Calgary

Councillor wants to take $1M from public art and give it to Heritage Park

The Calgary attraction wants an additional $1 million in annual operational funding, saying it has been hit by increased costs, including rising wages, lower attendance and the impact of putting its paddlewheeler in dry dock due to lowered reservoir levels.

Calgary attraction says it has been hit by rising costs, lower attendance

Coun. Jeromy Farkas wants to pull money out of the public art program to help Heritage Park. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

One Calgary councillor wants to pull money from the city's public art budget in order to shore up the finances of the beleaguered Heritage Park. 

That local attraction wants an additional $1 million in annual operational funding, saying it has been hit by increased costs, including rising wages, lower attendance and the impact of putting its paddlewheeler — the SS Moyie — in dry dock due to lowered reservoir levels for Glenmore Dam upgrading. 

Coun. Jeromy Farkas says he supports the request for money and says, if necessary, it could come from the public art program.

"Something I'm hearing from my residents is why does all of this public art money have to spent on weird junk on the side of the highway? Why not invest in things that people, especially kids, can see, touch, feel and experience?" he said.

"So I'll be directly advocating for a reduction in our public art money and re-allocation to civic partners like Heritage Park because I think those kinds of cultural investments, the ones that speak to remembering Calgary's history, Canadians' story — this is of tremendous value and I think it's really important we don't forget it."

Currently, public art is funded through a portion of the budget from large capital projects. 

Options for council

City administration has provided three options for city council to consider during upcoming budget debates. 

The first option is for council to increase base operating funding incrementally by $491,000, but administration said additional challenges have been identified since that figure was first established. 

The second option is for council to add an additional $384,000 in 2019 and add the incremental rise of $491,000.

Finally, council could consider Heritage Park's request and raise the base operating funding by $1 million and consider yearly increases as determined. 

Visitors to Heritage Park took a trip back in time on July 1 to celebrate Dominion Day, which is what the holiday was known as until 1982. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

In addition to the operations funding, city administration is recommending $2.2 million for a new dock for the SS Moyie and $6.5 million for regular lifecycle costs. 

It also recommended the city turn down the park's request for $1.9 million for a new natural resources interpretive centre. 

The Heritage Park Historical Village is a living history museum that is funded through admissions, concessions, restaurants, retail sales, donations and an operating grant from the city.

Annual attendance hit nearly 700,000 in 2014 but dropped to under 600,000 last year, according to the city's civic partner 2017 annual report snapshot.

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