Northwest Edmonton's Blatchford lake project losing wave of support

Support is sinking for a recreational lake in the new Blatchford neighbourhood development, but the idea isn't dead yet.

Administration warns lake would be expensive and contrary to neighbourhood's vision

The original plan for Blatchford includes two storm water ponds and a recreational lake. (City of Edmonton )

Support is sinking for a recreational lake in the new Blatchford neighbourhood development, but the idea isn't dead yet.

City staff advised council the lake would be expensive and out of line with the vision for the area.

The plan for Blatchford, which will be developed on the old city centre airport lands, included two storm-water ponds, and council was considering adding a recreational lake.

While the stormwater ponds will remain, staff said the lake would attract more vehicle traffic to the area, according to city administration.

"This would tend to be seen as an auto-oriented facility," said Mark Hall, executive director of the redevelopment project.

After studying the idea, staff released a report that said the extra traffic in Blatchford would be out of step with the transit and pedestrian orientation designed for the area. They said it would also have a negative impact on the environmentally friendly image of the neighbourhood.

Coun. Bev Esslinger said that's not a good enough reason to pull the plug on the idea.

"I think it's important that we do have outdoor aquatic strategies . . . a place for people to enjoy the water," she said.

She said she wants people to come to the area, but hopes they will be encouraged to travel by LRT.

Council decided to take city staff's advice into consideration. They have lots of time to decide if they should go ahead with the lake proposal. If approved in its current location, construction would not begin until some time between 2030 and 2040.

The lake will also carry a high price tag of $7.6 million. That estimate doesn't take into account support and service buildings or parking.

City administration found another location that would allow construction to start faster, but it would likely cost an additional $10.2 million to buy the land and make technical revisions to the plan.

If dropped from the plans, the lake would be the latest idea to be cut from the city's vision of Blatchford.

Last year, council agreed to move ahead without a proposed $91-million pneumatic garbage-chute system, a biomass-burning plant and a $25-million plan to process sanitary waste on site.

Esslinger said she doesn't want to chip away at the plan much further. 

"We have to honour what we said we'd do. We are committed to maintain a green sustainable community."

The city has already broken ground for the utility work at Blatchford. The first residents are expected to move in by 2017.