West-end residents asked for design feedback as Lewis Farms goes unfunded

Residents in Edmonton’s west end are invited to give feedback on the final design for the Lewis Farms recreation centre and park, even though money to actually build the facility is up in the air.

Lewis Farms recreation centre and park is not earmarked in upcoming capital budget

A rendering by the City of Edmonton shows the envisioned recreation centre and park in Lewis Farms.

Residents of Edmonton's west end are invited to tell the city what they think of the final design for the Lewis Farms facility and park, even though money to actually build the facility is up in the air.

The city is holding an open house at the Conference Centre of the West Edmonton Christian Assembly on Tuesday between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Councillor Andrew Knack said the design has been paid for and the feedback session is an opportunity for residents to reiterate the need for the recreation facility.

"I imagine what it will do is it will continue to motivate people in the west end to say 'wow, this is absolutely something we need'," Knack said.

Money to build the facility is up to Edmonton city council, either during upcoming budget discussions at the end of November and beginning of December or in the future.

In 2014, council approved a funding request in the 2015-2018 capital budget for the schematic design.

This time, Lewis Farms is among nine projects on the list to be potentially funded through debt. If council chooses to fund it, that will likely add another 1 per cent tax rate on the proposed 3.3 per cent property tax increase for 2019. 

Other high-profile projects on the list to be funded under debt include upgrades to Terwillegar Drive and upgrades to Stadium LRT Station.

Lewis Farms recreation centre and library is estimated to cost $230 million.

Mayor Don iveson has suggested changing the way Edmonton pays for recreation and fire stations, by putting the onus on the community itself. 

But Knack doesn't think the alternative funding method would pertain to a neighbourhood like Lewis Estates.

"There have been people living in that community for almost 30 years now," Knack pointed out. 
Coun. Andrew Knack hopes west-end residents continue fighting for a long-awaited recreation facility in Lewis Farms. (CBC)

"To ask the residents outside the Henday to pay an additional levy for that infrastructure seems like a really odd process when they have been paying so much of their taxes, in some cases decades, to all of this other infrastructure."

Knack said a report released last month showed the city isn't fulfilling its commitment to provide recreation opportunities and literacy programs outside the Anthony Henday.

"Today the one that we're talking about is Lewis Farms rec centre," he said. "But if we don't continue with that work, well then every other community outside the Henday that currently has a lack of that amenity and that recreation space, we're that much farther behind."

As the population continues to grow, so will demand for recreation facilities.

Council starts debating the capital and operating budgets on Nov. 28 and is expected to approve both documents by Dec. 14.