Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creating the Capital City Recreational Park

While researching the history of the river valley park system, I had the luck of sitting down with Roman Fodchuk, the original Landscape Architect of the Capital City Recreation Park. Now retired and living in British Columbia, Roman recalled the challenges of creating a park out of unstable riverbanks and former industrial sites.  

For people unaware of the CCRP, the Capital City Recreation Park created parkland on both sides of the North Saskatchewan River from the High Level Bridge to the Strathcona Science Park in the mid 1970’s.  Many of the structures and bridges people use every day were created at this time.  

The logistics were massive. Over 1,200 acres of landscape development, 116 acres of erosion control, 7,950 trees planted, 31,600 shrubs, 200 million wildflowers planted by helicopter, four pedestrian bridges, two overpasses, four wood bridges, three kilometers of berms, 75,000 cubic yards of gravel, 27,000 cubic yards of heavy rock and so much more.

In Roman’s words (I love the Calgary reference):

In 1975, Premier Lougheed announced an Urban Parks Program in Alberta for the two major cities, Calgary and Edmonton. This program recognized the increased urbanization and the new requirements for healthy city living. This foresight was cognizant of the pressures of the new urban dweller upon elements of the natural environment and the need for comprehensive amenities that would augment outdoor physical activities. This, of course, also includes the natural beauty of a wide river valley that establishes a unique meandering corridor and outstanding landmark in Edmonton. Calgary is not so fortunate.

The Urban Parks Program was funded by the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund as an investment in Alberta's natural heritage. The goal of the Urban Parks Program was the: "establishment of natural environments and the development of these areas to enable their sustained and unimpaired use for outdoor recreation." Specific objectives included:

   *    To provide for a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities
   *    To allow people of all incomes to participate in these opportunities
   *    To have easy access to surrounding urban areas
   *    To preserve and augment the natural landscape features and provide recreational facilities in harmony with the beauty of the North Saskatchewan River Valley.

The Capital City Recreation Park was developed by the Alberta Government within a partnership agreement with the City of Edmonton. Both the Alberta Government and the City were involved in a Client capacity throughout the planning and design process. There were various Committees established with appropriate responsibilities. At the top were the Executive Committee, with various Ministers and the Mayor's Office; to the Planning Committees and on to the Community Meetings Committees to the Project Management and Design Group. Our responsibility as consultants was to develop a working procedure that was flawless in its systematic operation, from top to bottom.

Roman Fodchuk and associates were the Prime Consultants for the Planning, Design and Development of the entire park system. This included the approaches to the High Level Bridge to the far eastern end at Highway #16 in Strathcona County. This was a19 kilometer stretch of the North Saskatchewan River Valley Parks System within the City of Edmonton. It was developed for intensive recreational use consisting of a series of public amenity nodes interconnected with a bikeway and walkway system.

The next stage was the Design and Construction Stage. Our firm completed this project and this served as the prototype for eventual extension of the Parks System to the south and west on the river valley. It also served as a prototype for the eventual expansion of the Urban Parks Program to five other smaller cities: Grande Prairie, Lloydminster, Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. We were awarded EXCELLENCE in Urban Design Awards by the City of Edmonton for our planning, design and public coordination of the Capital City Recreation Park.

Meeting Roman has been a stroke of luck for me, and he has provided valuable insight into the creation of our modern park system. In addition, he has also shared some great documents from the time. One of my favorites (so far) is this proposed pedestrian bridge from Rundle Park to the Science Park. While the bridge was built, the weir and renewable energy exhibits never made the cut.  
Image Courtesy of Roman Fodchuk
While Roman is justly proud of the work his company completed back in the 1970’s, the irony is that the information he has passed on may well help restore parts of the river valley in the future. Thanks again Roman!

Mike Lush
RVA Public Member, Strathcona County

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Making a splash in the North Saskatchewan River

Canoeing in a 10 person voyageur canoe with fellow River Valley Alliance members this past Saturday was nothing short of a good time by all. 
From the first few minutes in the canoe, I realized that I’d been transported from civilization into the wilderness of the valley. We saw signs of fall already starting to show its colors along the luscious banks. And it made me wonder what it must have been like all those years ago when the river was the only corridor of travel.

The canoes were navigated down the river from Voyageur Park in Devon to Laurier Park at the Valley Zoo by Ceyana Canoe Club guides. It is worth noting that we felt very comfortable with the guides since some of them have vast experience in canoeing. For instance, some of the people who did the David Thompson brigade trip in 2008, a 63 day trek from Rocky Mountain House to Thunder Bay as well as the 2011 trip from Invermere, BC, to Astoria, Oregon were the people we were paddling with. They kindly volunteered their time and canoes so thank you from us all at the RVA.
We stopped on a beach to have our lunch and take in the sheer wonder around us. It was peaceful and naturally beautiful. It only took 4 hours to make the trip since these canoes are fast on the water.

Hot & sunny it was indeed. The sun glistened from the water making it look very inviting.  The clear water showed the varying river bottom over our journey. We had to navigate around sandbars since the water was low enough to stop you still in your tracks in parts along the way.

We saw many people at access points along the shore line. From panning for gold to walking the dog or on a family outing, they were all there to enjoy a piece of the river valley.

A first for me was seeing the new suspension bridge at Ft Edmonton Park. There were people down at the river’s edge and a few on-lookers along the foot-bridge who stopped to watch us as we sailed by.

Ah yes, and what would a paddle down the river be if one did not engage in a little splashing here and there...  but  in the end, it was I who got doused much to everyone’s delight! (They had the audacity to say I started it....but regardless of who splashed who, I enjoyed the trip and look forward to next year’s!)

Thanks to the Town of Devon for providing the transportation for all participants. Hope you enjoy  photos from our day on the river.
Rio St Germain
River Valley Alliance
Advisory Committee
Strathcona County