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    Resident hoping to see new natural park open in the city this summer

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    Ray Blanchard with one of the non native trees he has managed to coax into surviving in Alberta. Photo by Jeremy Broadfield

    Ray Blanchard would like to see Chestermere gain a new natural park, akin to Fish Creek Park in Calgary, by the summer.
    Blanchard is hoping to gift the north end of his property, located south of the railway tracks along Range Road 282, to the city for a natural area park.
    “I’m very happy to give it to them,” he said.
    To this end he spoke to Chestermere City Council at the March 13 committee of the whole meeting.
    “It went very positively,” said Blanchard.
    While council didn’t commit to any course of action, Blanchard felt that council seemed agreeable to looking into his proposed gift and dream for the property.
    Blanchard doesn’t want council to make any decisions until they’ve had a chance to walk and see the property later this spring.
    “I wanted them to make up their mind very solid because I want the park to last,” said Blanchard.
    He has 20 acres of land with the north half almost completely untouched as Alberta’s natural wildlife which contrasts with the South half of his property where Blanchard has experimented with different species of trees to see what he can get to grow in Alberta.
    Blanchard would like to give the city the back half of his property to be a natural park Chestermere’s residents can enjoy.
    “The North side is more or less old Alberta,” he said, “it’s got the old buck brush and all the old covers that you just don’t find any more.”
    He’d like to see the park protected as a duck habitat in the spring though.
    “My idea would be to use it as a duck breeding ground from middle of April to Stampede week,” said Blanchard.
    After that the ducklings will have grown and moved on making it safe for people to enjoy the park through the summer.
    Blanchard’s hopes for the land goes even further than that. When he can no longer live on his property he wants to give the south portion to the city as well to be enjoyed as a park for all Chestermere residents.
    “My idea is the back part of the land hasn’t got all my tree experiments and everything on it…the back will be old Alberta and the front will be New Alberta,” he said.
    As a whole Blanchard thinks his property could show the transition from old Alberta to new.
    Blanchard would like to have the gift of the north section of land done by this summer. There are some complications though.
    Since his property includes wetlands there are complications with provincial legislation to transfer the land.
    Work is ongoing to determine if the city is interested in accepting the land and the process required for that to happen.
    While that is ongoing, Blanchard said that he plans to continue taking people on private nature walks on his property to build public interest and support for his idea.
    Regardless of whether the park is created this summer, Blanchard believes that it is inevitable that a public park will eventually open.
    To that end he has included the gift of the land to the city in his will.
    “Me I value my life as to how many accomplishments I’ve made and to me that would be a fitting accomplishment for my lifestyle and what I’ve done with my life,” he said.