Major funding will restore old rail line to Donalda

A plan to restore an old railway line linking Stettler and Donalda has received a major funding grant of over $3.2 million.

A plan to restore an old railway line linking Stettler and Donalda has received a major funding grant of over $3.2 million.

East Central Alberta Heritage Society was authorized funding of almost $3.9 million, said society chair Norma Leslie, from the federal Community Adjustment Fund through Canadian Badlands for two projects with a focus to re-develop and enhance the region’s rural communities and their local tourism industry by the spring of 2011.

Funding will support the society’s plan to restore the line and to develop a linear park in Donalda and Big Valley.

“We are elated,” said Leslie who chairs the society that was incorporated in 1997.

“It’s been our goal to relay the line ever since we were formed.”

To relay the old 20-mile line on the east side of Highway 56 that was removed by the Central Western Railway in 1998, the society received about $3 million with $732,000 to develop a linear park in Donalda and Big Valley.

“It will certainly be a great resource for our community,” said Village of Donalda Mayor Terry Nordahl

“This will create an influx of tourists into town and help out local businesses.”

Restoring the old line will enable world-famous Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions to extend its tours north of Stettler.

“We have a contract for Alberta Prairie to lease the line so they can run their train,” said Leslie.

“We have to start work as soon as possible to get it complete for 2011.”

To relay the line, the society estimates $2.5 million for materials equipment and services, $500,000 for labour while the society is required to provide $250,000 for other funding or in-kind donations.

Since the park project is budgeted at $792,000, the society will be required to raise $60,000.

“We want a natural park along the track in each community where people can enjoy wild flowers and watch the birds, relax and admire the scenery,” said Leslie.

The heritage society currently owns 99 miles of railway rights-of-way from Edberg to Morrin.

“Our government, through the Community Adjustment Fund, is proud to support rural Alberta communities and provide them with opportunities for economic growth,” said Kevin Sorenson, Member of Parliament for Crowfoot, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification.

“We are putting Canada’s Economic Action Plan to work by protecting and creating jobs, supporting the local tourism industry, and enabling communities to strengthen their foundation for long-term success.”

Under the newly formed “Canadian Badlands Tourism Development Centre”, a single application was submitted to the Community Adjustment Fund for 23 different projects on behalf of 19 rural Alberta communities.

“This money is going to do so much for our smaller, single-industry communities,” said Cindy Amos, Executive Director for Canadian Badlands Ltd.

“The funding will put people to work, increase tourism capacity, attract small to medium size business to rural communities and stabilize rural populations.”

“This is a real boost to the local economy as well as to our ever-expanding tourism industry here in the Canadian Badlands.”

The Community Adjustment Fund is a federal program to mitigate the impacts of the economic downturn by encouraging job creation in affected communities. Not only will $6.2 million injection result in immediate job opportunities for locals, but also create long-lasting tourism-based infrastructure that ensures a legacy of longer-term economic benefits.

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