August 18, 2016 8:50 pm
Updated: August 19, 2016 1:14 am

Edmonton mayor pitches idea for Vancouver seawall-type promenade along North Saskatchewan River

WATCH ABOVE: It's an idea meant to make the Edmonton River Valley even more pedestrian friendly. It mirrors a popular spot in Vancouver. Shallima Maharaj takes a closer look at the proposal.

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If you’ve ever been to Vancouver, you’ve likely taken a walk along the seawall in the city’s popular Stanley Park. Now, Edmonton’s mayor is pitching a similar feature along the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River.

Mayor Don Iveson has suggested an idea for a promenade between the Walterdale Bridge and Government House Park. He said he’s often on River Valley Road and notices congestion between joggers, walkers and cyclists.

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“I hear all the time from people who are in conflict there,” Iveson told 630 CHED Wednesday. “Not able to run or bike, and from a fitness point of view, at the pace that they’d like to quite frankly. So Vancouver Seawall and many others like it create those dedicated spaces and then have where there’s a little bit of a promontory or something, there’s also a little parklet space, plaza space, steps down to the water.

“Congestion is becoming an issue so I think this would be a creative way to open up the river valley to some more users. Maybe to the point where we could sustain some washrooms there, a little bit of a seasonal coffee shop, that sort of thing so people could gather there.”

READ MORE: Construction begins on outdoor elevator to Edmonton’s River Valley

City councillor Scott McKeen is on board with the idea and believes the river has huge potential.

“We have a tremendous river valley, it gets really well used, but the river itself – there’s long been a bias. We drive over it, we run beside it, bike beside it, but we don’t engage with the river much,” he said.

“You can imagine if you could just stroll for miles along the river on a seawall. So when the mayor brought it up I was quite excited.”

However, McKeen said it’s important the project is done properly if it goes ahead, and that means consulting with the public.

“This is a precious, precious thing we have, this river valley. So you don’t want to over-asphalt it, over-commercialize it, over-develop it.”

It’s the over development that worries Carl Harvey. The runner said he would be against any project that damages the natural environment.

“I don’t even like the little elevator they’re putting in. Those stairs were awesome. I’m very much against developing anything at all in the river valley, to be honest,” Harvey said.

“I would love just for it to stay as natural as humanly possible because it’s that gem that Edmonton has that no one else does.”

Michelle Storey, who was out for a run in the river valley Thursday evening, agrees.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing some more running trails and whatnot, but definitely keep it all natural down here,” she said. “I don’t think we need to change anything. I think it’s great the way it is.”

The River Valley Alliance, which represents seven municipalities that border the North Saskatchewan River in the Capital Region, was at the urban planning committee meeting Wednesday.

The RVA’s executive director said he’s heard from many people in the Capital Region who would like to see increased accessibility to the river valley.

“What we’re seeing is the popularity of the river valley park system and particularly the trail system is increasing as we go on,” Larry Wall said.

“The popularity is becoming so great that they wish to see further investment. I think this is a great example of the type of ownership that we’re feeling from the mayor and from the citizens to say, ‘this is important to us. We want to continue to see the investment. We want to see this become a world class park.'”

Wall likes the idea of a river wall and believes it’s very feasible.

“You’re seeing feasibility right here,” he said as he pointed to the riverfront promenade in Louise McKinney Park from the water’s edge.

“This park right here is an example. Louise McKinney Park took many years of planning to come to fruition. The River Valley Alliance was part of just one part of this promenade, co-funding it with the City of Edmonton. So I think, ‘how feasible is it?’ It’s absolutely feasible.”

READ MORE: Extensive trail closures impact Edmonton runners, cyclists

The idea is in its very early stages. City administration has been asked to explore Iveson’s idea and come back with a closer look at the project and what it might cost. Administration is expected to have a report ready later this year.

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