Tag Archives: Louise McKinney Park

Walterdale Bridge (Junior)

First time to walk under and over the new Walterdale Bridge (Walt Jr.).

It’s really something, and the area around it is gorgeous! For all of the inconveniences – of having that trail cut off for years on both sides of the river; for all the trees that I knew, that were cut down, I would say that this new bridge makes up for it. As a driver, it’s amazing. As a walker, even more so.

The pathway across the bridge is extremely wide, with a wide open view to the sky and the river valley. It’s like a promenade. Below the bridge is a paved pathway leading to the trail that eventually becomes Skunk Hollow, which I will take next week sometime, especially as the new Indigenous Park is scheduled to open at the former Queen Elizabeth Pool area. There is also an unpaved path that is closer to the river and actually leads to the shore. The stairs are nice. The replanted foliage is nice. I give it a 10.

This path from the university to the Walterdale Bridge used to be my main river valley commute. There are trails leading off to other areas, in particular the trail that skirts around Rossdale beside the north side of the river (which is still blocked off), but this was the one that most often got me home.

I missed it.

For the first time in over five years, that trail got me home yesterday, but circuitously. I took a few photos of the bridge and then carried on the far path to Rossdale and then Louise McKinney Park, which is currently cut in half by the Valley Line LRT construction. It was wonderful to walk such familiar paths again. Once I was in McKinney, I took the stairs to downtown and then walked home from there.

Rossdale, headed toward the Low Level Bridge

We’re having a bit of a reprieve from the cool weather that hit us like a bang mid-August. It’s been cool and rainy ever since, with a few sunny days thrown in. Yesterday (Thursday) and today, however, it’s beautiful and warm (21C and 25C, respectively). A smattering of yellow here and there, and a bit of crunch underfoot, but for the most part, visually it still looks like late summer.

North Saskatchewan River from Louise McKinney Park

Red leaves, Louise McKinney Park

There were no posts in August. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I had little opportunity or inclination to walk in the woods. My sister Barb spent most of August in ICU, and then passed away on Sunday, September 2. She was plagued by Lupus and latterly, COPD, for decades, and in the last few years her body grew increasingly exhausted (but not her mind!). Her lungs struggled to breath and her kidneys shut down, and while she had been on dialysis for a year that too proved to be a burden on her health (although I’m sure it prolonged it for a little while). In the hospital, she was communicative and even sometimes, quite happy. She had reached the stage of acceptance with her failing health. But the last week, and her last 48 hours, were extremely difficult and sad. She was gone by Saturday morning, but her body continued on until Sunday afternoon.

Walking has helped to shed some of the grief, but as I have learned (unfortunately), it is something that comes and goes on its own capricious schedule. Rest in peace, Barb.

A month of walks

Up Victoria trail

It’s been a good(ish) month, walking-wise, just haven’t posted anything.

Among the good news – pretty sure the worms/caterpillars are gone. Bad news – though it’s not really bad, just annoying, it’s been stinking hot. I think of June as the worm month, not the who-turned-the-thermostat-up-to-cremate month. Lots of temps close to 30C. I’m not a fan, although I own three fans, all of them operating at hurricane strength.

Enough complaining.

Since I haven’t posted, I’ll begin backwards.

I fell in love with a tree on Saturday. The spruce tree’s bark was gone in one area, exposing its soft underbelly of wood, which was bejeweled with sap.  And I mean bejeweled. It was bleeding tiny amber gems, and in the dappled sunlight, the sparkle was breathtaking. I was there at exactly the right time for the sun to catch this glorious display. I thought, oh here you are. There’s always something unique that reveals itself on my walks. Something amazing or unusual, or extraordinarily beautiful, like this tree. I tried to capture it on film, but failed. I thanked it, and moved on.

For this particular walk, I took the bus down to 100 Street, and then walked down the new staircase to the Low Level Bridge, and then east to the ski hill and over to Mill Creek Ravine.

Along the way, I observed many caterpillar damaged trees, but happily, no dangling worms. The trees will come back. The worms, however, have now transformed into some kind of moth. Not nearly as creepy.

This grove of trees in Henrietta Muir Park, or what’s left of it, has been severely damaged by the leaf roller caterpillar, but it will return to its green self by mid-July. The river valley is full of these seemingly dead trees, most of them Green Ash.

After that, a walk through Skunk Hollow – the trail where I saw the tree (and thousands more), and the beautiful little path that eventually runs parallel to Scona Road. The upper paved part of that trail is now off limits because of severe cracking, but I went beside the gate, as many others have done judging by the well-worn path. I wonder when, or if, the city will fix this? After that, I was so hot and so tired I took the funicular back up to street level.

Generally, I don’t count steps or kms, just time, but that day I clocked in at 15,000+ steps (over about two hours in total). Pretty decent.

The other walks this June have been around the ‘hood and in Whitemud Ravine with Stella. I’ve been trying to avoid the river valley because of the caterpillars, but now that they are gone, I can resume my walks home through the trails.

My beloved Mill Creek

27C (I think…) 

View from the Bridge

A view from Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge

A view from Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge

Spent a couple of hours last Friday in Mill Creek Ravine, with the intention of ending my walk in Louise McKinney Park. More than a wish to observe autumn’s gentle appearance in the ravine, I wanted to follow the river valley trail that leads to the Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge at the edge of the North Saskatchewan River. I wanted to hear my footsteps on its wooden spans and take in the breath-quickening view, like I’ve done a thousand times before. To reflect on its importance to me and to the people who use the bridge everyday. And also, to the two years of public consultation on a SE LRT extension that will see the destruction of this bridge and a huge swath of parkland south of it, including the trail I had just followed from Mill Creek Ravine through the Muttart Conservatory grounds and Henrietta Muir Park. On September 11th, a forum specific to the downtown/Muttart corridor concluded with the attendees unsuccessful attempt to urge city councilors to reconsider the route through the North Saskatchewan River valley. It is a done deal, and it has always been a done deal. A shortfall of millions has delayed the project a year or two, but sometime in the near future, a devastation will occur in the river valley; an irreparable insult to all of us who truly value this quiet, well-used, and exceptionally beautiful green space in Edmonton’s downtown core.

Louise McKinney Park

Louise McKinney Park

When I started walking in this area 20 years ago, there was virtually no development in Louise McKinney Park. It was a hill with so many wildflowers (and more than a few colourful weeds) it made this reluctant painter take out her brushes. When the trails were laid and the flowers uprooted, I sprinkled seeds on the grass. Year after year, city councilors reimagined and reconfigured Louise McKinney Park, as if a peaceable stretch of bee-loud wildflowers and trail below our urban centre wasn’t enough. A clown-car of development followed, filling the tiny park with an array of attractions which cluttered but did not detract from the surrounding flora and fauna we are so ridiculously blessed to have in such close proximity to downtown Edmonton. And then it was decided that this park could be of further service as an exit point for the Southeast LRT, right through the tiered rose garden and apple trees.

Louise McKinney Park apple trees

Louise McKinney Park apple trees

The Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge, attached to the east end of Louise McKinney Park, is like an arm, languidly stretched across the river to another park, another trail. More than a bridge, it is a neighbourly promenade enjoyed by runners, walkers, cyclists, lunching urbanites, surrounding Cloverdale Bridge eggscommunities, musicians, dogs, photographers, painters, and a goose who lays her eggs year after year on a pillar below the north end of the bridge. It is of no use to the city planners, and so, in a year or two, it will be gone. A new bridge will be built in its stead to facilitate a slick and speedy progression of a train from one side of the river to the other, in stark contrast to the current bridge. The Cloverdale Bridge is no beauty. Rather, it is an unobtrusive, open-beamed span of wood and steel, with spectacular views of gleaming cityscape, riverbank, and rolling parkland. The creak and sway of its wooden boards is a soothing, natural thing, reminding us to be present in our thoughts, to slow our pace, if just for a moment.

There is nothing natural about the rumble and vibration of a train slicing through the river valley at five minute intervals.

The doomed Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge

The doomed Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge

A heap of environmental insults await the Muttart Conservatory grounds, Mill Creek Ravine and Connor’s Hill if the SE LRT extension receives full funding and ground is broken in Louise McKinney Park. In the days following the September 11th meeting, I have discovered that I am not alone in my love for the bridge or in my barely contained panic over its impending demise. To my surprise, there is a Facebook group Save the Edmonton Footbridge, set up to raise awareness of the proposed fate of the Cloverdale Bridge and the adjacent river valley corridor. There is also a petition circulating to “...request that Edmonton City Council respect bylaw 7188 (North Saskatchewan River Valley Redevelopment Plan), and reconsider other LRT Southeast-West options that save the Cloverdale-Louise McKinney Footbridge and preserve our River Valley.” Of course I signed. In spite of the 600+ signatures, On September 18th, City councilors approved the route.

A soon to be demolished trail into Mill Creek Ravine along Connor's Road

A soon to be demolished trail into Mill Creek Ravine along Connor’s Road

Speaking of bylaws, in my slow (very slow) perusal of the 500-plus page Valley Line Environmental Assessment Report, I found it interesting that the City Manager will be seeking an exemption to Bylaw 2202, the rather pesky rule that restricts disturbances in natural areas. As for the Environmental Assessment Report itself, the diligent folks at the Save the Footbridge Facebook site unearthed another questionable manoeuvre courtesy of our esteemed City representatives: “According to Edmonton’s Guide to Environmental Review Requirements, environmental assessments are to happen in the planning phase, when ‘options are being investigated.’ This is so the findings can actually influence selection. However, the City commissioned the Valley Line Environmental Assessment three years after they chose a route.” I gotta wonder, did the selection then influence the findings?

Bridge Deck

The report includes 92 pages of suggested mitigation measures, with the following proviso: “Some impacts cannot be fully mitigated owing to the size of the project area and the likely four-year duration of the construction period; however, these residual impacts are generally limited to the construction phase of the project.” Not so. Residual impact is a relative term. Slope failure, soil erosion, land and vegetation disturbances ~ these things can be mitigated, in time. Fundamentally changing the experience cannot. Irreversible harm will be done. The river valley, in this area, will not be the same. For some, in particular the Transportation Department, this is not a hill to die on, pun intended. As I have learned, my values rarely match those of the City Council and its administrators, although I do support the expansion of the LRT. Mass transit is a valuable investment, and environmentally, a much better option than bolstering car culture, but at the same time, preservation of our green spaces must be part of, if not lead the conversation. Unfortunately, just because the City of Edmonton exalts the river valley in its promotional materials does not mean it won’t turn around and contravene its own bylaws and supposed values and carve up the longest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America like a turkey.

Councilor Ben Henderson stated: “There is no way to retrofit a LRT through a city without there being some negative consequences.” Got it. NIMBY. But let’s not be glib about those consequences. Some people, like me, like the residents of Cloverdale and Riverdale, and the thousands of Edmontonians who value this peaceful and bountiful stretch of the river valley believe the Valley Line route is unacceptable, and in violation of municipal bylaws.

The existing Riverdale corridor

The existing Riverdale corridor

Initially, three corridors were considered: High Level/Whyte Avenue, Dawson Bridge/Riverdale, and Connor’s Road. Inexplicably, the Connor’s Road route (via Louise McKinney Park, Henrietta Muir Park, the Muttart and Gallagher Park) was chosen because, “…this corridor would require less disturbance as it traverses less parkland.” Really, I mean really? In Riverdale, there is already an existing road from downtown to the river valley, an existing shared car/pedestrian bridge, and…oh wait – The Riverside Golf Course. Sorry Connor’s Hill, I guess the ‘negative consequences’ of gouging a chunk of golf course outweighs that of ski hill. Edmonton Ski Club, take note.

There are endless ways to feel bad about this. At best, it’s a clash of values, at worst, a failure of imagination and stewardship. Ultimately, I’d rather write about what I love, not what I fear. Thankfully, there is still much to love in Edmonton’s River Valley, including, for now, the Cloverdale Pedestrian Bridge and everything around it.


One last note: Public protest can make a difference. See this article regarding the MacKinnon Ravine.

Another lovely day in Edmonton


The colour of early spring

Just returned from a 90 minute walk around Mill Creek and Louise McKinney Park. All the snow is gone from the paths, which means I can retire my hiking boots for another year, or a few weeks depending on the weather. You’re welcome, knees. So nice to get back into my running shoes, although with all that warm sunshine, I was overdressed in my thermal leggings and jacket.

The thick layer of dirty ice along Mill Creek is cracking, revealing a long snail of brown water, though there doesn’t seem to be much of it. Last year, the lower north end of the ravine flooded, which I discovered by accident. Visions of being carried off by a strong current never came to fruition, thankfully, although my feet made a pleasant squelching noise all the way home. The City must regulate water flow in the creek to some degree. Oh, the power they wield!

Saw three butterflies, or one stalker butterfly, of the type I always see around this time of year: deep brown, almost black with a bright orange outline. Not sure what they are, other than very resourceful and perhaps a bit mad. Also, the four geese that live near the Cloverdale foot bridge, all of whom were finally swimming in the water of the North Saskatchewan River now that the ice has retreated to the shores. Just four days ago I spotted them standing on the ice, looking a little dumbstruck. Or maybe just dumb. Who flies back to Edmonton in March? I mean, seriously.

The paths were full of all sorts of two and four-legged creatures, this being Good Friday and therefore a holiday for everyone except the poor folks at the Route 99 Diner where I had brunch (thank you), and at the Wild Earth Bakery where I bought cookies for my post-walk cool down (double thank you.)

Spotted some flies, a beetle, and when I got home, a half-dead bee on my balcony which quickly became half-a-bee once I let my cat out. Sorry bee…but you know…it’s kinda early, and if it hadn’t been my cat, it would have been the cold, or the lack of lovely things to pollinate, or some other form of natural selection. However, as with the butterflies, I admire your initiative.

2:30 pm/13C