Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Rink

Slowly, the new outdoor rink beside the school is taking shape. The plan was to build a roof over the existing ice pad to cut down on the time, cost and headache of clearing off the surface after every time it snowed. (No zamboni here, folks.) Apparently, once construction began, someone realized that the new roof would hang over off the property line so they then had to tear everything out - including the rink and move it back a few feet. Things are moving quickly now. The picture below was taken early Friday morning and when we passed it on the way home that evening, the metal structure was already covered with a giant piece of fabric for the roof.

Here is the best picture I could find of the old rink, chain-link fences, horses and all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


The past few days we've been hit with quite the little cold snap. Having spent time in a number of places over a big chunk of the Canadian north over the past few years, I suppose I can't stare blankly ahead open-mouthed like I'm shocked that the mercury can dip well below freezing during winter up here. I should say that Lisa and the kids are doing a pretty good at dealing with the nippy weather. Lisa and I even managed to put a new tire on the van in -32C weather this afternoon with little trouble.

What surprises me a little about this little cold snap is just how early in the season it has appeared. Most communities I've worked in have seen their share of frosty days but from my experience the real cold doesn't make its full appearance until at least January. I can only recall one year, in Fort Smith, where temperatures seemed to get this cold before Christmas although my perceptions at the time were doubtless tainted from being spoiled the mild temperatures of Windsor, Ontario during my university days. All this is to say, in a long, rambling, off-topic way, that I find it interesting that last night it was actually warmer in Arctic Bay than in Fort McMurray where an extreme wind chill warning persists.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fort McMurray Heritage

Here are a few pictures I took a couple weekends ago when we visited Fort McMurray's Heritage Park. There were plaques outside each building , describing its original function, when it was built and so forth. The main purpose of our visit was so that the kids could see Santa and get a pony ride so I was understandably a little distracted so I'm going by memory on the information below. Most, if not all of these buildings, were built in Waterways, an older community, which was eventually swallowed up by Fort McMurray.

This is, or was, the first RCMP station in the area, built in Waterways around the time of WWI, the exact date escapes me. On this particular day, the building was playing host to Santa Claus for all the children to come and visit.

This was the area's first Catholic Church, built in 1911. The steeple was a 1920's add-on.

This church was built in the late 1930's and served its congregation until about 1960.

If memory serves me correctly, this is the Port Radium. In days gone by craft like this one plied the waters between Waterways and points North, delivering all manner of supplies. Another old barge similar to this one can be found at the Northern Life Museum in Fort Smith.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Life In The Oil Patch

I know what probably goes through a lot of people's minds when they think of Alberta.....oil, Ralph Klein country, privatized medical care, fiercely anti-Liberal. Yes, the notion is out there (wrongly in my opinion) that within the family of Confederation Alberta is the anti-Christ. I didn't think I'd be doing up a post on the Oil Sands. There's a lot of politics involved that I'd much rather just keep out of. Far be it from me to defend "Big Oil" but we have to say, based on our experiences to date, that the big oil companies involved with the Oil Sands, aren't the evil empires, they are often made out to be. Of course when there are any big issues involving the environment, it makes the news, as it should. I think environmental safeguards are better than many special interest groups would have us believe. (This is not to say that accidents don't happen but this isn't the bad old days of the 1940's when they built the CANOL pipeline and laid sections of pipe right on the permafrost.) Seldom, however, do we come across stories in the media of the good that they do. They do do a lot to contribute to Fort McMurray and the municipality.....and the entire country too, I should add. Aside from the obvious benefit of employment, they provide scholarships, help provide infrastructure, contribute to community programs, donate to schools and many other things. The new rec centre that's just being completed in Fort McMurray received a lot of funding from Suncor. The building is even named after the company.

Closer to home, when one of the big companies held a community Christmas dinner here in Janvier, they brought along turkeys for every family. We even picked up one for ourselves. At first we were reluctant since we could have easily picked one up in McMurray. One of the reps helping to hand them out, insisted though, so we decided to take one, quite a big one too I should add. Toward the end of the evening, an announcement was made that they still had turkeys left over. And so, to our great fortune, we ended up leaving that evening with two turkeys to stuff into our basement freezer. And yes, I know it looks like we're putting in a good word here simply because we were bribed with turkeys, but as I mentioned, I don't think Suncor and the others are as evil as they are often portrayed by special interest groups or the media.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peace River

Here are a few pictures from my little work-related trip to Peace River. I flew out of Fort McMurray late yesterday afternoon and was back in Janvier earlier this evening. We stopped briefly in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta's oldest community and just down the road, so to speak, from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, where I began my career. Fort Chip is one of those places I always wanted to get to and I feel lucky to have finally had my chance.

Peace River was very scenic. My pictures don't do it justice but my stay there was very brief. The topography reminded me a lot of Fort McMurray......and so did the cold.

Peace River (the community and the river) from the air.

This is the aircraft we flew back in. It's been awhile since I've flown in such small aircraft (in Nunavut, the Hawker-Siddely and the newer ATR were the aircraft I usually flew in) but I believe this is a Piper Navajo.