Jesse Salus creates blog sharing unbiased information on controversial highway

A view of the Weaslehead Flats, which borders the Tsuu T’ina First Nation, and was originally part of their land.

Roads play a central role in our lives – helping us get to and from destinations efficiently.  For many of us roads are also symbolic – representing freedom, adventure and a journey.  For Jesse Salus, a Calgary resident, roads have new meaning as a result of spending five years detailing the complex history of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road.

Jesse first got interested in the road when he learned that the province, after having a specific route turned down, proposed running an eight-lane freeway through his Lakeview neighbourhood.

Jesse wanted to understand the issue better, why hadn’t the province and city better planned for this road, which would uproot hundreds of homes? Reading newspaper articles on the subject, Jesse found each article had a different perspective.  This only compelled Jesse to learn more.

He began accessing city archives, and asking questions of city staff.  Each answer led to more questions. While Jesse was originally learning for himself, he quickly found that when speaking with neighbours they also didn’t have complete information about the project and past events.

This inspired Jesse to create a blog entitled History of a Road. The blog started in 2012 and continues today providing unbiased information regarding the long history and planning process of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, which dates back to at least 1952.

“The website’s guiding principle is if I can’t prove it, I can’t say it,” he says, adding he wanted decision makers to have access to good information.

“Many people have the wrong idea about what the ring road was, there is so much rhetoric, I wanted to cut through that,  and allow decision makers to come in on the same page. Good information makes for good decision-making.”

He says people who are pro-road or against it both appreciate the site.

Through this process Jesse says he’s learned a new appreciation of the complexities of the road, which will now run through the Tsuu T’ina First Nation.  When this route was first proposed, the Nation was open to negotiations, but cautious and the negotiations stalled and stopped on numerous occasions.  In total, the negotiation process between the province and the Nation lasted more than 30 years.

“In the past, land deals have typically ended poorly for the Nation, so you start to understand why the Nation would be carefully entering into a new deal with the government,” says Jesse, pointing to the Weaslehead, which the Nation says was sold on unjust terms.

“Understanding [the] history has made me appreciate the Nation’s view and even the value of the land itself; it’s not just a real estate transaction, it’s something more fundamental and valuable that’s not just about finances.”

Jesse adds that his blogging has also helped him view the Tsuu T’ina First Nation’s development plans in a different light. While local residents may not like the fact that they’ve built a casino, the revenue from the business helps the Nation pay for essential services non-aboriginal people take for granted, like fire departments, police and even schools.

This is necessary because 10 years ago the City of Calgary stopped providing emergency services to the Nation.

As a result of providing accurate information, The History of a Road blog has helped Jesse build good relationships between all parties involved. He’s now using his blog to connect people offline, with the goal of creating new relationships and better communication.

“What I’d like to be doing going forward is to continue to hopefully play a role in getting people on both sides of that border to communicate better,” he says.

To read History of a Road, click here.

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