What is the biggest lake in Red Deer? You guessed it, Hazlett Lake! It’s right there, just north of HWY 11A. Plans to develop this area are in the works as we speak. It has been projected that over the next 20 years or so this area will become home to about 20,000+ new Red Deerians.
Hazlett lake has the potential to be the great equalizer for our city. Let's be honest, over the years, the south side of the river has gotten most of the attention. To put it lightly, there is a split in our city that is cultural as well as geographical. The natural barrier of the river need not demarcate where our city invests and how our city grows.
So, let’s talk about the potential of this area. My first thought is that there could be a high school near Hazlett Lake. This would service the growing north side of Red Deer. Also, there is potential to benefit the county and nearby communities by partnering and sharing resources. Maybe Blackfalds would benefit from this?
There could be a recreation centre near Hazlett Lake that would bring the same level of service to the residents of Johnstone and Kentwood as people in Inglewood and Anders receive. On a side note, I say LEAVE the downtown recreation centre as it is, don't go ahead with plans to build a giant aquatic centre on the park behind the current outdoor pool. That park has immense value to our downtown and we need to preserve natural assets like that.
As another side note if Camrose can do it, Red Deer can do it as well, when we build a new aquatic centre it should have solar panels on its roof. It’ll save money and lower our carbon footprint. Win! Win! But that's another conversation.
The road that will eventually be built to better connect North and South will open up the entire region north of HWY 11A. But we need to be cautious to not design for urban sprawl. We need to balance all mobility options upfront so that we’re not trying to retrofit in bike lanes and jam in busses after-the-fact. We really have the potential to design a mobility efficient neighbourhood that is pleasant and safe to walk, bike, ride the bus and/or drive in. As you know I am a huge fan of walkability, I made a 10 part video series about walking in Red Deer. Check them out and you’ll see what I mean. (YouTube: Wieler4RD).
Hazlett Lake is an environmental asset that we need to protect and enhance. As we develop this area we would be well served to do so in a way that restores this delicate wetland and preserves it for the future. There needs to be sufficient buffer space between roads and buildings and the waters edge. Runoff needs to be managed so that there isn't contamination and erosion problems. Wildlife habitat needs to be taken into consideration.
Environmental challenges aside there will be other obstacles. Road access will be one of the biggest as there are only 2 major access points; one straight through Taylor Drive and the other off HWY 2A near Precision Drilling. So it will be even more important to make this area sufficiently walkable and balance all mobility options so we don’t create a traffic jam dystopia.
Another challenge is emergency services, especially to the area across the river from the golf course to the North East, as there will only be one way in and emergency response times will be stretched. One way to overcome this is to design for sufficient density in this area and create a sustainable tax base to meet the required level of service. Another way, perhaps better, is to design for minimal density and not make emergency access to the North East corner an issue to begin with.
Hazlett lake in terms of environmental and social capital could rival what we Red Deerians love so much about our river valley. Let’s build on the success of the past and place the same standards of environmental and social sustainability into our plans to develop Hazlett lake that we put into natural assets like Heritage Ranch and Kerry Wood Nature Centre.
I would love to hear your thoughts on all this. Twitter works great (@Wieler4RD) and Facebook too, or let’s have coffee!
For more info see: North Of 11A Major Area Structure Plan