Trails, landscaping, national urban park: what future for the Edmonton river valley?

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Kristine Archibald gazes across the North Saskatchewan River from the elevated pedestrian bridge at Southwest Anthony Henday Drive.

This place is where the official Edmonton River Valley trail system ends and a breach in the Fort Saskatchewan to Devon corridor begins, says Archibald, executive director of the River Valley Alliance.

“We need more funds,” Archibald says.

Fill the void

Established in 2003, the alliance works to preserve, protect and enhance the world’s largest network of metropolitan river valley parks by connecting the network of trails and making it easy to access and enjoy for all.

The alliance leverages funds from all three levels of government and guides and administers projects such as the Fort Edmonton and Terwillegar gateways, the funicular and the Touch the Water Parkway near the old Rossdale power station.

Money from its current grant will run out in 2025 and Archibald says the alliance is now considering its next project – bridging the 26-kilometer gap in the trail system from southwest Edmonton to Parkland County.

“The trail itself costs around $ 18 million and the bridges, of course, don’t come cheap,” she says.

Archibald estimates that it would take $ 60 million to $ 80 million to close the gap. She thinks it could be done in a decade.

The result would be a 100 km continuous trail network that would benefit local residents and a tourist destination.

“It’s a real emotional connection for a lot of people”

Learn more from Kristine Archibald, Executive Director of the River Valley Alliance, about the vision to travel 100 km of trails in the North Saskatchewan River Valley. 2:18

You can see more on the River Valley Trail System on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon, and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV and CBC Gem.

Green ribbon

“Few cities have such a large area of ​​connected green space,” says Angela Hobson, Edmonton’s principal environmental planner.

That’s why the board approved the Ribbon of Green initiative in 1992, says Hobson.

“Obviously, a lot has changed since that time,” she said, noting that new challenges like climate change and the biodiversity crisis have emerged. “The city has grown and our approach to planning and protecting the environment has evolved.

Planning for what space might look like in 20 to 30 years is expected to end in 2022.

A cyclist rides a single track trail in Terwillegar Park. (Submitted by Emily Rendell-Watson)

Hobson says he includes advice for the protection and restoration of natural areas and wildlife habitats, and “recognizing the full cultural value and importance that our river valley has to many indigenous peoples.”

Hobson also said an update will be sent to the new mayor and city councilors next month on Parks Canada’s idea to make the river valley a new national urban park.

National urban park for city?

Kecia Kerr, Executive Director of the Society for Nature and Parks of Canada, Northern Alberta Chapter (SNAP), is excited about the idea.

In August, the federal government announced $ 130 million in funding to create a network of national urban parks.

Edmonton is under consideration as a potential location, as are Montreal, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Halifax.

Canada now has 48 national parks, but only one in an urban setting: Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto.

Parks Canada begins work on the national urban parks program. In a statement, he said he would work with local authorities, indigenous partners and stakeholders on the plan over the next five years.

The Terwillegar Park walkway offers all kinds of fall photography possibilities. (Harmony Wolgemuth)

Kerr says a national urban park in Edmonton would not be like Jasper, Banff and Elk Island National Parks.

Users would not pay a fee, but Kerr said the federal designation and legislation “would increase protection and put more emphasis on conservation in this truly important ecological corridor, while providing these recreational and general health activities.” [and] well-being benefits all who visit the region. “

North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society board member Bill Wells expects urban park plan discussions to resume in the coming months after federal and municipal elections call a hiatus .

Wells participated in conversations that took place over the past year on what this might look like from a conservation, biodiversity, recreation and tourism perspective.

“The hope is that we can further improve the gem that is the River Valley.”

A fall view of the river valley seen from the 100th Street Cable Car in downtown Edmonton. (Adrienne Lamb / CBC)


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