This land is our land

Chris Clegg

The fate of the land where the old High Prairie Regional Health Complex sits is still in limbo.
Despite the best efforts of High Prairie town council to secure the land, the Alberta government is not listening.
At least so far!
Unless someone is not talking, we do not know too much about what happened. What we do know is on May 21, 1969 South Peace News reported the Sisters of Charity of Providence decided to withdraw from ownership of Providence Hospital at a meeting the previous week. Little else was said in the article. There were no further news reports the next few months.
Council is still trying to find records of the deal to further its case for community ownership.
Today, we know the provincial government owns the land. One can assume any deal the Sisters made in 1969 involved the land.
It is common that a clause would be included in such agreements that the land would be returned to the original owner if the buyer [or one who assumes control] gives it up. It is what has happened, albeit over 50 years later. Council has long taken the stand the land should be returned to High Prairie and rightfully so.
There are many considerations here. If it is the intention of the provincial government to sell the land for development, so be it. Truth be told, most would not care who sold the land if development occurred on the site. It is a big chunk of land and to see it developed would benefit everyone.
High Prairians would hope any buyer would purchase on the condition development would occur within a year or two. The last thing residents want to see is a giant, unsightly hole although some tax revenue would be generated.
If council gained control, there are many options. Some would suggest also selling the land but those who oppose are not wrong when they suggest such action would be in direct competition with other local developers. It is not an easy call.
Some suggest a park. A vast green space in the middle of town. Flower gardens. A dog park. A spray park for kids. The list of dreams is almost endless.
But remember, maintaining such a vast area would not be cheap and council is not exactly overloaded with cash for such a large project. It is an expensive proposition that will warrant careful consideration.
However, it should be High Prairie’s decision. The land was once community owned and turned over to the province for community use. It makes sense the land should be returned to the people.
And whatever High Prairie council decides to do with the land, it least it would be our decision. Such as it was when the Sisters turned in over decades ago.
Let the local people decide the future of the land, but for that to happen we first have to own it.
What is the delay?

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