Over the last two years, I have worked to champion the cause of the west-end river valley and ravine system. In supporting new projects such as the footbridge and west-end trails development, and pushing for increased accessibility, parking, and staging facilities, the key concern has been to ensure that west-enders can be connected to the river while remaining sensitive to the environmental impact.
On Wednesday, Council approved a motion I put forth to provide limited funding for the Southwest Ribbon of Green plan. In a year of tough budget considerations, I believe it’s also important to look ahead, to prioritize our most valuable resources, and to create the conditions for them to thrive.
The Ribbon of Green Master Plan endeavours to extend the current urban park to encompass the entire length of the river valley. The goal for the Southwest zone – which includes River Valley Oleskiw and Big Island – is to set out a vision for the river valley in the west end, to prioritize creating access to the river and connecting trail systems. The plan will strive to balance informed planning of new neighbourhoods adjacent to the North Saskatchewan – such as Riverview – with preservation and protection of the distinctive ecosystems connected to the river valley and ravine areas. In mature neighbourhoods, the plan will also seek to get ahead of emerging top of bank issues. Determining potential parking locations and trail head access now will prevent the challenges currently experienced by mature neighbourhoods adjacent to the river.
The funds, delivered over three years, will support a temporary planner position and consultants to engage in public consultation, ecological inventory and impact studies, traffic impact analysis, and the preparation of cost estimates for full implementation in later years.
Our river valley is a unique space within our city – the largest urban park space in North America – and a vibrant asset for residents to enjoy. However as Edmonton continues to grow outward, the need to ensure that the river valley is preserved for future generations has become even more pressing.
With the Ribbon of Green plan as its foundation, the city can move forward with a clear strategy for development that places the river, the valley, and the ravines at the centre of consideration, allowing Edmontonians to enjoy all that the river has to offer – its wildlife, natural landscapes, and recreational opportunities – for years to come.