Destination Battlefords visitor center and wildlife exhibits have moved; the plan is to use the site to house the staff and operations of the Fleet and Buildings Manager and Building Maintenance.
NORTH BATTLEFORD – The Battlefords River Valley Center no longer houses Destination Battlefords or Battlefords Wildlife Association exhibits.
At their Monday meeting, North Battleford City Council voted to renovate the site to become the new home of Fleet and Buildings Manager and Buildings Maintenance staff and operations from the city.
The news that the building at 801 River Valley Drive will soon be a location for maintenance staff may come as a surprise to residents who haven’t been to the River Valley Center in a while.
The River Valley Center was formerly known as Battlefords Wildlife Federation Nature Center and had a long history of holding animal and bird exhibits.
In 2014, the Battlefords River Valley Authority took over the building’s assets, with the Battlefords Tourism and Convention Association taking over management of the facility and renaming it the Battlefords River Valley Visitors Centre.
Since then, Destination Battlefords has housed its offices in the site and used the site as a tourist information location. Animal and bird exhibits remained under agreement with the Wildlife Federation, and the site continued to be used by the public for meetings and various barbecues and outdoor events.
But things have changed considerably on the site. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down public access to the site for a long time, but there have been other changes as well.
A few years ago, the province withdrew as a partner in the River Valley Authority following provincial budget cuts. Then, last fall, the Town of Battleford voted to withdraw from Destination Battlefords. The city terminated its financial contribution effective December 31, 2021 and terminated its participation on the council effective February 11, 2022.
At council on Monday, the administration confirmed that Destination Battlefords had left the River Valley Centre. Operations manager Stewart Schafer also confirmed that the Battlefords Wildlife Federation had removed the animal exhibits and some of them had been moved to Regina.
Additionally, it was reported in a city memo that on March 2, 2022, three individuals attempted to break into the building and damaged the security cameras there. According to the city administration, it is believed that the place was targeted because there was no activity in the building.
The plan now is to move building maintenance crews to the River Valley location. Currently, the Fleet Maintenance Manager and the Building Maintenance Manager are located in the Don Ross Center Block, while the staff are located in the Parks Workshop. The parks store has limited space, according to the administration. Schafer had said they planned to move them to the airport store, but it would have cost more.
Instead, the intention now is for them to move them all to the east side of the River Valley Center building where Destination Battlefords and the wildlife exhibit had been located.
The east side would be renovated for staff work and storage areas. The west side kitchen and cafeteria would remain for meetings and event rentals. The current offices in the building will be occupied by the Fleet Maintenance Manager, the Building Maintenance Supervisor and a part-time administrative assistant.
Schafer told the council that he plans to install workstations, locker rooms for staff construction, chain-link fencing on the east side of the building, security cameras and other items. Additionally, Schafer said they will store their building maintenance items at the site, which are currently stocked across the city.
The total cost of the renovation is estimated at $52,470 and will come from the $115,000 already allocated in the 2022 budget for the renovation of the airport maintenance workshop. The airport retail renovation project has now been pushed back and will be less extensive than previously thought.
One of the key benefits cited is that the River Valley site will no longer be vacant and will be maintained for future use. City Manager Randy Patrick said they would be able to open the adjacent pond to the public again as a place for picnics or outdoor activities.
“What we wanted to do with this is make sure the building also has potential for future use for river valley interpretation or river valley ski hire, whatever. so be it in the future,” Patrick said.
The intent is to bring back to council something for the council to consider regarding the revitalization of the areas around the pond.