Edmonton's new downtown park to honour nation's first Indigenous police officer

Edmonton's first new downtown park in three decades pays tribute to Alex Decoteau, a war hero, an Olympic athlete and Canada's first Indigenous police officer.

Alex Decoteau was First World War hero and represented Canada at 1912 Olympics

Alex Decoteau, shown in a photo from 1912, when he represented Canada at the Olympic Games in Sweden. (CBC)

The steel security fences will come down Saturday to reveal a new downtown park, built in honour of one of Edmonton's most extraordinary former residents.

It will be the first chance for people to walk inside Alex Decoteau Park at 105th Street and 102nd Avenue.

Killed in 1917 during the Second Battle of Passchendaele, Decoteau's legacy continues to inspire Canadians a century later.

He represented Canada at the 1912 Olympics as a long distance runner, and served in the First World War.
Alex Decoteau in his police uniform, 1911. (City of Edmonton Archives, EA-302-82)

But he is perhaps best known as the first Indigenous police officer in the country.

"He's a good shining example for our people in the aboriginal community," said Terry Lusty, a photojournalist who has covered Indigenous issues in Alberta for decades. "This is kind of fitting."

A memorial plaque in the park will celebrate Decoteau's long list of accomplishments, and commemorative art will recognize his numerous contributions.

First new downtown park in 30 years

Businesses in the area and people who live close by worked with the city on the design, to transform an old parking lot into a modern city park.

"It is creating some much-needed green space in the downtown core," said Martina Gardiner, the landscape architect. "I hope people find a little bit of peace and solitude in bustling downtown Edmonton."

The park includes a fountain, where kids can play in the water. There are custom-built benches, where Gardiner envisions people sitting down on their lunch breaks.

There is also a community garden with raised planters and a fenced, off-leash dog park.
The fences protecting the new turf at Alex Decoteau Park will be removed Saturday to allow people to go inside for the first time. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

"It actually has turf that is designed for dogs, so we're trying some new features within the park space that we haven't done in Edmonton anywhere else," Gardiner said.

He might have even walked by this site while he was patrolling downtown.- Ian O'Donnell

While there have been upgrades to other downtown parks in recent years, Alex Decoteau Park is the first new one to be built in the core for 30 years, according to the city.

"Not all of the apartments downtown would have balconies and opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors, and that's where urban parks really do come in," said Ian O'Donnell, executive director of the Downtown Business Association.

Decoteau worked in the same area as a police officer, so naming the park in his honour is a nice tribute, said O'Donnell.

"There is even a potential likelihood that he might have even walked by this site while he was patrolling downtown, and so just that thought is wonderful," said O'Donnell.

The park opens Saturday as the venue for the Downtown Edmonton Community League's annual corn fest.

The official grand opening and ceremony is set for Sept. 16.
The park has a community garden with raised planters and a fenced, off-leash dog area. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)