Edmonton could be home to Alberta’s newest provincial park
June 29, 2022
ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᐊᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton), AB – CPAWS Northern Alberta is excited about a potential new addition to Alberta’s park system. The newly proposed Big Island Provincial Park will protect a 68-hectare area of the North Saskatchewan River Valley within the City of Edmonton. The area is currently provincially managed Crown land in the city’s southwest region, in the planning area of Woodbend, across the river from the Windermere neighbourhood. The Government of Alberta is requesting input on this park proposal through a public consultation until August 21st, 2022.
Though small, this park has the potential to safeguard part of Alberta’s highly disturbed parkland natural region, at risk wildlife habitat, and contribute to the ecological connectivity of the North Saskatchewan River Corridor. With some restoration to remove invasive species and repair damage from off-highway vehicles, the site will provide important habitat for conservation and restoration of biodiversity. Protection of this area as a park will also preserve the cultural heritage and recreational value for those living in the Edmonton area for years to come.
Conservation of lands and waters are essential to fully functioning ecosystems, halting and reversing biodiversity loss and mitigating the climate crisis. It is equally as important that new parks and protected areas have Indigenous leadership in their creation and management. According to the proposal, Big Island Provincial Park will be jointly managed by the Enoch Cree First Nation, the Government of Alberta, and the City of Edmonton. CPAWS Northern Alberta applauds this process and hopes to see it play out as a meaningful partnership in the establishment and management of Big Island Provincial Park.
“We view this new park proposal as a win-win-win,” says Chris Smith, Conservation Analyst with CPAWS Northern Alberta. “Seeing management shared between Enoch Cree First Nation, the City of Edmonton, and Alberta Environment and Parks is exciting, and instils trust in the future stewardship of this important urban site. It also poses an important opportunity for Edmontonians to see Indigenous leadership in conservation in action.”
Good management is essential to the effectiveness of any protected area, and we are pleased to see that the management intent for this proposed park will be conservation focused. CPAWS Northern Alberta feels that the proposal for Day-Use only, with a commitment to interpretive programming, will help preserve the ecological integrity of the region while still offering opportunities for fun, access to nature, education, and cultural learning. We would like to see access and infrastructure kept as low impact as possible.
It is no secret that Alberta needs to increase the number of parks and protected areas. Canada has committed to protecting 30% of the country’s land and water by 2030, yet Alberta, home to incredible wildlife and natural areas, but also rapidly declining wildlife populations, has not joined in on the commitment. CPAWS Northern Alberta hopes that this new park proposal indicates an understanding of the importance of increased protection across the province and provincial support for Indigenous-led conservation.
“We are disappointed that the proposal is significantly smaller than the 400-hectare area including parts of Woodbend that has been proposed for protection by the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society for many years,” Chris Smith adds. “The province stated in an information session that they are open to expanding the park via purchase of land from interested sellers. We hope to see the park expanded over time. We also see the proposed park as a great anchor point in a system of protected areas along the river valley that includes future National Urban Park sites.”
CPAWS Northern Alberta encourages all Albertans to fill out the online government survey available for public feedback on the proposal now until August 21, 2022.
You can learn more about the proposal here: https://www.alberta.ca/big-island-provincial-park-engagement.aspx