Yesterday, Amarjeet Sohi announced his plan to engage with Ottawa and make Edmonton’s river valley a national park if elected Mayor. This plan would be a disaster for our residents and our city.
Edmontonians have been enjoying the river valley for generations without federal designation. Many local groups and municipalities have worked hard in the last few years to improve accessibility to the river valley in a way that preserves its rich biodiversity. It’s also important to note that we’ve received federal money for the river valley in the past without needing a national parks designation.
Making our beautiful river valley a national park, even under the new National Urban Parks Program raises serious concerns about local control over planning. Needing permission from Ottawa to develop a new walking path or build a new bridge is unnecessary and undemocratic. Funding always follows regulation. We need more local input and decision-making, not less.
Preserving our river valley is of the utmost importance, but it’s wrong to suggest we need to choose between preservation and accessibility. My plan to develop West Rossdale will significantly expand river valley access on land that has been previously developed but is currently dormant. It will also provide a meeting place right in the river valley where we can sit and have a cup of coffee or stroll around a market in the power plant building perhaps.
Developing West Rossdale will be done hand in hand with our Indigenous communities, and I’m proud to have the endorsement of Enoch Cree Nation Chief William (Billy) Morin for this plan: “Michael’s development vision for Rossdale is characterized in reconcili-Action”. We can revive West Rossdale and make it into a signature Edmonton district with focused leadership and buy-in from key stakeholders.
We don’t need Ottawa telling us how to enjoy and protect our river valley. If I’m elected Mayor, I will maintain local control and expand access to our river valley. Edmontonians have long been good stewards of our river valley and we will continue to be.