Edmonton residents win dispute with city over improvements to green space

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton to backtrack on demand to remove west end neighbourhood improvements'
City of Edmonton to backtrack on demand to remove west end neighbourhood improvements
After a west Edmonton family was threatened with fines for beautifying the green space behind their home in the Lewis Estates area, their neighbours rallied around them, and got the attention of their councillor. As Sarah Ryan explains, Andrew Knack says the city is no longer asking for everything to be removed – Jun 15, 2021

Nine years ago, Kendelle Lesiuk’s parents started trying to beautify the park and pond located behind their home in west Edmonton at a dead-end road.

“My dad mows the lawn around here. We put out all the flowers, birdfeeders and stuff,” Lesiuk said.

During the pandemic, they added even more to the green space in the Lewis Estates area.

“It kind of became more of a COVID project, bringing more joy and happiness in this time that seems to be so dark.”

She says other neighbours added their own personal touches too, like wooden seats and painted rocks.

Vinod Lohtia lives a few blocks away, in Potter Greens, but walks around the park regularly.

“In summertime they enhance the park so beautifully with the planters, benches, and they keep trimming the bushes so you can see clearly to the lake,” he said.

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He said one of his favourite additions over the holiday season was a motion-detecting Christmas tree that wished everyone Merry Christmas as they went past.

READ MORE: Edmonton releases 2021 plans for parks, playgrounds, grass maintenance

But recently, a complaint came in to the city and a bylaw officer was sent out to the Lesiuks.

They say the officer gave them one week to remove everything, saying it was in violation of parks bylaws. Lesiuk says she was told if everything wasn’t gone by Friday, the city would dispose of it and fine the family thousands of dollars.

“My parents spend hours, especially my dad, out here taking care of the space and trying to make it as nice for everyone as possible. Definitely didn’t like someone coming to our door telling us someone complained about it,” she explained.

Word got out to the neighbours and Lohtia was shocked.

He and many others brought their concerns to the area’s councillor, Andrew Knack.

“While I appreciate one person did raise this as a complaint, I received so many calls and emails in just a very short amount of time from everyone saying, ‘This adds so much value to our area. Please let it stay,'” Knack explained.

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He said he appreciates the beautifications, having walked around the park himself.

Read more: River valley trees illegally cut down in west Edmonton

But he noted the parks bylaws do serve an important purpose.

“We don’t want people across the city going into our parks and our river valley and starting to plant trees at random, or build improvements that could create environmental issues, that could create safety issues.”

In this case though, he says inspections did not reveal any negative impacts. After speaking to bylaw, Knack says the city is changing course.

“We’re not going to go in and require this to be removed, what we’re going to do is work with the community and go through the formal process for those improvements.”

Mark Pavelich, a Lewis Estates resident, and another fan of the improved greenspace, also shared concerns with Knack. He thinks the outcome is a positive one.

“I think it’s a win for my neighbours and I think they’re going to celebrate today,” Pavelich said.

“It is democracy in action. It’s great that it wasn’t a big process to fix or anything like that, because I think sometimes common sense needs to take precedence.”

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Click to play video: 'South Edmonton residents disappointed with new multi-use path in green space'
South Edmonton residents disappointed with new multi-use path in green space

Knack said he encourages others thinking of adding to their local green space to reach out to the city first, but acknowledged residents are usually just trying to help.

“Almost all of these are done with everyone’s best intentions. We don’t want to discourage people from doing things like that.”

As of Tuesday night, the Lesiuk family still hasn’t been notified of the changes by bylaw, but says they appreciate the support of the community.

“As much as it kind of sucked having to deal with this, we understand there’s laws, there’s laws for a reason and we’re just glad this was able to work out in everyone’s favour,” Lesiuk said.

Global News reached out to the City of Edmonton and requested an interview and information from bylaw, but did not receive a response before deadline.


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