by Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – On March 14, 2022 the Government of Canada announced that they were working with the city of Edmonton to make the River Valley a part of Parks Canada’s National Urban Parks Program.
The program, announced in August 2021, would allow the River Valley to be designated as national park.
The federal program was created for conservation, recreation, learning, and the mental and physical well-being of those living in urban centres. It is also a step towards Canada’s commitment to protect biodiversity and conserve 25 per cent of land and inland waters and 25 per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2025.
“More than a century ago, a system of national parks was envisioned, and today we are taking the next step with the creation of a national urban parks network,” said former minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson.
“Expanding nature access and protection in our urban spaces is also critical in the fight against biodiversity loss and climate change.”
He also noted that the “vast majority” of Canadians reside within urban areas, where access to nature and wildlife can be limited.
“The Government of Canada is proud to work with partners to create a network of national urban parks and ensure all Canadians have access to green spaces wherever they live, work and play.”
The federal government has invested $130 million into the creation of the program.
Furthermore, they have already signed statements of collaboration with the municipalities of municipalities of Winnipeg (MB) and Halifax (NS) and Windsor (ON).
Meanwhile, Edmonton believes that the River Valley National Urban park would promote better physical and mental well-being for Edmontonians, create jobs, strengthen the local economy, and compliment the city’s tourism.
They will also be working with Indigenous partners to showcase Indigenous stewardship, voices and stories, and offer opportunities for connections to the land and water.
Tony Alexis, Chief of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations Representative, said, “Indigenous Peoples have a deep connection to the land so I am grateful for this development.
“Having a National Urban Park in Treaty 6 Territory would not only provide space for connecting to the Land, but would also provide opportunities for healing and cultural celebration for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”
“This is a step in the right direction towards Reconciliation,” concluded Alexis.
The project is currently in a pre-feasibility phase, which includes gathering partners and stakeholders to ensure interest in the creation of the national park.
Mayor of Edmonton Amarjeet Sohi said, “Edmontonians are united by our love of nature and getting outside. Being close to natural spaces increases wellbeing and connection.
“We are so lucky to have an incredible amount of green space across our city including the largest continuous area of urban parkland in the country. I am looking forward to partnering with Parks Canada, the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, and the Métis Nation of Alberta to continue our long-standing stewardship of this land for all to enjoy.”