Heritage Park out $714K as reservoir's low water level docks paddlewheeler

Heritage Park says the City of Calgary's decision to lower water levels on the Glenmore Reservoir will cost the tourist attraction $714,000 in lost revenue because the park's paddle steamer won't be able to operate.

Park has asked City to pay $1.2M cost of new dock

Heritage Park says it's looking at some hard financial realities this year. (Stacee Barton/CBC)

Heritage Park says the City of Calgary's decision to lower water levels on the Glenmore Reservoir will cost the tourist attraction $714,000 in lost revenue because the park's paddlewheeler won't be able to operate.

Water levels have been lowered to allow crews to work on a three-year, $82-million flood mitigation project on the dam.

"They have to lower the reservoir level significantly, almost to the point where it's going to be reduced to a large puddle in the middle," said Heritage Park president and CEO Alida Visbach. 

The S.S. Moyie is dry-docked for 2018, and the ship's regular dock won't stand up to the new reservoir level, Visbach said. The dock was rebuilt with new concrete pylons and infrastructure after the 2013 flood.

"This dock, we didn't budget for because we didn't think we needed a new dock as we had just invested in repairing it."

Heritage Park asked the city to pay for a new dock, which it says will cost $1.2 million, at a community and protective services committee meeting Monday. 

Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas supports the park's request.

"Unfortunately as a result of city initiative work, these investments were rendered moot or redundant, so the city absolutely should step up and make Heritage Park whole, given the efforts that they've gone into to reduce and control their costs," Farkas said.

Other significant cost increases this year

The tourist attraction told city council Monday that the loss of revenue will only add to an already tight budget, which it blames on both the impacts of the carbon tax and increased minimum wage.

Visbach said the park's most recent bill from its diesel supplier was $36,000. Of that, $16,000 was due to the carbon tax.

The carbon tax looks especially high, Visbach said, because of the large charitable discount Heritage Park receives from its diesel supplier. The Alberta carbon tax is applied at a rate of 8.03 cents per litre of the fuel, regardless of the price the diesel supplier charges.

Park officials initially pegged diesel costs for the year at $150,000, but Visbach now says they believe it will be much higher.

Visbach said it's hard to reduce fuel costs, as the park's heritage buildings are considered museum artifacts and must be constantly heated to prevent their plaster from cracking. 

"These buildings require very special care," she said.

Heritage Park's train is one of the park's features that costs more due to the carbon tax. (Travel Alberta handout/Canadian Press)

Another expense is the train that ferries passengers around the park. 

"Heritage Park, without running the train, is not Heritage Park."

Increased salaries due to the bump in minimum wage are also new.

"This year is really going to have our biggest impact on us. We've been able to reduce our expenses by wage freezing and eliminating full-time positions, reducing our seasonal hiring, reducing our hours of operation," she said, adding that the increase is expected to be roughly $1 million.

Visbach said she believes the city is doing the best it can under the circumstances, but said she hopes it can help the park.

"We're a small but mighty organization and right now we need some support," she said. 

With files from Scott Dippel, the Calgary Eyeopener