Aviation manufacturer De Havilland is planning to build a new facility on a 1500-acre plot of land in Wheatland country.
De Havilland is to be the final assembly site for the DH-515 Firefighter aircraft, DHC Twin Otter and the Dash 8-400 aircraft. It is also to include facilities for ground tests, fueling, and repair. It will also serve as an educational space for the Southern Alberta Insitute of Technology and as an aircraft museum.
Ron Heckle has a family farm just west of Strathmore and life could soon be disrupted.
“Our way of life has been so peaceful for like forever. It's just going to change. My family and I are going to be impacted as well as our neighbors and our way of life will be turned upside down.”
Heckle, along with neighboring farms, all have the same concerns of what life will be like for them and their animals once this project breaks ground.
“Massive construction like that going on, 1500 people coming to work every day, airplanes taking off within a kilometer off the top of our houses and there are purposed airstrips that will be within a kilometer of our house as well. I know it's going to disrupt our life big time.”
The field right beside the end of the runway is where Heckle has his cattle every year and the concern is how the cattle will react to all the noise and pollution.
“I understand some people will say that cattle get used to stuff like that and maybe they do, but I'm sure not looking forward to having to deal with the cattle if they are disrupted by something like that.”
Heckle explains he doesn’t have anything against De Havilland or big industries, where his disappointments lie is with Wheatland County.
“It seems to me that Wheatland County is willing to stray away from their municipal development plan and vision, which they wrote just a couple of years ago. It was to protect agricultural land and agricultural heritage. They see dollar signs and that really bothers me.”
“The land over at this end of the county is the best land in the county by far and it has been a known fact among farmers in this area. I am assuming that they could find less productive land somewhere else. I am sure that there is unproductive land that is east of here.”
The project was introduced back when Jason Kenney was Premier and as Heckle explains it was just sprung on them that a major industry was moving into their province.
“It bothers me because if the premier is saying that (it's coming), it seems like they're pretty sure that it's going to happen when it isn't even passed in the Wheatland County yet and I am a little concerned about that.”
The company is currently working with Wheatland County to rezone the site, with construction expected to start in 2024 and the first buildings operational by 2025.
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