An area in southwest Edmonton is one step closer to becoming a provincial park.
The province has dedicated $300,000 in grants for the City of Edmonton and Enoch Cree Nation towards supporting an ecological assessment and traditional land use study to begin planning for Big Island Provincial Park.
“An urban provincial park allows us to protect the beautiful Big Island area while also making the land more accessible to residents and visitors alike — thereby providing a promising opportunity to protect and share the history of this region,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to working closely with the Enoch Cree Nation to further plan for this opportunity and appreciate the provincial government taking this important step in making this urban park a reality.”
The province said the studies will help determine recreation opportunities for the park, ensure Indigenous rights are respected and habitat and wildlife are protected.
“Nipiy Pimatsowin means ‘water is life.’ The Big Island project represents protection and stewardship of the water and life that land gives all peoples in the capital region,” Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin said. “This grant and partnership continues to drive reconcili-Action and help build bridges between other orders of government in the Treaty 6 Territory.”
The Big Island-Woodbend Natural area is a 68-hectare parcel of provincial Crown land along the North Saskatchewan River that sits within Edmonton city limits but also spreads into Enoch First Nation, Parkland and Leduc counties and the Town of Devon.
“We are pleased to partner with Enoch Cree Nation and the city to create an extraordinary park where Albertans can experience the joys of exploring the river valley for generations to come,” Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said.
“Our members see an opportunity to do ceremony, see an opportunity for employment when it comes to maybe some park rangers when it comes to taking care of the landing and they see opportunities when it comes to doing tourism initiatives with the city of Edmonton and business partners,” Morin said.
The chief said the process of Enoch and Edmonton partnering to develop the area into a provincial park began in 2017 when the two neighbouring communities signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
“We’re pretty thankful because of that MOU to be at the table with an ally like the city of Edmonton and we’re thankful that the provincial government has come to the table in a meaningful way in this commitment and they’ve backed that word up with the $300,000 grant,” Morin said.
Public consultations are expected to be held in 2022 and Alberta Environment and Parks expects the park will be operational by 2023.