A new stop on the Crowsnest Pass is nearing completion.
The Piikani Travel Centre is weeks away from opening and boasts cultural features like Blackfoot translations and local art inside.
The rest stop will have a full kitchen to offer bannock and other hot meals while travellers refuel.
“[It will bring] that Blackfoot culture to the people that drive by our reserve,” Piikani councillor Riel Houle said.
“To understand our people and understand who we are — that we’re not just people who wake up on the streets and are hiking by the highway or have addictions.”
Houle said the centre will create several jobs for community members. Operations manager Wayne Fiddler is already reviewing applications.
“Altogether there will be about 24 positions available at this store,” he said.
Fiddler said the centre is in a perfect spot to attract customers from other communities and it may become a hub for the community.
“I’m really excited for people to check out our teepee design here,” he said. “Right underneath, it is going to be a section for people to eat if they want to eat in.”
While the project is on budget and only slightly delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Houle said the remaining concern is a traffic assessment conducted on the turnoff from Highway 3, which has a steady flow of one-lane traffic and a sharp turn into the new lot.
“It’s a huge safety concern,” Houle said. “Not only for our members, but for Canadians and Albertans that decide to turn off and come and visit our gas station.”
He said they have reached out to Alberta’s transportation ministry– which maintains the stretch of highway– but have not heard back about their request to alter the abrupt turnoff for accessibility.
“When they make that turn, it’s a very dangerous turn,” Houle said. “And we’d like Alberta Transportation to step up and to build it for us, and to help us with our economic development ventures that we have going.”
Transportation Minister Ric McIver was unavailable for comment Monday.
A spokesperson confirmed he has received the request, but did not say when the Piikani council will receive a response.
The travel centre is scheduled to open in November.