of trees around the ski lodge.
In 1995, Rotarian Dr. Franco Leoni presented the club with a proposed extension of that program. The cross country and biathlon trails developed by the ski club were paralleled by an almost flat trail that starts at the south end of the paved trail and continues all the way along the creek before heading uphill to the biathlon range. The proposal was to develop this trail as a two-way, four-season, easy recreational trail for hikers, skiers and bicycling.
The project would be divided into six areas:
The budget for the project totaled $55,000 over three years:
Work on the project began in the summer of 1995 with the focus on the trails between 44th Avenue and the lagoons. Some machinery work was done by Dave Brager to make the trails more usable, to make turns easier, and to develop new sections. Rotary members and other volunteers planted hundreds of willows, poplars, and spruce trees along the trails, put up 1.2 kilometers of cedar fencing, and built and installed three trail map kiosks.
In the first year of the program, Rotary spent $25,000. In the words of Dr. Leoni, “The actual amount was $25,000, but if you put in the hours spent and the donations of wood and materials it was in excess of $50,000 that we did this year.” For him, the best part of the project was the opportunity to work with other volunteers.
“Basically, almost everyone at the Rotary Club participated with this project”, he said. “I had a lot of fun and the most beautiful part of it was the fellowship we had between Rotarians and people outside the Rotary Club. We made a lot of friendships just working together.”
I should add that the homemade pizza at the Leoni’s home after work sessions are a piece of club legend.
The Rotary Four Seasons Park was officially opened January 27, 1996 during the local cross country ski loppet – now the Ole Uffda Ski Loppet. A time to celebrate!
Now, years after the project has been completed, the club continues to maintain the split rail fencing.
Work done on the Rotary Four Seasons Park trails.
Four Seasons Environmental Centre and Rotary Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardens
In the mid-1990s, members of the Rotary Club of Camrose discussed plans for an initiative that would encourage environmental understanding of the Stoney Creek Valley, a special green area in the city. In 2004, the club formed an environmental working committee to get this project underway. The project was designed to develop a year-round interpretive centre for educational and recreational use by residents and visitors of all ages, and to build naturescaped butterfly and hummingbird gardens. After three years of work, the Four Seasons Environmental Centre and Garden was officially opened in July 2007. Almost the entire club worked on this project in one way or another, led by co-chairs Dan Olofson and Carman Mason.
This phase of the project was completed by the Club with funding from Western Economic Development, the City of Camrose, Rotary and private donations. With in-kind donations, the cash cost of $67,000 grew to about $100,000. The club hired well-known naturalist Cynthia Pole to design naturescape gardens to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Rotary then got to work in 2006 digging the beds, removing the sod, rocks and coal, installing edging, soil and mulch, and finally purchasing and planting the perennials from Cynthia’s plan, under her guidance.
Hummingbird Garden ready for planting
The club, led by Rotarian Ken Duncan, hired five Augustana Campus students (supervised by Professor Glen Hvenegaard) to research the Stoney Creek Valley from an historical and environmental perspective. We referred to their comprehensive report extensively in the nature sections of this Heritage Showcase project.
Based on this research, Rotarian Ken Duncan and his company, Kela Graphics, prepared promotional materials, a website and displays for the Interpretive Centre. The displays provide details of the wildlife, birds, and habitat, as well as the cultural and natural history of the area. During the summer months, a greenspace stewardship coordinator hosts visitors and facilitates informative and fun environmental activities. This coordinator is sponsored by the City of Camrose and the Camrose Wildlife Stewardship Society.
The club continues to maintain the gardens, cleaning last year’s growth each spring, weeding, pruning and caring for the plants. Since 2007, the club has built a brick walkway, an arbour and slate path; installed edging in the Butterfly Garden; and planted perennials in the then widened garden. A special thanks to the members who weed and care for the plants during the growing seasons. It’s a job that never ends. Thanks as well to the family of Marvin and Betty Johnson who have supported many of the park and garden upgrades through their Community Foundation fund.
Opening of the Four Seasons Interpretive Centre
Rotary Peace Path
The idea for this project came from a 2017 Rotary Fellowship Exchange to Australia. A club there recognized its Rotary Youth Exchange students by planting a tree in a garden for each student. The students planted the tree during their exchange year and often asked about their tree in later correspondence and visits with club members. Our club executive delivered a proposal to do something similar to our parks committee in the spring of 2017. This committee, co-chaired by Rotarians Carman Mason and Shirley Rostad, met with Chris Clarkson from the City Parks department, determined a site and marked out a path along which the trees would be planted. The site chosen (just down the hill towards the creek) is in an active beaver area and resulted in the choice of exclusively coniferous trees.
That summer, fourteen trees were planted including two planted by current inbound student Mikkel Moeller from Denmark and outbound student Ashley White who went to Austria. Rotarian Donna Phillips, long involved with Rotary Youth Exchange, compiled a list of previous exchange students. That fall, club members led by Ron Grue, built and installed a kiosk at the head of the peace path. Rotarian Shirley Rostad and her daughter Kelsey prepared a sign with information about Rotary Youth Exchange and listing the forty-five exchange students our club has sponsored.
In the spring of 2018, the remaining trees were planted, the sign was installed and the Peace Path was officially opened. Donna Phillips invited all previous exchange students to attend the opening; a handful of students and a number of parents were able to join in the official opening. Thanks to all the Rotarians who planted and watered the trees until they were established. Thanks to the City Parks Department for its assistance and to the Camrose Ski Club for mowing the path. We look forward to hosting many more exchange students to fill up the rest of the reserved spots.
Planting Mikkel's tree
Students learn a new language, discover another culture, and truly become global citizens. Their exchange is a year of enlightenment for themselves, their home community, and their exchange community. The Rotary Club of Camrose has a long history of sponsoring exchange students.
Our earliest recorded outbound student went to New Zealand in 1982 and our first inbound student came from Australia in 1983. The Rotary Club of Camrose wishes to recognize these exceptional students by planting a coniferous tree in their honour.
In the process, we will reintroduce woodland to this area of the park and create a serene public walking path. With initial planting for all previous exchange students in 2017 and 2018 additional trees will be planted by each future inbound and outbound Rotary Youth Exchange student.
The Rotary Club of Camrose would like to thank the City of Camrose team for its support and valuable assistance, the Marvin and Betty Johnson family (through the Battle River Community Foundation) for their financial support, and the many volunteers who worked on this project.
Together we are making our world a better place...
One young person at a time...
One tree at a time.
Stoney Creek Day Use Park redevelopment Our club was happy to assist in the redevelopment of the park which was left with little appeal after the RV parking, dilapidated picnic shelter and playground were removed.
A committee of interested parties was brought together by the City Parks Department and included:
The work on the site has been extensive. Here’s what is completed so far:
Still to come is a new home for the Camrose Ski Club.
Rotary Club of Camrose Archive
Camrose Canadian newspaper Archives