Green space lost to flood mitigation must be replaced, councillor says

The city of Edmonton needs to develop an overall plan on green space in neighbourhoods since Mill Woods is losing three sports fields to help deal with flooding, says Coun. Mike Nickel.

Two baseball diamonds and one soccer field will be converted to dry ponds in Mill Woods

Water flooded many neighbourhoods in Mill Woods in southeast Edmonton in July 2012 after 70 millimetres of rain fell in less than one hour. (Courtesy of Chris Premji)

Edmonton needs to develop an overall plan to protect green space in neighbourhoods that are losing sports fields to flood-mitigation infrastructure, says Coun. Mike Nickel.

A $107-million project funded by the city, the province and the federal government will help neighbourhood flooding in Mill Woods. The project is designed to improve the area's capacity to deal with rain by providing overland storage of stormwater and increased capacity in the storm-sewer system.

As part of the project, Mill Woods will lose three sports fields. Nickel, who represents Ward 11 in the city's southeast, wants them replaced.

"Behind Edith Rogers [school] I'm losing a soccer field and a baseball diamond. It can go up into Michaels Park but guess what's on Michaels Park? It's a surplus school site. So those policies might be in contradiction," Nickel said Monday.

He plans to introduce a motion at Tuesday's council meeting asking that city departments work together to make sure communities that lose sports fields due to flood mitigation find green space elsewhere.

"This is not just going to be a Ward 11 problem, this is going to be a city problem, and this conflict is going to grow and grow," Nickel said.

Departments need to work together

The drainage department is in charge of the program dealing with flooding where sports fields are being dug up, and turned into dry ponds.

The urban planning and design department is in charge of developing surplus school sites.

The parks department is behind a strategy entitled "Breathe," making sure that as Edmonton grows, each new neighbourhood has a certain amount of green space.

"These three things need to be aligned," said Nickel.

While "Breathe" is about setting standards, a dry pond could be seen as more important and then a community would lose a sports field, he said.

Priorities have to be set so communities know they won't be missing out and losing sports fields for good, he added.

People living in Ward 11 have contacted Nickel's office asking what will replace fields at Tawa Park and near Malcolm Tweddle and Edith Rogers schools that are being dug up for use as dry ponds.

"They don't want to have to drive across two or three neighbourhoods to find another soccer field," Nickel said. "It kind of goes against the idea that we want to keep it local."