The city is asking Edmontonians what developments – if any – they’d like to see in the river valley over the next decade.
The River Access Strategy is a 10-year project looking into what infrastructure and amenities could be added along the North Saskatchewan River to encourage people to visit.
After gathering input from residents, river-users, community organization and stakeholders, the group is hoping to define areas that could use some work, as well as create regulations for any future building or development in the green area.
According to the city, the hope is to balance protecting the river valley as a green space while at the same time making the river and its shore more accessible to the public – a goal shared by at least two river valley fans.
Listen to Mark Connolly's entire interview about the future of the river valley
Jason Hayes owns Canoeheads, a canoe rental and shuttle company that operates along the North Saskatchewan.
Right now, the city has only two canoe launches located at Laurier Park and Goldbar Park, he said.
“The real problem over the years has been a reluctance to open up some of the spaces where people have historically accessed the river,” Hayes told CBC’s Mark Connolly Friday morning, listing Louise McKinney, Terwillegar and Whitemud parks as ideal spots.
“They’re all great access places to the river but you can’t drive anywhere near them.”
Hayes says he’d like to see the city add more canoer-friendly boat launches and river access points, supported by nearby parking so people don’t have to carry their boats huge distances just to get to the water.
“I don’t know that we should necessarily open it up for power boat launching, but let people drive up to the river, launch their canoes.”
Where should updates be made?
While the idea of more developments along the river will likely make some nervous, one river preservation advocate supports improving accessibility, and maybe even adding some restaurants or amenities – as long as the work is done in areas that have already been disturbed.
“I think we can mitigate the risks of environmental damage by improving the [existing] infrastructure,” said Glen Isaac, the executive director of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.
Isaac said he’s in favour of areas like the Rossdale power plant and Louise McKinney park getting a restaurant, market, or boat launch – anything that would serve as a draw for Edmontonians.
“If people are connecting to the river, people will want to be protecting the river,” he said.
But first, Isaac said he hopes the strategy group will look into current river usership and find out what the public wants to be able to do in their river valley.
He also wants the city to look at how other river cities have developed their own shorelines.
Edmonton’s river valley is one of the largest metropolitan green spaces in North America.
The city has posted an online survey about the future of the river valley on its website. It will remain open until May 31, 2014.
Strategy team members will also be at the downtown market on May 31 to speak with Edmontonians in person.