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Edmonton river valley renewal project raises questions about Fox Drive stairs accessibility

River valley renewal project in Edmonton raises questions about accessibility
WATCH ABOVE: The river valley stairs off Fox Drive will soon be replaced. Vinesh Pratap explains why some area residents call are calling the renewal project a step in the wrong direction.

Some users of a popular river valley staircase in Edmonton see an upcoming renewal project as a step in the wrong direction.

“They say that they talk to us, but they don’t listen to us,” said Arlene McDougall, an active user of the Grandview Heights Stairs located off Fox Drive in southwest Edmonton.

The stairs are slated for renewal.

The changes include making each stair — known as the tread — wider, and increasing the height — or the rise — between each stair from five inches to seven inches.

“With the higher rise and the longer tread, I won’t be able to do these stairs,” McDougall explained.

“I can’t really figure out who these stairs are being built for.”

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For fitness instructor Susan Agrios, the worry is the changes will actually reduce accessibility, specifically for those with mobility challenges.

“What that actually means for an individual that has knee problems or any joint problems [or] hip problems, is that it’s going to make them more difficult,” Agrios said Thursday morning, speaking at the staircase.

READ MORE: 50-km Mountain Man race winds through Edmonton river valley

The city held several public engagement sessions before selecting the final design for what is commonly known as the Fox Drive stairs.

Global News has been told what’s planned meets current safety and accessibility standards, with the seven-inch rise described as being common for public stairs.

The area’s councillor indicates he will review the changes.

“If it’s not necessary really, that we change the staircase, then I don’t think we should,” said Michael Walters. “But there’s a whole bunch of more information I have to gather yet.

“I’m hoping that they will listen.”

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Both Agrios and McDougall hope the plans can change.

“The more people that speak out, the better chance we have,” McDougall said.

The city will continue to take in feedback until the end of the month.

Construction of the new stairs is slated for next year.

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