Party marks 50 years since Gardiner Dam’s grand opening

Pictured are the five control towers atop the Gardiner Dam.

By Joel van der Veen

GARDINER DAM — Roger Baldwin remembers his first day on the job.

Hired in 1962 by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA), his first assignment was at the Gardiner Dam, as an inspector for the shafts and tunnels then under construction.

The day he arrived, his supervisor, Dwight Kirton, took him to the top of a shaft 200 feet high.

“Don’t worry,” Kirton told him as they looked down. “It’s the last 12 feet that’ll kill you.”

Baldwin, now 78, was among the former employees who travelled back to the dam on July 14 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its opening.

An estimated 1,000 people were on hand for what was billed as “The Best Dam Party of the Summer.”

The crowd included many former employees of PFRA and the other agencies and contractors who worked on the project.

Dignitaries on hand included Ralph Goodale, the federal minister of public safety, and Scott Moe, the provincial environment minister, both of whom spoke during a brief ceremony.

Also in attendance were the descendants of Saskatchewan’s fourth premier, James Gardiner, for whom the dam was named.

The event was a joint affair organized by SaskPower, SaskWater, the Water Security Agency and the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport.

Joel Perry, Saskatchewan Parks manager for Danielson and Douglas provincial parks, said 1,100 hot dogs were served, along with similar numbers for ice cream.

“We lucked out, except with the wind,” he remarked Friday, “though in Saskatchewan, that means it’s good for no bugs.”

Attractions included face painting and a bouncy castle, along with displays from the Saskatchewan Science Centre and conservation authorities.

The visitor centre was open to the public, and area musician Will Ardell performed on stage following the program.

Serving as emcees were Mike Marsh, president and CEO of SaskPower, and Susan Ross, president of the Water Security Agency.

Marsh said the impact of the dam is widespread, including 100,000 homes powered each year by the Coteau Creek hydroelectric station.

The construction of the Gardiner and Qu’Appelle River dams also resulted in the formation of Lake Diefenbaker, which provides water for municipal and industrial use, as well as irrigating hundreds of farms. The lake has also spawned a massive tourism industry that draws thousands of visitors to the region annually.

For the full story, please see the July 24 edition of The Davidson Leader, or call 306-567-2047 to subscribe today.

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