Alix village council heard the municipality is having trouble finding an operator for their popular lakeside campground. The discussion was held at the April 5 regular meeting of council.
Councillors read a report prepared by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White and staff member Chelsea Giesbrecht about the annual assignment of finding a contractor to operate the village’s campground next to Alix Lake.
White noted that after the village sent out its annual tender for the Alix campground staff were surprised to receive no responses, even after an extended deadline.
As the campground is an important part of the village’s tourism strategy, White felt councillors should make a decision about the campground’s 2023 fate right away.
“Having a closed campground for the season would affect our downtown and all our businesses,” stated the report. “It would also decrease tourism in our community.
“It is worth noting that the condition of the campground is a reflection on the village – if it is open, we should make every effort to ensure the area is well-maintained,” stated the report.
Coun. Tim Besuijen echoed this comment. He stated he works in Red Deer and hears many compliments from people who’ve visited Alix who are impressed with the beauty and cleanliness of the village.
The report stated that in some past years the village’s Public Works department helped run the campground, but during discussion it was stated this didn’t appear possible anymore. The report stated the Public Works staff would have to spend more of their work hours at the campground and less time doing other jobs, plus there was the question of responding to complaints late at night on the weekend and other problems.
Therefore, the CAO and staff saw four options for councillors: close the campground until a caretaker is found, partially open the campground on a first-come, first-served basis, fully open the campground also on that basis or hire a summer employee to care for the campground.
White stated closing the campground solved the staffing issue, but as noted affects Alix’ tourism economy and reputation.
Opening the campground on a first-come, first-served basis would still offer the tourism service with possible limitations such as no shower, concession or bathroom facilities. It was also noted if no caretaker was present security may be an issue.
“Without a caretaker on site there is no one to make sure the campground regulations are being followed i.e. quiet hours, check-in and check-out times, speed, vandalism etc.,” stated the staff report.
Hiring a summer position for the campground also had its challenges, as councillors noted some issues like after-hours complaints posed questions.
Coun. Ed Cole stated he was not in favour of closing the campground.
When the question of paying a staff member to act as caretaker came up White noted that, taking into account the campground registrations and concession, the campground tends to pay for itself. However, she added that if the campground is closed for the season Alix still incurs costs linked to utilities and other expenses such as insurance.
The CAO also noted that, if the first three options were considered, opening day may be delayed as signage would have to be placed explaining to campers how the facility would be operated.
Coun. Janice Besuijen asked if it was possible for the village to approach someone it knows and ask them to take some of the caretaker responsibilities. White responded yes, that’s an option.
Lastly, the CAO noted the village didn’t receive any tenders for the caretaker position but did receive resumes from people who apparently thought the village was hiring a new staff member. She stated she’ll speak to these people about the caretaker position.
Councillors unanimously passed a resolution that if no caretaker is found the Alix campground will open for the 2023 season in a modified fashion.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Apr 20, 2023
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