City Council adopted a trails and parks planning tool Monday night in the form of the River Valley Tributaries Park Concept Plan.
The long-term plan’s purpose is to identify lands best suited for potential trails and parks within the City of Red Deer’s ‘growth area.’
Marking a collaboration between the City of Red Deer and Red Deer County, one of the plan’s 21 recommendations urges exploration of one day even designating the Red Deer River a ‘municipal park’.
Other recommendations include aggressively pursuing provincial and federal funding, identifying parcels for land purchase and the beginning of work with landowners and maximizing the use of Environmental Reserve to acquire lands adjacent to rivers, tributaries, lakes, sloughs, escarpments and other environmentally sensitive lands.
“Parks and preservation planning for the City of Red Deer really began in the late to mid-1970s with a plan that talked about the Waskasoo Park System itself,” said Trevor Poth, parks superintendent for the City of Red Deer.
The purpose of this plan is to talk about where we are to date, but also to look forward to a future vision with a focus on Red Deer having a population of 300,000 people, he said.
“It really represents what our vision is for our future parks system.”
Poth said to keep up the percentages of the City’s land area at its current level, as much as 2,394 hectares of new parkland would need to be added to the Waskasoo Park system. Ultimately, he said the goal is to establish a linear park system focused on the Red Deer River, Blindman River, Piper Creek and Waskasoo Creek.
“The key to this plan is to tie all of those areas together into one uniform parks system,” he said, adding the area has a unique ecosystem that he pointed out has been well protected over the past 30 years.
“This is just an extension of that, and a huge future benefit for the community.”
Key principles that also guided stakeholders’ formation of the plan include following the river, connecting with trails, respecting nature and ‘mixing it up’ – working towards a balanced park system with “lively populated places and quiet, solitary respites.”
Councillors were impressed by what they heard.
“It helps to bring great tourism opportunities to the area,” said Cindy Jefferies. “More and more, people are looking for more active holidays. The partnership with Red Deer County has also been great, and this a real positive thing for us to work on together. So let’s get on with it,” she said.
Councillor Larry Pimm said currently, the Waskasoo trail system means a great deal to local residents. Expansion of it only bodes well for future generations, he said.
“To me, Waskasoo Park has been a great amenity for my family and I hope my grandchildren will be able to take their grandchildren through the additional areas and show them the wonderful things of nature.”
Meanwhile, City Council also approved the Environmental Master Plan’s Situation Assessment — the first phase of the plan that will guide Red Deer’s environmental future over the next 25 years.
Core directions identified to achieve the vision including ‘Encourage, Educate, Engage, Enable, Expect’, prioritizing alternative transportation, managing growth to create vital, compact communities and protecting and enhancing green spaces.
“It was so important that Red Deerians offered their opinions and ideas on how Red Deer can continue to not only improve its rich natural environment but also minimize our ecological footprint,” said Lauren Maris, environmental program specialist with the City of Red Deer.
For more about the Environmental Master Plan, check out www.reddeer.ca/environmentalmasterplan.