Councillors ask for action on some 350 undeveloped Edmonton park sites

Small parks could sprout up in Edmonton’s empty green spaces on up to 350 sites the city has identified in a new report. 

The sites are undeveloped — no landscaping, trails, gardens, signs, or playground equipment. 

At a meeting Tuesday, city council’s urban planning committee reviewed the report, which includes maps of the sites, most are in newer communities outside the Anthony Henday ring road.

Some are in mature neighbourhoods where residents have been waiting up to 25 years for the city to turn the green fields into a useable active space.

Coun. Bev Esslinger said residents from the northwest neighbourhood of Albany — just inside the Henday — asked her last summer when they were getting their park. 

“[It] was quite eye-opening to me, to see that some had been waiting 10, 15, 20 years,” Esslinger said in an interview Tuesday. “So to me that was, you know, do we have a strategy around that, what do we do?” 

Part of the hang- up is acquiring the land deemed necessary to complete development. 

“When I dug into it, it was because the land hadn’t been assembled. We don’t own all the land, so we can’t do that park,” Esslinger said. 

The city usually acquires land through a municipal reserve process when a new development is subdivided.

Land that can’t be assembled through subdivision, such as district parks, school community parks or natural areas, is purchased.

Several factors, such as changing market conditions, increasing property values and the motion of individual landowners “present challenges that often limit administration’s ability to undertake land assembly in a timely manner,” the report says. 

Tuesday, the committee directed administration to look at options for developing some of the green space without owning all the land deemed part of the plot. 

Administration began compiling the report at the request of city council last Sept. when they asked for a breakdown of limbo areas and the length of time the sites have been dormant. 

Canossa, Carlton, Eaux Claires, Fraser, Klarvatten and Terwillegar Towne have been waiting 20 to 25 years for developed parks, the city says.  

The city has flagged sites in Cameron Heights, Griesbach, Hudson and Summerside as waiting for 15 to 20 years.

Canossa, Carlton, Eaux Claires, Fraser, Klarvatten and Terwillegar Towne have been waiting 20-25 years for developed parks. (City of Edmonton)

The city has acquired the majority of land for 214 of the 350 sites that span some 2,750 acres of parkland.  

It’s estimated to cost $380 million to support concept planning, design and construction of the 214 sites with basic turf, landscaping and signage.

The areas include district parks, natural areas, pocket parks, school park sites, urban village parks and 16 park upgrades in line with approved area redevelopment plans. 

The city is actively assembling — acquiring land — for the remaining 139 sites.

Community collaboration

The city’s northeast has swaths of green space, some of which is destined to be turned into user-friendly spaces, through collaboration. 

Kaelyn Kowalchuk, president of the Horse Hill and Pilot Sound community leagues, which includes the McConachie, Cy Becker and Britnell neighbourhoods, said a lot of land has been untouched for many years. 

The leagues are taking matters into their own hands with plans for a community garden for Cy Becker and an orchard in Horse Hill, Kowalchuk said.

Local greeneries are set to contribute to the orchard, she said, and they’re hoping to include the Horse Hill school in the project. 

“Sometimes you feel in the community league, alone, on a lot of items. We have to build a lot of our parks, our skateparks, our spray parks, orchards or community gardens.” 

The community is asking for permits from the city, Kowalchuk said but wasn’t aware of any direct funding yet.  

City administration is expected to report back to councillors in the third quarter of 2021 with options to develop partial park areas. 

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