The federal government has pledged billions of dollars to create a series of national urban parks from coast to coast, and Edmonton wants to know more.
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The idea is to conserve ecological gems, help protect wildlife, conserve biodiversity, fight climate change, and work with Indigenous partners to preserve culture and history.
“It will be a gift. Not only to Edmontonians today, but for generations,” said Ward Dene Coun. Aaron Paquette.
“It provides a federal investment so that we can actually improve our trails, create more amenities, maybe even public washrooms. Wouldn’t that be nice? “
Unlike the existing national parks at Elk Island, Banff and Jasper, the idea of paying to enter will not fly in Edmonton.
“User fees are prohibited. There is no gateway to the river valley as we know it, so there is no way to implement this, and there is no way that we would like. The river valley belongs to Edmontonians, ”said Paquette.
Some have expressed concerns over the handing over of Edmonton’s greatest asset to Ottawa, but advocates, such as the Canada Parks and Nature Society, say it is unfounded.
Northern Alberta Board Chair Steve Donelon said CPAWS works with Parks Canada in various places where these parks are proposed, and that there is a level of local autonomy involved.
“Ensure that local communities take the lead in the development and management of these sites,” Donelon said.
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The first such park in Canada, called Rouge, is located in Toronto.
There are certain restrictions that worry the Edmonton Mountain Bike Alliance.
“We were concerned that this website indicates that biking is not allowed on what they call the hiking trails there,” said President Joe Yurkovich.
But the city administration has said Edmonton National Park could be unique to the city and include whatever uses Edmontonians want.
“From today’s discussion, it appears that the federal government does not view Rouge National Park as the only model, so we were encouraged by this discussion,” said Yurkovich.
“We really think it has to adapt to the circumstances of Edmonton and all users of the river valley. “
Donelon agreed, adding that public engagement will need to be expanded.
“There are a myriad of other groups and users in the river valley, and we really need to hear their voices,” Donelon said.
While mountain bikers are welcome on the trails, Yurkovich said he can see huge potential benefits for city and park users.
“I hope we can take advantage of funding here to have proper signage and really promote our great river valley to the rest of Canada and the world. “
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The city of Edmonton has signed a declaration of collaboration with Parks Canada to conduct a preliminary assessment and feasibility study at no cost to the city. There is also no commitment to move forward with creating a park at this point.
The initial report is expected to take six to 12 months, after which the findings will be reported to City Hall.
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