Rocky Mountain House landmark demolished to make room for STARS Air Ambulance
After more than half a century standing tall in the town of Rocky Mountain House, its landmark water tower is being taken down.
The dismantling of what some call a historic piece of Rocky comes after a planning error for the new STARS Ambulance helipad at the hospital.
Deconstruction started on May 2, and the once 27.5 metre (90 foot) tall building was only standing about 2 metres tall Wednesday.
“It was a huge loss to the community, you know it was a symbol of Rocky,” said Mayor Fred Nash.
The tower was built in 1964 and bared the town’s slogan ‘Where Adventure Begins’. The landmark is slowly being taken apart piece by piece.
And residents have mixed emotions.
“It’s sad to see that history go, it’s something I’ve seen my entire childhood,” said resident Nicole Speight. Her friend Monica Tomyn added: “It’s very disappointing to see, it has been there forever and it’s the first thing you see coming into Rocky.”
“I’m understanding and think probably it should come down, so the helicopters can stop there,” said Myrna Carbino.
Last summer, a multi-million dollar STARS Helicopter landing pad was built between the hospital and water tower. Shortly after, Alberta Health Services deemed the tower too close to the helipad, and a flight hazard for pilots.
The town was left with few options: “We even looked at relocating this water tower, in five different locations we had and did a preliminary study and the costs were more than the demolition,” said Nash.
Last August AHS said one of their consultants didn’t foresee the issue. Town administration says after many negotiations, AHS is footing the $255,000 bill.
But some residents are still unhappy with the outcome. “There was a big price for somebody not doing their homework, is what it looks like to me,” said resident Ron Hallahan.
The town’s Director of Engineering and Operations Rod Fraser said the longest part of this process was finding a way to relocate the communications infrastructure attached to the tower. It provided high-point antennas for Fire Operations, as well some services for the town including internet.
Fraser added most of the demolition is complete and there’s not much work left to be done. “Disposing of some materials, there’s a couple things they need to do on-site with the lead paint, and there’s some asbestos to deal with in the small building as well.”
Fraser said once everything is off the site crews will bring in topsoil and seed so it can be filled in with fresh grass.
Officials say it’s time to open the helipad so STARS can help save more lives. Nash adds that AHS is going to work with the town once it decides on a new landmark. “They couldn't put a value on that, and they said that we'll try to work with you to find a replacement once you decide, and we've asked the public: ‘What do you want for a landmark replacement?’”
Local history buffs say they’re sad to see the water tower go, but have some ideas.
“I would like to see something that reflects the forestry and lumber industry…that’s what brought people to Rocky was the need for line-timbers and railway ties, and Rocky was a booming lumber town,” said Museum Curator Jean-Marie Mason.
Town officials are encouraging the public to provide their input on what a future landmark should look like.
Demolition of the tower is expected to be wrapped up sometime in the middle of May.