River Valley could be turned into a national urban park

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The federal government is working with the City of Edmonton and Indigenous communities to incorporate the river valley into Parks Canada’s national urban parks program.

“Having an urban park on Treaty 6 territory is a step in the right direction toward reconciliation,” said Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.

“Not only will it provide a connection to the land, but the park will also provide opportunities for healing and cultural celebration for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. »

In August 2021, the federal government announced that it would spend $130 million to create a network of national urban parks across the country.

The money comes from a $2.3 billion investment included in the federal government’s 2021 budget to ensure nature conservation across Canada.

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi says a national urban park designation will allow the city to fund infrastructure, education and engagement projects. These initiatives, according to Sohi, will allow greater accessibility to the space.

“We know that even when a space is open to the public, systemic barriers can prevent racialized people and people with disabilities from feeling like these spaces belong to them as well,” Sohi said.

He says the city is also exploring national designation so it can receive additional federal support to make river valley trails more accessible and improve areas of the park where land has been eroding for decades.

“I think we can do all of these things with the support of the federal government once we have access to these dollars,” Sohi said.

According to Parks Canada vice-president Darlene Upton, the project is currently in a pre-feasibility phase, a first step that includes bringing together partners and stakeholders to generate interest.

This means that there are no official plans for how much of the river valley would be included in the National Urban Park designation. Upton says a solid project plan won’t be established for two years.

“It is important that we take the time necessary to ensure that the development of this project can meet the needs and interests of a large number of people.”

A ROLE IN RECONCILIATION

Chief Tony Alexis says Indigenous voices are too often excluded from government decision-making.

“Often, historically, what happens is that governments create a plan and move towards the plan and at the end of it, when they’re ready to cut the ribbon, they call on Indigenous peoples” , said Alexis. “At that point, it’s already too late.”

However, while this project is still in its exploration phase, Monday’s announcement promises Indigenous input as a guiding element from start to finish.

“The project is to go to the Indigenous Peoples Library and sit and listen and talk with the elders,” said federal Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault. “And that’s what it’s about today.”

Métis Nation of Alberta President Audry Poitras says she is confident the Métis will have a say in the process.

“I’m really looking forward to it, to being able to get there,” Poitras said. our story, share our story,” Poitras said.


With files from Carlyle Fiset of CTV News Edmonton.

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