Lighting Up Downtown – The Christmas Lights of Downtown Red Deer (Alberta, Canada)

We finally had a warm evening , well if you call -9C (-14C with wind chill) a warm evening. Due to the nice temperatures we decided to go downtown and check out the Christmas lights. Red Deer always has a beautiful light display during the Christmas season. They are lovely to drive past, but even better when you take the time to walk among the lights.

We started our evening walking through City Hall Park. The pictures above tell the story of sparkly winter wonderland the City of Red Deer creates for the holiday season.

We then decided to stroll down Ross Street that was beautifully lit.

From there we went to admire the dazzling light display that dressed up the Old Court House for Christmas-time.

Christmas lights of home sweet home

After such a nice evening we then returned to our cozy home dressed for the season.

Living In Red Deer, Alberta

blog window 1Today I was going to post a lovely post about snowshoeing, but it didn’t happen. What happened instead is what you see in the picture above. Enough said.

blog window 2

Then I was going to put up a ranting post, but I decided “Less is More”. So I have decided to present just a few concise facts.

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Living in Red Deer – My Year in Review

– 1   incident when I walked into our garage to find two guys in the garage casing the place.

1   smashed window on our van (today).

– 2   garage break-ins and thefts.

3   separate bullying incidents, with three separate children (aged 5, 9 & 10) in the span of three months in the same school.
(Evidently I have exceeded my “bullying limit” and the school has stopped responding to my emails in attempt to find a resolution to the latest event.)

Now let me share an irony. We moved to Red Deer from a bedroom community across the River Mersey from Liverpool in the U.K., and worked in Liverpool. One of the reasons we moved was an improved lifestyle. No one takes a move like this lightly, immigration is a hassle, it’s costly, and it is darn hard work starting completely from scratch. Liverpool, when we lived there was the land of car break-ins; you took your radio with you when you parked your car, you put a club lock on your steering wheel when parked so no one would nick your car. You have alarms on EVERY house and car. You convert your interior door knobs to be locking ones just in case some one broke in, this made it harder for thieves to steal every single thing in your house. Shops are all metal shuttered when closed due to break-ins,the streets resembling a war torn country. But that only slowed down the thefts, then they just started driving vehicles into the buildings to get the job done.

Now here is the thing, we have had MORE criminal activity against our household and vehicle in the past year in Red Deer than we EVER faced in Liverpool. Ironic ? Depressing? Frustrating? Pathetic? You choose.

Is this an improved lifestyle?……………….No.

Is this a policing issue? ………………………No.

Is the a societal issue?………………………..Yep.

Quite honestly I could make my millions by developing a “jerk counter” and selling them in Red Deer, because there are an awful lot of jerks in this city anymore.

Anyways, enough said, well done Red Deer, you’ve outdone yourself. Liverpool, U.K. (and area) is now a safer place to be than Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. (And trust me, any Brit reading this is right now shaking their head and saying “HOLY CRAP”….well in Liverpool they are saying something else but I certainly can’t write that here! LOL!)

Sometimes Good Things Happen – Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

A long time ago I wrote a blog post regarding the skating rink, or lack there of, in our neighborhood. Long time readers of the blog may remember how I wrote of how our little historic neighborhood, in the heart of Red Deer, had been stripped of our little outdoor rink, the resulting fuss that the community raised, the newspaper interviews, the television coverage, and in the end, the return of a snow bank rink.

Well today a wonderful thing happened. I drove past the park where the rink was last winter and believe it or not the rink was up WITH BOARDS! Now this is huge. We get our rink again and we get END BOARDS.

Woodlea skating rink on October 20, 2013. All ready for winter to come.

Woodlea skating rink on October 20, 2013. All ready for winter to come.

Now anyone reading this in a country that doesn’t succumb to snow and ice for at least six months of the year may not understand how momentous this is, but for our neighborhood this is a great thing. Our kids get to skate within blocks of home any time they wish. The boys can now play hockey and when they shoot at the goal and miss (which happens 99.999999% of the time!) the puck will hit the backboard and bounce back instead of burying itself in a snow bank never to be found. Hide and seek is a fun game but not when it involves looking for a puck in snow that is three feet deep, especially when all the direction you get from your little hockey players is “I think it went somewhere over there Mom! Or was it over there.” And trust me, an orange puck doesn’t make it any easier……..we tried that too.

woodlea skating rink

A local school group skating one afternoon at the Woodlea skating rink in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.

Our little skating rink is great for our neighborhood, but it is also great for the schools in our area that draw students from throughout the city. Last year on several occasions I encountered different schools using this park area. They skated and tobogganed. It was great to see.

The City of Red Deer has done a great thing re-installing our rink. I was happy with the snow bank rink last year, but having actual boards is going to make for a great winter for those who love to shoot a puck.

A big “THANK YOU” to those who made the decision to return the rink to our neighborhood. We really appreciate it. It is going to be a great winter.

Sunshine, Sunflowers and a Song

City Hall Park, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

City Hall Park, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

Let me describe today. It is September, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and it is +30 Celsius outside. Fabulous. I’m in the lucky situation where a lot of the art, textile and photography work I do I am actually able to complete in the evening, this means that on a lovely day like today I am not strapped to a desk , computer or work area, but rather have the opportunity to enjoy the last few days of summer.

ross street patio

This afternoon we headed to downtown Red Deer. All summer there have been performers at the Ross Street Patio on Thursdays at lunch time. We have been down to listen to the music several times, the music is always good and today was no exception. The music was fabulous; Garrett Olson was an amazing talent.

ross street patio

After eating lunch and enjoying the entertainment we decided to do a tour through the gardens at City Hall Park. This park is stunning every single year with flower bed after flower bed of beautiful flowers. We checked out all the blooms. The park was busy with many people enjoying the outdoors as they ate their lunch, read a book or simply  sat taking in the atmosphere. Let’s hope this great weather continues a little while longer!

(Enjoy a virtual tour through City Hall Park by clicking on the images below.)

Afternoon at Bower Ponds – Red Deer, Alberta

Bower Ponds, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

Children may be back at school and vacations are over but it certainly felt like summer this afternoon. Bower Ponds (Red Deer, Alberta, Canada) was buzzing today. People were out running and walking, couples were having lunch, bikes went zipping by and children played on the playground. A high school class was even out on the water testing their canoeing skills.

Bower Ponds, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

We stopped by the park for a walk around the pond , and more importantly. a trip to the playground. Bower Ponds has an awesome playground, it is on rubber rather than sand, and has the equipment separated into areas according to different age levels.

After a play on the playground we strolled over the bridge and around the ponds. We watched the canoes, and then the littles spotted the ducks. The ducks were feeding away and the littles thought the ducks going upside down was just the funniest thing ever. We sat and watched the ducks for quite a while and then it was time for home. Hopefully we will have a few more summery days before fall truly arrives.

Bower Ponds, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

Response From The City Of Red Deer

City Hall, Red Deer, Alberta

City Hall, Red Deer, Alberta

This morning I received a response from the City of Red Deer regarding the RV issue in the Waskasoo neighborhood in Red Deer, Alberta. Below is a purely copy and paste of the correspondence:

Hello Debra. Thank you for your email, pictures, and blog posts which all outline your concern about RVs being parked in the Memorial Centre parking lot. For your information, The City’s Land Use Bylaw was amended in 2005 to permit the temporary overnight parking (for up to two nights) of RVs at sites such as the Westerner, or churches and schools where events are being held. Council’s decision and the report outlining the rationale is attached.

3.23 Objects Prohibited or Restricted in Yards

(1) No person in lawful possession or control of a site shall allow or permit a trailer parked on such site to be used for living or sleeping accommodation except as follows:

(c) A self-container trailer parked in the parking lot of a church, school, recreation venue site, community centre or major hotel with conference/convention facilities providing:

(i) the occupant has obtained consent from the owner of the site and is attending a function or event in a facility on that site;

(ii) the owner of the site has obtained approval from the Development Authority;

(iii) overnight parking on the site does not exceed two consecutive nights unless approved by the Development Authority;

(iv) overnight parking on the site shall not exceed two occasions per calendar month unless approved by the Development Authority;

(v) no fees shall be charged for overnight parking;

(vi) the owner of the site will be responsible to ensure that all City of Red Deer Bylaws, including the Public Order Bylaw, are complied with.

It is our understanding that a Square Dancing event was held at the Lindsay Thurber School and the RV’s were in the school parking lot with spillover occurring at the Memorial Centre / Festival Hall.  The City was unaware of this event and approval from the development Officer was not sought so we will be following up with Lindsay Thurber and the Square Dance club to advise them of the requirements in case of any future events.

Additionally, while we do not notify the neighborhood for temporary uses such as this, in the future we will ask the Development Officer to add a condition to the approval that an event notice be posted by A-board sign on the site in advance of, and during, the event so the neighborhood is aware it is taking place.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Frieda McDougall | Manager Legislative Services The City of Red Deer

Ghettos, Illiteracy and Unenforced Bylaws – A Story of Red Deer, Alberta

Once upon a time, long long ago and far far away there was a beautiful kingdom……………………………………

Mackenzie Trails, Red Deer, Alberta

(Hmm, that doesn’t sound right. Lets try it again!)

One gentle and pleasant summer evening I was having a picnic at Mackenzie Ponds, a lovely natural area in Red Deer, Alberta. Our family was gathered together, watermelon was nibbled on, children played on the playground and conversation was enjoyed. The conversation turned to the topic of my blog, and more particularly the situation discussed in this piece (for those interested it was deferred for more consideration……also updated land use bylaws to come).After a little bit of talk my more recent posting, Red Deer, Alberta – Tin Can Ghetto of Canada, came up as I chatted with my mother.

tin can ghetto at the memorial centre, red deer, alberta

tin can ghetto at the memorial centre, red deer, alberta

Here is how the discussion went as we leaned against the hood of the mini van. My mother first couldn’t believe the number of RV’s parked in the Memorial Centre parking lot. Then she couldn’t believe the police’s attitude on the phone of this is why the RV’s are there and that is that. Then the conversation turned to “Do you find you always get nowhere with bylaws? I never have any luck.” My mother goes on to tell me how they have a fortress-like fence, of extreme height, between their property and their neighbor. The height does not comply with the standards set out by the City of Red Deer. They have complained to bylaws about the monstrosity and have had no follow up. And so they live in the shadow of “the wall”.

I do have to agree with her. Every call we make, bylaws or police, it is like you get a shrug back in return. Our garage gets broken into twice in two months, things stolen….shrug. You report a vehicle that was suspicious and we were treated like the criminal (by the way the vehicle WAS STOLEN). We called about a group of people who had jumped into our freshly poured 10 foot deep foundation in the middle of the night (okay, clearly trespassing, clearly dangerous, and clearly we weren’t going out there to deal with it) and no response. You get the feeling. This is probably why we haven’t called the police to tell them about the drug dealing going on around the corner from us. Here are the details if anyone cares. The deals are going down in Coronation Park, by and on the bridge and along the west side (our neighbors get to watch this from their living room window). They are doing them on foot and on bike. If the “customer” is in a car they often idle beside our house for 5-10 minutes waiting to see someone at the bottom of the block and then they drive off to do business. That’s the gig. But there is no point in calling it in because we will get nowhere.

(By the way have you seen this? It says “Below are some of the most commonly requested bylaws of The City of Red Deer:” Not ALL the bylaws, but  SOME. If you want to know ALL the bylaws you can pick up a hard copy at the City of Red Deer Legislative Services office in City Hall. Logical. We all know most bylaw infractions occur Monday to Friday during business hours, with tons of time to drive downtown, park, get the required hard copy, then report the incident. Checking it out on line is much more inconvenient………feel free to shake your head now.)

 But let’s get back to the story.

bylaw sign in the Walmart parking lot with rv's parked in the background

bylaw sign in the Walmart parking lot with rv’s camped in the background

My mother then mentions that she saw a sign regarding a city bylaw and RV’s in Wal-Mart’s parking lot in the south end. This was interesting. Okay this was VERY, VERY INTERESTING. This warranted checking out. (Okay, isn’t it interesting that I am more interested in checking out a bylaw situation than the people that are actually PAID to do it!?…….just saying!)

Okay here is the sign:

bylaw sign 1Pretty straightforward. You could argue perhaps these “campers” are illiterate….BUT……there are also pictures……so that is probably not the scenario. What the scenario is that these RV owners are blatantly defying the bylaw.

Here is a selection of images from September 2nd, 2013 of the Wal-Mart South parking lot. These are the ones taken BEFORE I went in shopping:

walmart rvs 2 walmart rvs 3 walmart rvs 6 walmart rvs 1

So I bought a steam mop, 4 packs of socks (my answer to not matching socks the night before school starts….best $20 anyone can spend!), 5 reusable drink containers, 4 litres of milk, 2 loaves of bread and a head of lettuce. I am a slow shopper (I hate shopping….okay except for art stores and hardware stores). Doesn’t this give you a great insight into my existence.

Much, much later I emerged from the store to find a darkened sky. For argument’s sake I decided to take a second tour through the “RV park” just in case I was wrong. Well….I wasn’t.

Fancy a look? Here are the pics:

walmart rvs 5 walmart rvs 4 walmart rvs 7

The vehicles were still there. Clearly parked for the night. Clearly in violation of the bylaw. However the situation becomes much more interesting when you look more closely at what is going on.

Take a peek………

dude chilling camped in walmart parking lot in red deer alberta cWay up close you see a gentleman chilling for the evening on the stoop of his RV. This is where he was spending his evening. he wasn’t in Wal-Mart shopping, he wasn’t getting ready to drive off, he is sitting on his stoop watching the patrons of Wal-Mart. Creepy. Could you imagine what would happen if I set up my tent in the middle of the Wal-Mart parking lot for the night and pulled out my lawn chair to sit and gawk at the shoppers coming and going? Same thing. (well except that I would actually be camping…..in a real tent…..just saying)

And then we have this picture………

walmart rvs 3 detailI have highlighted a few points of interest. First the unit is unhooked from the vehicle and up on a block as the sun sets. This unit is not being moved for the night. This unit is “camping”. Not only are they comfortably parked for at least the night, this unit is also using a Wal-Mart shopping cart as their very own personal garbage bin. This makes you wonder if this is perhaps a very permanent living situation. One would have to be occupying an area for a reasonable amount of time to come up with a solution for garbage. This RV is not parked for a shopping trip into Walmart….obviously….it has no pulling vehicle attached.

Another interesting thing about this image is it highlights the locale of the situation. This is not a hidden location. Taylor Drive runs along the west side of where the RV’s are parked. Taylor Drive will have multiple police cars drive along it day and night and yet this impromptu RV campground is conveniently not seen by the authorities. I have been to Wal-Mart when police have been tending to a shoplifting incident, yet again the RV parking is remarkably invisible. I am pretty sure on occasion bylaw and police officers shop at Wal-Mart for personal reasons and still this RV parking lot is off the radar.

On the other side of the coin, this activity is happening on Wal-Mart’s property. If they are not reporting the offense they are then condoning the offense. If Wal-Mart is not calling bylaws EVERY SINGLE NIGHT they should be held responsible for the infraction. It is their responsibility to ensure that their property conforms with bylaws, bylaws that are in place for the protection of the citizens of Red Deer. If Walmart lets this happen they are saying “who cares” about the bylaws, they are saying “who cares” about the citizens, and are in fact proving that they are just a money grabbing mega-corporation. Well they are letting this happen…..so there you have it. Well done Wal-Mart.

So I would like to just reminisce back to my blog post with regards to the RV’s set up in the neighborhood of Waskasoo. Perhaps that post came off as a “not in my backyard” post, but in fact it was closer to a 100+ backyards than my own (an alley width in several cases). I originally wrote the post because I saw the situation as a slippery slope; that any flat paved surface could be turned into a transient housing project. I also wrote the original post in response to the attitude that we received from the police. I am sorry there is no way they would let 50 tents set up in that parking lot, there is no way they would have let 50 bikers camp out in that parking lot, but because they were “square dancers” they turned a blind eye.

My fear of “the slippery slope” was confirmed tonight.  Any flat surface in this city can and is being turned into a transient ghetto of RV’s and NOTHING IS BEING DONE TO STOP IT………..even when there is a sign posted in the very parking lot they are using.

Happy ending? Not really. Bylaws not being enforced…..this is a problem.

Red Deer, Alberta – Tin Can Ghetto of Canada

Welcome to my city. Welcome to my neighborhood. Welcome to the shitty, crappy, tin can ghetto that has invaded our neighborhood. Yes indeed, our city has outdone itself…..big time.

An evening drive home uncovered that the parking lot of the Memorial Centre in Red Deer, Alberta has been turned into “tent city”…..or rather a “TIN CAN OCCUPY MOVEMENT”. 30+ R.V. units have set up camp in the NEIGHBORHOOD of Waskasoo in Red Deer. Yes indeed….a NEIGHBORHOOD…yeah….with real houses, and home owners and children and full of freaking tax payers . Now this is 5 blocks from MY home, but even better this is maybe (and I will be generous here!) 100 meters from the nearest residential residence…..yeah baby….100 meters. Even better is that it is DIRECTLY across from a daycare centre. Just what everyone wants, a transient occupy camp across from where your kids is being cared for when you go to work. Maybe you’ll be lucky and the gathering will be a pedophile convention (who knows!). No matter what the gathering is, this is a neighborhood, this is not a commercial area, this is not a campground, but what this certainly IS NOT is FAIR.

Sooooooo……………………………………..

We called By-laws (AKA the R.C.M.P.) with our complaint. Now considering our past dealings we didn’t hold a lot of hope. Well let me tell you this, the R.C.M.P. are consistent. Sigh!!!!! A while after calling in the complaint we get a message left on our phone:

” This is the R.C.M.P. calling. The R.V.’s that you called about are for the square dancing jamboree at the school and will be parked there all weekend.” (or something similar….the cops should have it recorded if you want the exact wording….there was some static part way through but I had no way of typing it to read like it sounds!)

Sooooooo…………………………..

Maybe I will give you the translation:

“This is the R.C.M.P. calling. Little pain in the ass citizen, please quit bothering us. We really don’t give a rat’s ass that you live in the affected neighborhood. We really don’t give a shit that a tent city has moved in near to your home. Who gives a crap if your children are now in an unsafe neighborhood due to the transients. Seriously just shut the f*** up, quit bothering me…..and by the way DON”T FORGET TO PAY YOUR TAXES!!!!!!”

Happy days!!! Happy days!

Soooooooooooooo……………………………….

This is where I get to give Red Deer the most coveted award……..

(drum roll please!)

I now anoint this city with the blessed title of “TIN CAN GHETTO OF CANADA”!!!!

(ta da!)

………and just think, this too could be coming to a neighborhood near you!

…edited to add these ( http://www.albertajamboree.com/ ) are the people too cheap to pay for a hotel or campsite (after all why would they actually support the Red Deer economy when they can use and abuse!) …..I expect we will also see piles of their garbage left behind at the end of the weekend to be trucked to the Red Deer landfill for the Red Deer taxpayer to pay for! Brilliant!

Downtown Zucchini

The city of Red Deer has a really cool thing happening at the moment, for the summer months a Wednesday market is held in the downtown area. They close off a couple of streets from 4pm to 7 pm and set up a market.

wednesday downtown 2 I enjoy markets of any kind, and have visited markets in many different countries, but I think this one is particularly great as all the items have to be locally grown or locally made. This is such a great concept especially for those who believe in the 100 mile diet or believe in supporting local economies. The market has a mix of produce stands, preserve stands, meat producers, honey producers, a craft stand, food trucks and more. Today it was busy which is great to see, and people were buying (even better!).

wednesday downtown 1One added bonus to the market is the Ross Street Patio. Each week new artists treat the public to live music. If you don’t make it to the Wednesday evening set, the same musicians often perform on Thursdays at lunchtime (noon to 1:30 pm-ish). We’ve popped by for a listen many times and the music has always been brilliant.

We walked down to market this evening. Downtown being walkable is one of the bonuses of living in a historic neighborhood just off the downtown core. We strolled through the market checking out the stalls and all their offerings. We couldn’t resist the honey stand and everyone just had to have a honey stick; they were very yummy, We then came across a vegetable stand that had the biggest (that should read BIGGEST) zucchini I have ever seen. The stand was run by a farm and U-pick in the Markerville area. Now we didn’t really need a zucchini, but the zucchini were so huge it just seemed like a fun thing to do to buy one of these super sized veggies. Admittedly, I secretly wanted to know just how many zucchini loaves I would get out of one…..I’m a bit of a geek!

wednesday downtown 3Luckily we had a double stroller to transport our big purchase home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once we were home our youngest couldn’t resist checking out the huge squash. He thought it was pretty funny.

I guess tomorrow I will find out just how huge the zucchini is when I start shredding it for baking!

Christmas Lights On A Cold Winter’s Night

Lights in City Hall Park

I decided to brave the cold tonight and take a few pictures in Red Deer’s City Hall Park. The city fills this park with lights every year creating a wonderful winter wonderland atmosphere.

City Hall Park Lights

The surrounding streets are also decorated with lights, however the cold got the better of me before I had the chance to photograph them.

Christmas Lights With City Hall

You will notice a complete lack of vertical pictures; my tripod was completely frozen up with no movement in any direction. I guess I have learned to not leave my tripod conveniently located in the car (along with cans of Diet Coke which have since exploded in the cold and covered the ceiling of the car in a slushy mess!).

Lights in the Park

Lights In Front Of The Library