Edmonton

Bridge-top park proponents rally supporters with High Level Line Day

Saturday was officially proclaimed High Level Line day in Edmonton, two years after a group of volunteer architects and designers laid out plans for a linear park that would connect downtown and Whyte Avenue.

Project goal is to transform upper deck of High Level bridge into urban park

Saturday was officially proclaimed High Level Line Day in Edmonton at Constable Ezio Faraone Park. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Two years after a group of volunteer architects and designers laid out plans for a linear park connecting downtown and Whyte Avenue, Saturday was proclaimed High Level Line Day in Edmonton.

The High Level Line Society wants to turn the city's streetcar corridor into a continuous four-kilometre park with paths, gardens and an expanded tram line. The upper deck of the High Level Bridge would serve as the backbone for the massive park, stretching from Whyte Avenue to MacEwan University.

The non-profit society organized High Level Line Day on Saturday, with vendors lining existing paths and parks along the planned route.

"The line is already here. It does exist. It's disconnected in some places and sometimes underwhelming, but it is there," vice-chair Gillian Thomson said.

"It just needs a little more life."

Councillors Scott McKeen and Ben Henderson proclaimed Saturday High Level Line Day at Constable Ezio Faraone Park.

The view from the top of the High Level Bridge if the proposed High Level Line project were to become a reality. (High Level Line Society)

The Old Strathcona Farmers' Market had a pop-up tent in Railtown Park on the north side of the river and extended hours at its usual location on the south side, near opposite ends of the High Level Bridge.

The society has been working alongside city staff on a report expected to go before council in late October. The report will not include specific costs or designs for a park, Thomson said, but will provide the groundwork for how the society and city can work together going forward.

"It's the first step that could help this turn into a real thing," she said.

The High Level Line plans are expected to act as a blueprint for future parks and paths along the corridor, rather than a sweeping mega project, Thomson said.

"It's a big vision, but really, it's going to come to life piecemeal," she said.

A bird's-eye-view looking north over expanded Ezio Faraone Park. (High Level Line Society)

The piecemeal approach is already taking shape in parts of Old Strathcona. Coun. Henderson said construction on a shared-use path alongside the existing streetcar line will be finished by late 2020.

"It's not that there hasn't been a desire to do those bits in the past," he said. "But I think their imagination and their willingness to come to the table just was really helpful in helping everybody understand that it was more than just putting in a little multi-use trail on a bit of railway bed."

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