Edmonton group fears loss of Gold Bar Park land for parking lot

Some Edmonton residents fear a portion of park land near the river valley will be paved to make way for a parking lot.

The proposed lot would be in an area that is now a green space that contains several mature trees

Epcor proposed that a new parking for the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant be built outside of the fence line. (Epcor)

Some Edmonton residents fear a portion of park land near the river valley will be paved to make way for a parking lot.

Earlier this year, Epcor proposed the development of a new parking lot, elevated walkway and operations centre for its Gold Bar wastewater treatment plant in Gold Bar Park.

The utilities company plans to submit a rezoning application for the park land to the city within the next two months.

But members of the Save Gold Bar Park Alliance want that application to be rejected.

The group is hosting an information session at the Capilano community league hall on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. so people can share their thoughts on the project.

Members of Save Gold Bar Park Alliance don't want park land to be paved to make way for a parking lot. (Save Gold Bar Park Alliance)

Jim Rickett is a member of the group of volunteers who have been door-knocking in the area surrounding the treatment facility to get feedback from park users.

"There was a general lack of understanding of what Epcor was proposing and the impact to Gold Bar Park," Rickett said. "And the second thing we heard from people is that there was a lot of concerns about what Epcor was proposing."

The loss of those trees and that green space would really provide a lesser park experience for the people who use the park.- Jim Rickett, Save Gold Bar Park Alliance

He said people are worried about the proposed rezoning of the area from a metropolitan recreation zone to a public utility zone, which would lead to the loss of park land.

The parking lot would sit south of the treatment facility's fence line, in an area Rickett described as a large green space that contains several mature trees.

"The loss of those trees and that green space would really provide a lesser park experience for the people who use the park," he said, noting it's used by cross-country skiers, cyclists and runners.

"And [the green space] provides a really good barrier between the important things that Epcor does at the wastewater treatment plant and the people who are using Gold Bar Park."

Rickett said he wants Epcor to find an alternative solution to its need for new parking.

Proposal made due to plant expansion

Plant director Simon Thomas said a new parking lot is a necessity for the facility.

For the past 60 years, the plant has been growing within its boundaries, but "we've reached the point that we now need to expand beyond our current fence line," Thomas said.

The plant is growing and is continuously adding more staff and treating more wastewater, he added.

If the project is approved, staff will no longer park on site and will instead park in the new lot, which will have 170 to 220 stalls. Some of the trees in the area will have to be removed to make way for those stalls.

"But we do plan to plant quite a few trees along Gold Bar Park Road where there currently [aren't] any to shield the view as people drive to the Gold Bar Park," Thomas said, adding there will also be trees between the parking lot and a nearby multi-use trail.

If approved, the new parking lot will have between 170 and 220 stalls. Those stalls will be available to the public after business hours. (EPCOR)

The parking zone would likely have other green features, Thomas said, like permeable pavement that retains water.

He also noted that Epcor had to do an environmental impact assessment as part of its application for rezoning.

"That looked at both vegetation and wildlife issues, and it didn't identify any key concerns from that respect," he said.

Open to public

The new parking lot would be open to the public after business hours and on weekends, Thomas said. He noted that people sometimes park on nearby streets when current parking lots in the area fill up.

But Rickett said more public parking isn't necessary because the existing lot in Gold Bar Park is rarely full.

"That parking lot is rarely ever at capacity and in fact, it sits virtually empty — especially during the days of Monday to Friday between the hours of 8 and 5," Rickett said.

Jim Rickett says the existing parking lot in Gold Bar Park is usually occupied by only a few cars. (Save Gold Bar Park Alliance)

If approved by the city, construction would begin in spring 2019.