Plans for a community orchard in Stettler are starting to take root, but questions remain as to when the project will get started.
The idea was first proposed last September, and since then the project has been gathering donations through the Heartland Beautification Committee.
Stettler Town Council heard an update on their efforts during their Mar. 6 meeting, learning that $15,010 has been raised to date.
Cost estimates for the Phase 1 of the project are listed at $56,700, meaning that $41,690 is still needed to proceed.
Councillor Wayne Smith asked, “Should we pull the trigger and finance this through the Town? Or wait until we have all of the grant funding, which could delay the project by a year?”
Town Council proposed loaning this amount for the project to proceed this spring, but that was defeated by a vote of 6-1, with only Councillor Cheryl Barros in favour.
Councillor Al Campbell said prior to the vote, “My concern is that we didn’t budget for it, and now it’s happening.”
As the idea came up in the final meeting of the last council term, it was left for the new council to proceed on, and was not included in previous capital budgets.
Phase 1 would see mulch laid onto the topsoil already placed to the east of the Stettler Mall. Funds would also be used to purchase fruit trees and shrubs, as well as day lilies.
Timing is also an issue as the plants orders need to be done in March, while grant approvals may not come until May.
As mentioned, the Heartland Beautification Committee has applied for grants to help offset the need for donations. The Town has also gifted $16,000 worth of topsoil in-kind for the project.
To further offset the costs, business sponsorship opportunities are available for signage around the site, and a fundraising tree has been set up at the Stettler Recreation Centre to track donations.
Mayor Sean Nolls shared his thoughts on the timing of the project saying, “It may be wiser to wait for the money to come in and do Phase 1 & 2 next year.”
Following the discussion, council voted to proceed with the project as grants and fundraising dollars come in.