“You need some sort of commercial income to pay for a rodeo, and unless I can give it to a commercial business, it’s not going to do it,” he says.
With the support of the Peace River Regional District, McLeod first made the application to the ALC in late 2012. His intention was to build an RV park on the lower part of the property located off the Swanson Lumber Road to help support the rodeo grounds. McLeod says putting on a professional rodeo event can cost upwards of $135,000, something that admission and entry fees alone couldn’t cover.
The request was originally denied on the basis that there are other properties in the area, either outside the Agricultural Land Reserve or inside it, approved for non-farm use that the rodeo grounds could be built on instead. However, McLeod’s request for reconsideration was also denied, with the ALC maintaining that no new evidence was presented, and arguing that the need for the development in the area shouldn’t mean sacrificing agricultural land when there are others available.
“Not only is there another rodeo park in Fort St. John, but there is a great deal of land the Commission and the Regional District have already earmarked for the kinds of uses proposed here,” it writes in its response. “It is not coherent agricultural policy and planning for the province to lose Class 2 agricultural land because a developer has, on an ad hoc basis, chosen to advance his proposal on such land where there is other ALR and non-ALR land identified for this very purpose.”
It also points to the North Peace Light Horse Association’s park as an already existing rodeo ground in the city. However, McLeod argues that land is used for private use, and that he’d previously offered to buy and rebuild it, but was denied.
“I offered to buy the Light Horse [land] years ago, and they turned me down,” he says. “There’s nothing you can do there. Everybody’s approached them. They want money, but money doesn’t fix the grounds. Money goes into their coffers to pay their bills is all as far as I know.”
The Horse Park has already been successfully used as the grounds for the RCMP Musical Ride in July, something the ALC said it had no objection to. As an amateur rodeo costs significantly less to run – in the $20 to $30,000 range – there is still the possibility of holding an event at the Horse Park, including a high school rodeo event on September 20. McLeod’s next step is to approach the Peace River Regional District about what permits he would need to do so, or approach the ALC again, but this time ask for the land to be excluded from the ALR all together.