Alex Fraser Park, Quesnel’s treasured exhibition ground, is set to make some major facility improvements this year.
Robin Hay, a director on the Alex Fraser Park Society Board, says they have been working with the City of Quesnel and the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) towards constructing an Agricultural Event Centre on the North Star Road property for almost four years.
It has only been within the last 18 months, however, that the project has really come to fruition.
Hay says the upgraded facilities will have numerous benefits to the large agricultural community surrounding Quesnel.
“We want to expand the capacity at Alex Fraser Park to showcase agricultural events which extend beyond just riding horses in the current indoor [arena],” Hay says.
The first step will be the demolition of the set of smaller buildings adjacent to the indoor area.
“The fur and feather buildings are probably about 30 years old,” he says. ” The pre-fab buildings have served their purpose for a long time, but as our Fall Fair grew and the needs for that type of exhibition expanded, they outlived their usefulness, so they have to be replaced.”
The overall footprint of the building that will take their place is 150 feet by 110 feet with a range of uses.
“We’re trying to look at ways to expand the Fall Fair and the involvement of 4-H and different livestock interests that parallel that and so we needed a good exhibition centre.”
The park also plans on adding storage for some of the various equipment necessary to the groups that use the facilities. Hays says it will have to be secure and yet easy to access for the groups themselves.
“We also discovered in 2017 that the emergency preparedness in the community, specifically the ability of Alex Fraser Park to manage large numbers of a variety of large livestock, was a little bit limited,” he says.
“If there was a need to provide emergency treatment to a large animal or constrain a large animal, we didn’t have some of the required equipment and we didn’t have a hospital bay for large animals that might be in our care.”
Hays adds when Pet Safe, a community run operation which sheltered more than 1,000 animals during the 2017 fires, took over the emergency operation of animals and livestock at the park, they needed a better system of looking after small animals such as dogs, cat and goats.
In addition to the added facilities for our varied four-legged or feathered friends, the new centre will have a few meeting rooms contained within.
Hays says there will be a 2,000 square feet room, a classroom space of about 1,500 square feet and an office for the park itself.
“As we continue to grow and expand our different offerings, we now have the ability to employ a part-time office manager that can look after some of the programming, selling of memberships, scheduling of events and management and support for the boarders that board horses at the park.”
The project is expected to cost $600,000, with the funding coming from three sources.
The Rural Dividend Fund will pay for 85 per cent of the renovations, the City of Quesnel is working on securing funding from the Northern Development Initiative Trust for $50,000, and the rest will be covered by park members and benefactors.
“These are people who are definitely dedicated and interested in enhancing and growing livestock exhibition opportunities at the park,” Hays says.
“Quesnel’s always been a particularly diverse operation, particularly with the ranching side of it and now it’s become a little more specialized with some operators breeding high quality bulls and we don’t have anywhere that we can have a bull exhibit or a bull sale or livestock auction of specialty type animals.”
Furthering education opportunities on the grounds is also a top consideration.
“In our talks with the farming community, it definitely became obvious that classroom space is at a premium at the college and the desire to expand agri-business courses was quite high but limited in terms of the capacity.
“We think this facility could host artificial insemination courses, or you could teach a farriers’ course or you could do a bit of agronomy project work there.”
The park hopes to have the site cleared and prepped and ready to go by the end of April, with initial construction set to begin by the first week of May.
If all goes well, they hope to wrap everything up before this year’s Fall Fair at the end of August.