A Town of Stettler bird’s eye view illustrating Okoppe Way opening onto Main Street. ECA Review/SubmittedStu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Town of Stettler’s tribute to its Pacific rim sister city is coming along nicely, heard councillors at their regular meeting Sept. 5. Municipal staff presented councillors with the three-year plan for the Main Street walkway dedicated to the Japanese Town of Okoppe.

Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Leann Graham, in her first meeting as town manager after taking the municipal reins from retired Greg Switenky, presented councillors with the walkway plan intended to cement Stettler’s friendship with its Japanese counterpart.

“The goal is to create a walkway with a gathering area that will have a permanent shade structure with seating available,” stated the staff memo. 

“Landscaping will beautify the space. Two signs will be installed, one with the dedication of the space naming it Okoppe Way and the second with the history of the twin town program.”

Graham, who noted Director of Operations Melissa Robbins and Development Officer Angela Stormoen worked together to develop this plan, stated Okoppe Way will be developed over three years, with work still planned for 2023 pending council’s approval. 

This current year proposed concrete work and gathering area development with an estimated cost of $72,000.

The CA stated $60,000 was available from four town accounts, including from the capital account already dedicated to the Okoppe parking lot. 

At a previous council meeting councillors voiced concern that Stettler’s only tribute to it’s sister city was a parking lot.

The staff memo also noted Okoppe Way is proposed to have fencing, landscaping, furniture, signage and a shade structure added in 2024 with final signage and dedication in 2025, just in time for the 35th anniversary of Stettler and Okoppe’s friendship.

Graham stated during discussion the walkway itself will be a brick-type surface to reflect that used in the Town of Okoppe.

Coun. Wayne Smith, noting the walkway has businesses on both sides of it, asked if there are plans for neighbouring walls. The CAO responded fencing will be placed on both sides with the possibility of future discussions with the neighbours about things like murals. However, Graham noted the neighbouring buildings are private property.

Coun. Gord Lawlor stated he liked the idea of aligning the dedication with the twinning’s 35th anniversary.

The staff memo gave a brief summary of how Okoppe Way’s space came available. 

“In late 2020 the Town of Stettler acquired the property located at 4915-50 Street following compliance enforcement resulting in the demolition of a derelict building leaving the vacant parcel as it is today,” stated the memo. “The property has been for sale by the town since early 2021. 

“The economic development sub-committee as well as the Downtown Improvement Committee identified a need to improve the former Hub parking lot which has resulted in the re-brand to Okoppe Parking Lot with improvements done to date. A large part of this discussion included creating connection from Main Street to the Okoppe Parking Lot. 

“On May 16, 2023 Town of Stettler council approved the recommendation from the Economic Development sub-committee to retain and designate 4915 – 50 Street to be developed as a connection between the Okoppe Parking Lot and Main Street by developing ‘Okoppe Way’ and proceed with initial designs and budget considerations.”

Councillors unanimously passed a resolution instructing staff to obtain quotes for the concrete work to be completed in 2023 and procure fencing, seating and garbage bins with the remaining 2023 budget up to $60,000 and further consider the remaining phases in the 2024 capital/operating budgets.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 14, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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