September 10, 2016 12:13 am

UNESCO-recognized area east of Edmonton opens ‘biodiversity trail’

A photo of the Beaver Hills area east of Edmonton.


The Beaver Hills Biodiversity Trail has officially opened east of Edmonton.

Located within a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-recognized 1,600 square kilometre stretch of boreal forest and wetlands, the trail was opened Friday by Strathcona County officials in partnership with the Beaver Hills Initiative.

The path is located on the east side of the Strathcona Wilderness Centre at Range Road 211 and Township Road 530 (baseline Road).

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“With over 30 organizations collaborating, we have been blazing new trails and have achieved prestigious global recognition from UNESCO of the Beaver Hills as a model of sustainable development and stewardship,” Strathcona County Mayor Roxanne Carr said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the Beaver Hills were one of two regions in Canada recognized by the United Nations agency for their effectiveness in simultaneously addressing both environmental and economic concerns.

READ MORE: United Nations recognizes area east of Edmonton for balancing environment, economy

Along with Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, the Alberta region was welcomed into UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves which consists of 669 areas around the world.

In addition to its boreal forest and wetlands, the Beaver Hills region includes a national park and two petrochemical complexes. The area is known for being a thriving habitat for elk, moose, deer, bison and many migratory and resident birds.

Work on the trail began in 2012 because of the efforts of The Beaver Hills Tourism Working group, which includes Parks Canada, Government of Alberta, University of Alberta and Strathcona County. The project received financial contributions from the Government of Alberta in the form of a nature-based tourism grant, as well as sponsorship money from Williams Energy and Enbridge.

The trail was built on land purchased by Strathcona County as part of the Legacy Land Program.

“All these contributions have made this interactive experience possible,” Carr said. “This trail is designed to inspire, with features to educate and experience biodiversity, culture, the story of the land and the vision of the biosphere.”

Beaver Hills is just a 20-minute drive east of Edmonton.

-with files from The Canadian Press.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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