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2023 at a glance for Cypress

Posted on January 4, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman
Commentator/Courier File Photo

January

It’s been a long year, but the future looks bright for Reeve Dan Hamilton and the team at Cypress County.

Hamilton explained 2023 will feature the start of a series of some larger and prominent projects including a new library for Irvine.

“It has been a while coming, and it’s finally all come together. There’s quite a few people trying to get that put through so it’s good that it’s moving forward. I think it’s going to be vital to the revitalization of Irvine. That’s gonna help the hamlet,” said Hamilton. “It’s needed and the old one, let’s face it, it was rundown. It did what it needed to do and served the community a long time, but it’s time for a new one.”

The skies seem to go on forever on the prairies, and for many, that endless stretch of blue or black is enough. 

For astrophotographers Kimberly and Laurie Sibbald, that’s just the beginning to the beauty and mysteries waiting in the stars and beyond.

Over 30 years protecting habitat for upland birds and over wildlife, and still kicking, the Chinook Chapter of Pheasants Forever is looking forward to a brand new year.

The Chapter’s focus has always been for Habitat enhancement for wildlife. While pheasants and upland game birds are focused, all forms of wildlife benefit from habitat enhancement and securement, said president Jeremy Rattai. The chapter works with various organizations to spearhead habitat projects, and with Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) to secure properties for public use.

Irvine School is bringing back the days of brave sheriffs, dastardly villains, and the spirit of the West with their Wild Wild West Musical.

This year’s musical and dinner theater is coming close to curtain, with the event set for January 26th, and the entire cast is practising as hard as they can in these final days.

Cypress County’s own Richard Oster received his Queen’s Platinum Jubilee medal to recognize his years with Community Futures.

Jan. 25 marked the occasion as friends and colleagues gathered in the county council room to celebrate the significant contributions of their fellow Albertan.

“Richard has been involved in community futures. For my recollection at least nine years he’s turned out,” said Corrie Stolz, Cypress County Chair with Community Futures Entrecorp. “He’s a very dedicated person to this organization. I’ve been involved in boards for nearly 30 years.”

February

Irvine School took fellow students, parents, and staff alike back to how, exactly, the West was won with their Wild Wild West dinner theatre on January 26th.

The tale of heroes, outlaws, and yodelling young women was brought to life with the use of projectors, props, and the enthusiasm of the cross-grade cast as they sang, danced, and acted their way through the two-act musical. 

Nestled in Cypress Hills, the delight that is the Hills are Alive Music & Dance Cultural Festival is returning to its full glory this June.

“It is an amazing event that showcases the Metis and Aboriginal Culture and brings together many talented musicians, dancers, and cultural teachers, in a traditional setting of tipi’s and trapper’s tents,” said Amy Cross, Miywasin Cultural Coordinator. 

Dunmore’s Community Association is looking for members who are ready to step up and take charge of projects to create and improve recreational spaces in Dunmore, or just want to have fun putting on community events.

Five out of the eleven board seats are becoming available this year, as various two-year terms are coming to close, and anyone who’s both over the age of eighteen and members of the DCAs are eligible to put their names forward.

Cypress County council’s second meeting wasn’t all about the Irvine complex, there was discussion about fire fighting services. 

These discussions revolved around several changes to the current regulations that addresses the safety, health and welfare for County residents and their property, and authorizes operations for Cypress County Fire Services, including the allowance of small, recreational fires during a fire ban.

This change was postponed, and directed to return with more information, as it was believed that the determination of the specifics and subsequent wording of recreational fires may cause future issues.

March

With over 20 years of experience, CEO and Tree Expert Toso Bozic is offering to pull back the curtain on tree care.

A joint offering from Cypress County and the County of 40 Mile, the March 16th seminar brings Bozic to the Seven Persons Hall, to cover nearly anything that a landowner with trees on their land could want to know.

“I think in my career, I’ve given over 3,000 workshops,” said Bozic. He prides himself on teaching the correct way to prune, water, and mind for insects and diseases that can cause trees, be they for fruit, aesthetic, or the ever vital shelterbelts, to fail to thrive.

Though it may not feel like it, spring is just around the corner. However for some residents in Cypress County everything is not all that sunny.

As part of the Councillor’s reports, it was noted that council had received some concerns in regards to a solar project that’s been proposed near Township Road 100. 

While many of the councillors expressed additional concern about the repurposing of farmland, there’s nothing to be done at this time, as the application had not yet been fully made. It was suggested that council may communicate with the Alberta Utilities Commission in the near future to ensure that there is some direction to where these projects are put.

The  29th annual banquet for the Chinook chapter of Pheasants Forever was a resounding success, with eyes already turned toward what the support of the community surrounding them will allow this summer.

Even with multiple no-shows due to inclement weather on March 10, the banquet still saw approximately 270 guests, said Leonard Hanson, habitat chair for Chinook Pheasants Forever, and was very well received by those who did attend.

Out of the classroom and into the fire, the latest Prairie Rose Possibility is looking to make trained firefighters out of students, as shared at their March 21 information night at Dunmore Fire Station.

The Academy is a shared project between the division, Cypress County’s fire department, and the Bow Island fire department, as they bring in certified instructors to teach high school youth the ins and outs of being some of the best and brightest that volunteer first response has to offer.

The Irvine Bulldogs may not be going to provincials this year, but the season will always be one to remember.

The U-18 Irvine Minor Hockey Association team ended their season with two losses to Hanna, after a double overtime match and one regulation 4-3 loss.

April

Entering the season to start planning for what the summer might hold, the Town of Redcliff’s March 27 meeting seemed to have community engagement on the mind.

A report received was from Brian Stehr, development officer, in regards to the findings of the town’s participation in the Home and Leisure Trade Show.

With support from Council, said Stehr, administration set out to prepare a booth for the 2023 southeastern Alberta Home and Leisure Trade Show which was held on March 3–5. 

“With limited experience in trade show design, our booth at the trade show showed all our visitors exactly what the town has to offer. But more importantly, it did allow us to gather some data,” said Stehr. 

April 1 saw racers lined up in the dying light of the day for the beginning of the first ever Cypress Sunset Scamper, and director Darryl Smith says they’re still in the race for becoming a recurring event.

“I would say it was very successful in the sense that in the end that we got the run in, also that people were happy overall with the run. And we got the numbers we were happy with,” said Smith. 

There was an influx of last-minute registrations, which is common, especially with new events, but overall, Smith and his team, Dawn Funk and Jocelyn Encinas, were pleased with the community enthusiasm. 

It’s been a third of a century since Seven Persons’ own Premium Sausage first opened their doors, come this May, and they’re looking to celebrate in a big way.

Owner Debbie Penner said that she and her husband Mark took over the business in 2009, but Mark had been a part of things since the very beginning.

“So he was our first kind of employee. And he knew the business inside and out. So it was a good transition to go from working and being really busy here and like working here on hand, and then becoming an owner,” said Penner.

Cypress County’s first ever Community Connections Luncheon enjoyed a fantastic turnout, and is looking forward to repeats in the future.

“We had over 55 people show up from county businesses as well as some of our councillors and staff people from the county. So it was fantastic,” said Beth Cash, Economic Development & Recreation Coordinator at Cypress County. 

The event was a direct result of feedback from local businesses citing a lack of networking opportunities within the area.

With the season for dust and large projects quickly coming around the bend, Cypress County had much to decide on at their April 18 public Council Meeting.

Council approved delegation requests from both APEX: Southeast Alberta’s Innovation Network, and from Medicine Hat Minor Softball, who will appear at later meetings.

Council passed the readings of the bylaw for their dust abatement special tax. This is nothing unusual, said CAO Tarolyn Aaserud, merely something that passes every year. Notices will be sent to those who benefit from dust abatement treatment.

May

Cypress County is tackling the feral cat population this May, in partnership with the Canadian Animal Task Force.

CATF is a registered charity, which offers several programs, many of which relate to spay and neuter initiatives, including long-term management for feral dog and cat populations.

One of these initiatives will be bringing them to Dunmore from May 11–14, in order to be part of a solution for the local feral cats in a sustainable, humane, and lasting way.

“The task force has a great relationship with Cypress County, we’ve held two clinics already out in the community,” said executive director RJ Bailot. “But this year is gonna be a bit different now that we’re able to actually get up again in communities and post pandemic. So we plan to actually set up in Dunmore at the Community Hall, where we’ll be doing the surgeries right on site.”

With spring nearly through and the start of summer nearly at hand, Cypress County slides toward home plate with both the season and the possibility of new baseball diamonds in their future.

Council received a delegation from the Medicine Hat Minor Softball Association, in hopes of possibly securing their interest for the construction of some new facilities. It was explained that while they had access to a few facilities within the city and Redcliff, they were finding more and more that the diamonds were becoming unusable by their members, who were largely young women, due to either permanent mounds or permanent softball mats at the home base, which made it unsafe for them to slide home.

The goal of the delegation was merely an expression of interest, before proceeding with further details, something that Council provided readily. The MHMBA will be looking into further details surrounding location, cost, and what would be constructed.

Ralston School served tea, sang songs, and took Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III.

“We have a large British population in our schools that come from the British armed forces, and we wanted to honour the coordination and the history and the tradition that comes with the coronation and helped the kids to kind of understand the importance of it,” said Ralston School Principal Stacey Nunweiler. 

This is the first coronation in many people’s living memory, said Nunweiler, including many of the parents and staff that attended the celebration, and as such, it was important to properly mark the occasion.

With summer heat and dry conditions in full swing, amendments to the Cypress County fire ban were at the top of their list of priorities during their May 16 public meeting.

In addition to clarification as to who can enact a fire restriction or ban, over either the whole or a geographical section of the county, the amendments allow for controlled recreational fires within the hamlets, provided that specific criteria are met.

These criteria include being no larger than 36”, being at least 10 feet away from any buildings or combustible material, and must have a base of sand, gravel, or concrete. The ability to have these fires can be revoked at any time by the discretion of the Fire Chief, CAO, or emergency services coordinator.

Growing Home with BASF, a new initiative by BASF Canada Agricultural Solutions, will award $25,000 to three organizations, one each in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as a continuation of its commitment to investing in communities. The Agriculture Discovery Centre at Irvine School is one of five Alberta finalists and the only from southeast Alberta.

“The Growing Home with BASF initiative was designed to bring rural Canadians together across the Prairies to rally and show support for the local organizations that make an impact in their communities,” stated Kasia Kistelski, PR and social media manager with BASF. “Developing future leaders in agriculture is one of BASF’s core giving pillars, which the Irvine School Agricultural Discovery Centre directly aligns with.”

June

After years of planning, fundraising, and hard work, the Dunmore Community Association was happy to finally open the doors of the EDF Renewables Outdoor Recreation Centre.

The project was years in the making, said DCA President Trisha Drescher at the May 26 grand opening. It all started with a group of community volunteers who looked at a rundown outdoor rink and had dreams of a better facility.

“The group was a DCA board of directors and they had a dream of creating a facility that can be used in all season for services based around the community programs, and be accessible and enjoyed by all members of our community,” said Drescher, who added that the group applied for various grants, sought out experts, and eventually was able to make their dream a reality. “I’m fairly new to the DCA. But as I was preparing to build here, I want to thank all of the DCA members for taking the project on and staying dedicated to it right through to completion.”

At the June 7 Community and Volunteer Appreciation Barbecue, Cypress County was thrilled to present Cypress County’s Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year.

Sunrise Park and the new EDF Renewables Outdoor Recreation Centre held an opportunity for county residents to get a burger or sausage from Premium Sausage, who had helped with the barbeque, and take a moment to properly think about the spirit of community in Cypress.

The Community Foundation of Southeast Alberta was excited to roll out some of their spring grants on June 12.

Hosted at Etzikom Museum, CFSEA was happy to showcase this rural Alberta gem for an evening of food, companionship, and philanthropy.

With school nearly out for the summer, the Prairie Rose Public Schools’ board of Trustees met on June 21 for one last meeting before the office goes quiet until September.

This meeting lacked the usual presentation from one of the division’s many schools, instead opting for an Executive Report from superintendent Reagan Weeks, who shared a few of the goings-on that occurred since the last meeting, such as the Foremost Rodeo Academy’s Rodeo.

July

Nearly everything is set for Celebrate Cypress County Day, and the attendants at the Welcome Centre near Walsh are excited to have residents and visitors alike out to celebrate with them.

From 11–2pm on July 15, the center will be crowded with the HALO helicopter, Laura’s Food Truck, and a yard full of various games for those who stop by ready to enjoy an afternoon in what will hopefully be sunny weather to see what the County has to offer.

“Our Badlands Boutique will be open. One of our artists is doing a book signing, and we’ll have a dinosaur themed photo booth, a colouring station and craft station, face paint and giveaway bags,” said Emily Haukeness, one of the four Welcome Center attendants. 

Canada Day wasn’t the only thing worth celebrating this July 1st, with the weekend also being the date of choice for the anniversary of the hamlet of Schuler.

The event was a long time coming, said Committee Chair Brad Herman, with planning initially starting in the fall of 2020, right before the pandemic hit.

“We really weren’t sure what was going to take place and you know, so it actually COVID was quite a hindrance because it took quite a while to get things organized. A lot of businesses that you deal with for donations for services, you couldn’t pre book any of that stuff,” said Herman.

Seven Persons’ iconic grain elevator is once again looking for ways to encourage more people to stop by and make the most of their summer.

On several weekends, when the opportunity arises, passersby can find Kurtis Penner and his friends or family manning the grill just outside Premium Sausage’s primary location on Highway 3, offering a $5 grilled sausage on a bun to anyone lucky enough to swing by during one of their “pop-up barbeques.”

It’s a great way for them to offer something different than their usual sausages on a bun, which is available every day inside the store, and to simply get out and enjoy the warm weather.

July 15th’s Celebrate Cypress County Day saw visitors flocking to the Visitor Centre in Walsh.

Though the weather was less than ideal due to high temperatures and high levels of smoke moving through the area, the event largely went off without a hitch, said welcome centre attendant Emily Haukeness.

“There’s many wonderful moments during the event that contribute to success. (There were) lots of things to do. The weather was okay, a little smokey,” said Haukeness. 

See more Year in Review in next week’s Courier section.

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