Heritage Park faces financial challenges as a result of City’s flood mitigation effort

A much beloved paddlewheeler will remain on shore for the foreseeable future and its dock will require a costly overhaul as a result of the City of Calgary’s decision to alter the water level of the Glenmore Reservoir.

Alida Visbach, Heritage Park Historical Village’s president and CEO, confirms the S.S. Moyer will not operate in 2018.

“The Moyer is one of our popular attractions, one of many that we have here, and this year, because of the mitigation work that’s being done due to the flooding in 2013 and looking forward, the City is lowering the reservoir to the level that we can’t actually float the ship. As a result of that, it’s out of commission for the season.”

The level of the reservoir is extremely low at the moment as the City completes upgrades to the Glenmore Dam including the installation of taller steel gates.

Visbach says the loss of the attraction will impact the park’s bottom line. “It does generate revenue for us. As a charity, we rely on those revenues to survive and this year the cost of not being able to sail the Moyer is about $700,000 in lost revenue.”

In addition to the S.S. Moyer’s move ashore, Heritage Park faces the cost of building a new dock for the ship capable of facing varying levels of water and ice.

“Because that didn’t come up in our discussions and conversations, rightly or wrongly, I assumed that it was something that was part and parcel of the overall project and I had not budgeted for it or considered it,” explained Visbach. “Now that I’m learning, as of last fall, that there could potentially be, I understand now, a $2 million price tag associated with that, that’s way beyond Heritage Park’s means to be able to undertake.”

In an attempt to offset the loss of the S.S. Moyer, Heritage Park has added a number of activities to its 2018 calendar including garden parties, a lobster boil, a field to fort program and luncheons on the cars of the Riverforth train. The park has also retubed and repainted its 2023 and 2024 trains.

Visbach says the revenue loss comes at a time when the park’s operating budget has been impacted by high fuel prices and increased wages for its workers. Insurance will not cover Heritage Park’s losses as the lowering of the Glenmore Reservoir’s level was manmade and not an insured peril.

Ward 13 councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart says Heritage Park should not bear the full financial burden of the impact the City’s flood mitigation effort is having on the historical village.

“We are going to have to find the money,” said Colley-Urquhart after Heritage Park officials addressed council on Monday. “I’ve asked for a memo to come forward on the total financial implications not just on the capital side but, as you’ve heard, there’s operating matters as well.”

“I think we’re going to have to dip into the fiscal stability reserve fund to help these people out.”

Colley-Urquhart says the lowering of the water level of the reservoir has also impacted the Calgary Sailing Club and Calgary Rowing Club and she hopes the move will not jeopardize this year’s dragon boat races.

With files from CTV’s Shaun Frenette

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