The Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) and its partners are beginning the first stage of a multi-year process that could lead to a national urban park for Saskatoon.
By March, the conservation organization will hold a series of focus groups, interviews, meetings and surveys about its jurisdiction and governance model. Currently, the MVA is responsible for maintaining Canada’s largest urban conservation area, which includes over 90 km of trails.
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“We’ll also be getting people to look at the vision, so what’s possible if we were to work toward a National Urban Park designation,” said MVA CEO Andrea Lafond.
This is the first step for Meewasin in a national initiative announced in August, committing up to $130 million to a network of urban parks in Canada. The program is designed to support access to nature in cities, while protecting biodiversity.
The organization created a steering committee including its funding partners: the City of Saskatoon, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan. The Saskatoon Tribal Council, Métis Nation–Saskatchewan, Wanuskewin, Rural Municipality of Corman Park and the federal government are also involved.
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The region has exceeded growth projections set when Meewasin was founded in 1978, according to Lafond.
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“Today we are seated at 327,000 people within a 15 kilometer radius of the Meewasin Valley,” Lafond said. “So it’s time to look at jurisdiction as well as governance structure and funding models.
The organization faced financial difficulties in 2017 when Saskatchewan cut its funding by $409,000, nearly half of what the authority had received the previous year.
Designation as a national urban park could result in new funding from the federal government.
At a press conference in August, the minister responsible for Parks Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson, said that “the federal government is ready to do its part when it comes to financial contributions.”
Funding considerations would take place during the second phase of the process, which was not scheduled.
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In an interview, Mayor Charlie Clark said the federal government’s involvement “would be huge” for Meewasin.
As a nonprofit, the MVA can raise funds, use student internships and build partnerships in a less expensive way than the private sector city, Clark said.
“Saskatoon is really at the forefront of creating these kinds of partnerships,” said Clark.
Other cities that have signed national urban park agreements with the federal government, including Winnipeg, Halifax, Windsor and Colwood, British Columbia
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