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City wants public input on beach proposed for downtown Edmonton

EDMONTON – In the shadow of downtown high-rises, the grass in Louise McKinney park could soon transform into an urban oasis – complete with about 600 square metres of sand, beach chairs, umbrellas, and maybe even a spray or misting area to cool off.

That’s the plan that the city is currently considering, but first, officials want your input.

“We’re gauging how Edmontonians feel and what they want to see as part of that urban beach,” explains Corey Toews with the City of Edmonton. “There has been a lot of interest. This is a new type of amenity that Edmontonians haven’t seen in their river valley. So there’s been a lot of curiosity.”

Patricia and John Bancarz often walk through the park, but don’t see many people sticking around.

“I think this park is so underutilized,” says Patricia, “that they should be looking at ideas.”

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She adds that she could see herself and her husband spending time at the urban beach if it were built. And they’re not the only ones.

While it’s not a top priority on his list, John Proctor also says he would probably use the beach if it were there, and “watch the river go by.”

But he points out: “the days that you could come out here and actually enjoy yourself are probably really limited.”

And there’s also the issue of what it would cost. That has yet to be determined.

There are other criticisms of the plan: that it’s too small, too far from major residential areas, and the beach isn’t actually on the water. Some on council doubt the final proposal can deal with many of those problems.

“Certainly, some development there would be appreciated. But I don’t think this is the venue for it,” says Councillor Tony Caterina.

Others like Councillor Ben Henderson are more supportive of the idea.

“It’s one of those ideas that may sound a little outlandish, but it’s been a huge success elsewhere. And I don’t think it’d be all that expensive to do.”

Henderson thinks it could attract people to a downtown version of a tropical paradise, at least when it isn’t covered in snow.

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Consultation on the beach plan continues through July. A final report will go to council in September.

In the meantime, Edmontonians are encouraged to give their feedback at one of the drop-in sessions being held throughout the summer and to fill out an online questionnaire.

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News