Strathearn seniors protest plans for corner along southeast Valley Line LRT route

A group of seniors in Edmonton’s Strathearn neighbourhood fears a favourite meeting place could become less accessible once it is landscaped during construction on the southeast leg of the Valley Line LRT.

More than a dozen seniors and supporters gathered multiple times at the northwest corner of 92nd Street and 95th Avenue this week to protest a plan to plant grass between a strip of businesses and the city-owned sidewalk.

TransEd says the approved design plan for the corner includes grass and concrete sidewalk connections, but seniors say they would prefer the whole area be paved because grass is difficult to navigate with wheelchairs and walkers.

“It just doesn’t make sense to have grass in front of a store,” said Margaret McEachern, one of more than 300 seniors who live in the nearby GEF Seniors Housing building, Montgomery Place.

Montgomery Place resident John Cromardy says he visits the corner about three times a day. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Fellow Montgomery Place resident John Cromardy, who uses a motorized wheelchair and visits the corner three times a day, said planting grass there would be “a big mistake.”

“If it gets wet, our wheels start to spin,” he said.

Those using manual-powered wheelchairs also tend to get stuck in grass, he added.

Construction and the corner

Montgomery Place residents have been gathering at the corner and patronizing its businesses for years, typically crossing 95th Avenue on the west side of 92nd Street.

Due to LRT construction, pedestrians have been directed to cross on the east side of the street, meaning seniors are supposed to make three street crossings in order to get to the meeting place from their residence. 

Seniors also said a large chunk of pavement at the corner was turned to gravel in the fall, making the corner less accessible.

“We’ve watched so many people get hurt here,” said Joe Clare, who owns a commercial building on the corner and runs a massage therapy supply store within it.

“One lady got hit by a car,” he said.

“Yesterday, somebody tripped on the gravel.”

He said locals have repeatedly brought up accessibility issues with TransEd.

TransEd spokesperson Dallas Lindskoog said in an emailed statement that the west crosswalk is expected to open soon. As of Thursday afternoon, it had not yet opened.

Lindskoog said the plan for the corner “balances the need for accessibility and connectivity” with enhanced landscaping and urban design along the whole Valley Line route. 

He also said the design is supported by public engagement that occurred between 2013 and 2014.

“The new sidewalk [in place] and accessibility ramp at the corner have been designed and constructed to City of Edmonton design standards which considers safe accessibility for all users and is fully wheelchair accessible,” he said.

Clare said he had been in talks with the City of Edmonton about constructing a pocket park and patio in front of the building.

McEachern said she supports that option and so do other seniors.

“We want TransEd to listen to us and hear us and pay attention,” she said.

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