Muttart Conservatory to close until 2021 as city plans Gallagher Park future

The Muttart Conservatory is expected to close in July for 18 months for renovations to its aging infrastructure.

City launches public consultation on 20-year plan for home of Edmonton Folk Festival

The Muttart Conservatory is expected to close in July for renovations. The city plans to reopen the space in early 2021. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

The Muttart Conservatory will close in July for upgrades to its aging infrastructure and is not expected to reopen until early 2021.

The City of Edmonton flagged the conservatory as a priority for fixes and upgrades in 2017. City officials have said the renovations will address 30-year-old mechanical and electrical systems that are in dire need of replacement.

The Culina restaurant and the horticultural pyramids will be closed during the 18-month rehabilitation project, according to the city's website.

"It's been really good for me this winter to keep me sane, to go walk through the green every now and then," said Michael Lowings, who lives in the surrounding Cloverdale neighbourhood.

"We'll have to tough it out," he said.

The conservatory has brought Edmontonians to Gallagher Park for the past 42 years. But on Wednesday, the city asked residents to look 20 years ahead as it launched a public consultation on the future of the park.

City looks 20 years into Gallagher Park's future

Lowings says the future has been on his mind as he steps into fatherhood. He hopes his six-month-old daughter will be able to explore the forested area in the northeast of the park for her entire childhood.

"Honestly, I want a place for my kid to run around with bike trails and forest trails," he said. "I'm excited to watch her grow up with such an amazing resource just across the street from us."

Anastasia Kulpa lays a kiss on husband Michael Lowings at an information session on the future of Gallagher Park. The new parents said they want the park to keep its unstructured green space for their six-month old daughter to explore for years to come. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

The 20-year vision is being developed in collaboration with longtime park stakeholders, including Edmonton Folk Festival, the Cloverdale Community League and the Edmonton Ski Club.

"They are actively right on the project team with us, working to develop the plan, said Ainsley Brown, a project supervisor with the city.

New ideas 

Susan Yackulic was among the dozens of people filing through the Cloverdale Community League Hall on Wednesday offering the city suggestions for the 20-year plan.

Yackulic, a former president of the community league, wants to see the city add more meeting places to the park.

"We have a very small community league hall here and other places in Edmonton have newer facilities that actually have year-round spaces where people can actually meet, so that would be nice to have," she said.

Yackulic said the city "needs to make sure" they have proper infrastructure, including public washrooms, to support more people coming through the park with the LRT and improvements to the ski club.

The Edmonton Nordic Ski Club has been running programs for kids and held races in the park in winters past. The club's president, Chris Hanstock, said the future plans should include adding trails and ski events in the park.

"Many of us in the cross country ski community see this as a golden opportunity for the city," he said. "It really has perfect terrain for events that potentially could be at the international level."

The Edmonton Ski Club has called the park home since 1911. The club closed this winter for upgrades to its facilities and ski lifts after the city and provincial government offered financial help, said board member Lisa Stanowich.

Susan Yackulic, past president of the Cloverdale community league, said she wants the city plans to include more meeting spaces and public washrooms in the park. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

The club developed a master plan in 2015 with the support of the community league that called for a lodge with a restaurant and cafe, a terrain park for mountain bikers and improved grounds for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

"I think what's been important to the Edmonton Ski Club is that we do it in partnership with the other stakeholders," she said.

When complete, the Valley Line Southeast LRT will stop at the footsteps of the park. The 13-kilometre line from Mill Woods to downtown is slated to open by the end of 2020.

"That will bring more users to the park, which is a really exciting opportunity," Brown said.

The LRT construction is expected to coincide with the upgrades at the Muttart Conservatory.