Public meetings today in Cochrane on future of Polar Bear Habitat

Cochrane town council is holding two open houses November 20 for public input on future of Polar Bear Habitat.

Cochrane town council wants public input on what to do with Polar Bear Habitat

Cochrane town council votes December 10 on future of Polar Bear Habitat. (Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat )

December 10 is decision day for the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat.

That's when town council will vote on whether or not to keep the facility open.

Today, the Town of Cochrane is holding two open houses to get public input on what's to become of the habitat.

This past weekend, the Polar Bear Habitat's board of directors held their own open house to inform the town's taxpayers about how it plans to keep the habitat open.

For over 15 years, the site has been a sanctuary for polar bears and a research facility– the only one of its kind in the world. It's also a tourist attraction.

But it costs money to keep the facility going– roughly $400,000 a year.

J. P. Bradette, chair of the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat's board of directors, says the board has specific plans for fundraising, corporate sponsorship, and expanding the habitat's international volunteer program.

He says the board has hired a consulting firm to help develop a three-to-five-year business plan.

"We believe that we can develop a plan that'll put the habitat towards long-term financial viability," he added. 

He says the board's open house on the weekend was very positive.

"We had folks from not only Cochrane but from neighbouring municipalities attend. Standing room only," he said.

"And certainly the feeling that we had was that there was this very, very strong support for keeping the habitat open at least to the end of 2020 to allow us to really turn over every stone and put our plan in place to get to a long-term objective," Bradette said.

"We need to make sure that elected officials really understand the importance of the habitat to the community," he added.

"I also want to say that the board is still working very much cooperatively with the town and with town council," Bradette said. "This is a partnership if we are going to be successful, which I believe firmly that we will be," he added. 

The Town of Cochrane is hosting its open house this afternoon from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and tonight from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m in the Tim Horton Centre Community Hall. 

With files from Markus Schwabe