From Mayor Sohi’s Desk: How to create Edmonton’s first National Urban Park

From Mayor Sohi’s Desk: How to create Edmonton’s first National Urban Park

What is a National Urban Park and how will it make Edmonton even more awesome? And no, you will never need to pay to access it.

Take one part urban greenspace, one part federal funding, and a big helping of Indigenous collaboration and what do you get?

In March, I joined Minister Randy Boissanault, Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, President Audrey Poitras of the Metis Nation and Parks Canada for an announcement that I have been anticipating for a long time. We know that preserving our green spaces is an essential part of committing to sustainability, reconciliation, economic development, and city vibrancy. I am so happy that we are taking the first steps towards establishing a National Urban Park in our city, and know the impact this will have on the wellbeing of all Edmontonians.

National Urban Park funding would allow us to upgrade seating, pathways, and public facilities.

Many of you have reached out to me with questions like What is a National Urban Park? How is it different than a National Park? and What does this mean for Edmonton? So let me provide some clarity here as we explore this concept together.

A National Urban Park in Edmonton would mean that we call the shots and the space would always remain free and accessible to all visitors. This would allow Edmonton to access federal funds to improve and upgrade the designated green space. We could tackle erosion in the river valley, upgrade public facilities and even create educational programs with the dollars.

I understand that there has been some confusion which has led folks to feel concerned that this designation would mean we give up our green spaces to the Federal Government. I can promise that is not the case. We are grateful that the Federal Government is supportive of this project and will provide support, but this space will remain unapologetically Edmontonian, like me!

The most important aspect of this initiative is how we engage and collaborate with Indigenous communities and leaders in the spirit of reconciliation. During the announcement, Chief Tony Alexis 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.”

Our goal is to honour the traditional keepers of this land, and to acknowledge our roles as Treaty people along the way. Respecting, preserving and celebrating the Earth is an act of kinship, and we will work with culturally-experienced climate change experts to ensure that this space is available for generations to come. That is also why a specific space has not been announced yet. We are working collaboratively with Indigenous partners to identify what the National Urban Park will include. That decision-making process brings Indigenous voices to the table on day one rather than having the government make all the decisions and only involve Indigenous folks at the very end. We will all be equal partners in this new project.

The conversations around establishing a National Urban Park in Edmonton have been happening for years, and I am so pleased that this is coming to fruition now, with Edmonton City Council forging the way forward. We must protect our green spaces, we must make them accessible and inclusive, and we must address climate change while forgoing this project.

Together, we will build an Edmonton for us all, and it starts right here, on Treaty Six land.

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