Prolonged concerns with Hawrelak Park prompt Heritage Festival to search for new home

Click to play video: 'Festivals have questions about changes coming to Hawrelak Park'
Festivals have questions about changes coming to Hawrelak Park
WATCH ABOVE: Upcoming changes to Hawrelak Park in Edmonton mean one of the city's most prominent festivals could be forced to find a new home. Vinesh Pratap has more – May 31, 2019

The Heritage Festival is convinced it will have to leave Hawrelak Park. The crux of the problem is an ever-shrinking amount of space that is addressed in a city council report that will be debated next Tuesday.

The proposed construction of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues’ 100th Anniversary Project has convinced several festivals there won’t be enough room at Hawrelak Park to handle everything during the make over.

READ MORE: Potential years-long closure of Hawrelak Park and new plaza concern Edmonton festivals

During meetings in April, several festivals met with city reps, however, they could not reach a consensus on how to handle the conflict.

“We all got together as a large user group and I’m not sure much was achieved,” said Jim Gibbon, the executive director of the Heritage Festival in a phone interview from Vietnam.

Story continues below advertisement

Gibbon said the board of the Edmonton Heritage Festival Association has been dealing with the new park feature quietly and behind the scenes for approximately four years now, adding he’s not surprised there is no consensus amongst the primary users.

READ MORE: Community league plaza could be impeded by Hawrelak Park rehabilitation: ‘It is a fear’

The big worry about the Heritage Festival is “safety of passage” through the site. Gibbon said they need enough room for emergency vehicles to be able to get through the crowds, and things will only get worse if they’re forced to set up right next to the Heritage Amphitheatre.

Search for a new home has been going on for a year, Gibbon said.

“That’s a given regardless. With the city shutting the park down for the estimated three to nine years, and it’s climbing right now (the time frame) I think us being forced out is a given.”

“They actually built the building around the walkway and as it stands right now, that’s not wide enough for safe passage in two directions and it’s not wide enough for emergency vehicles,” he said, explaining that they don’t need an ambulance to transport someone who may suffer from the heat or some other ailment, but will use a golf-cart sized vehicle to get through the crowds.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Community league plaza could be impeded by Hawrelak Park rehabilitation: ‘It is a fear’

Gibbon, as a member of the Edmonton Festival Consortium, said the other concern is how construction noise and other factors would impact “Edmonton’s musical and spoken word events.”

Asked if the Heritage Festival is zeroing in on a new location, he replied, “not really.” However, he’s confident they’ll be able to work with the city to find one.

The proposed EFCL 100th anniversary project calls for an outdoor plaza adjacent to the Heritage Amphitheatre beside the lake, new streams being carved into the park and trails with destination points, according to the City Hall report.

The report goes on to say the concerns of the festivals not only take in the lack of space cited in meetings with the city and the disruption the construction will bring, but also how the festivals will need a larger roster of volunteers to handle security around the plaza.

City council approved $600,000 in funding for the project as part of the 2015-2018 capital budget. The EFCL has requested an additional $750,000 to complete the project. Council will consider that later this spring.

Sponsored content