City wants to move quickly with Touch the Water project along river

A proposed promenade along the North Saskatchewan River near the old Rossdale power plant could include large stairs leading to a path along the riverside, with seating and a viewing deck.

Two visions for project presented to urban planning committee Tuesday

City administrators proposed two visions for the Touch the Water Promenade. (City of Edmonton)

A proposed promenade along the North Saskatchewan River near the old Rossdale power plant could include large stairs leading to a path along the riverside, with seating and a viewing deck.

Two visions for the Touch the Water Promenade were presented Tuesday to city council's urban planning committee.

Mayor Don Iveson said the project could be an answer for the Edmontonians who want the accidental beach that formed along the river's south bank last summer to become a permanent attraction. 

"This might be a more sustainable, safe, and more effectively programmable kind of opportunity to do that," Iveson said.

Committee members asked administrators to prepare a new funding request for the project, so that it can be considered in the next funding cycle, that runs from 2019 to 2022.

New vision, old project

The Touch the Water promenade was proposed six years ago, as a way to transform lands near the decommissioned Epcor power plant in the Rossdale neighbourhood.

The project ran into many delays, some linked to the construction of the nearby Walterdale Bridge. It was shelved by city council last August. 

In the report presented Tuesday, one vision for the proposed promenade includes a more natural landscape, with a path built higher up on the river's bank.

The second design would allow the public to access the water's edge by building infrastructure, such as stepping stones, directly on the riverbank.

Iveson said public input is important because the river valley is an important fixture in the city. 

"There's a spectrum of possibilities, from leave it as it is, to harden the bank all the way up and down," said Iveson. "I suspect that where we might land is somewhere in between."

A plan for the fall

The urban planning committee voted in favour of a preparing a new planning and design funding request for the fall. The request would be up for debate, and could be included in the next capital budget.

Public consultations will be held while the funding request is being prepared, in an effort to speed up the process. 

Coun. Ben Henderson said he is concerned that more delays will turn people off the project.

"I worry a little bit that if we don't get on with something, people are going to stop coming to the table on this," Henderson said during the meeting.

The cost of the project is not known, as it would be dependent on the vision chosen by the public. The original budget for the Touch the Water Promenade was $10.5 million.

About the Author

Josee St-Onge

Journalist

Josee St-Onge is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has also reported in French for Radio-Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Reach her at josee.st-onge@cbc.ca