Tag Archives: River Valley

Smoke on the Water (walks #1 & 2)

The bridge…in Glenora over MacKinnon Ravine.

Once again, I’m behind on my blogposts, but happily, not my walks. Now to write three posts.

Wednesday evening (July 19), I went over to Tom’s for a walk. The sky was filled with smoke and the sun was an orange orb. You could look right at it without setting your retinas on fire. We walked our usual loop around Glenora. Other than the sun and smoke, nothing remarkable.

The next day, Thursday, I spent my lunch hour walking around a smoke-filled river valley. All week we’ve had a smoke advisory because of the forest fires in BC. It’s not as bad as it was in 2010, but it still makes for some ethereal landscapes.

Emily Murphy Road

The hour-long walk was great, although I didn’t bust 10,000 steps. I walked down Saskatchewan Drive to Emily Murphy and then hung a right through the trail along the river. Usually that path is wet and humid but it’s been very dry of late after a wet spring. Even scanning the horizon, the hills and boulevards on the way to Hawrelak are yellow, in contrast with the spruce trees and the green bushes (of various leafage).

Lots of colour in the river valley, as long as you don’t look up

Because I am writing this a few days after the fact, I can’t remember what the temperature was, but the heat was tempered by the sheath of smoke. Probably about 22C.

Bunny!

Related Reading: A Schmoke and a Pancake (2010)

Goodbye Friend

Bridge feet

Tom and DonnaTom and I walked over the Cloverdale footbridge for the last time yesterday. The City is closing it down on Monday; its destruction nigh.

I have written extensively in this blog about the south east LRT (now called the Valley Line) expansion into the river valley. I’ve attended public forums, sent letters to the Edmonton Journal, made every effort to seek information and I’ve joined forces with the good, and much more eloquent folks of the Save the Footbridge lobby. I’ve considered all sides and reached a single conclusion:

To quote Groucho Marx, I’m against it.

DM on the bridge

DM on the bridge. Vandalism seems trivial for a doomed bridge.

From an environmental and aesthetic perspective, gouging into our beloved and heavily PR’d river valley makes no sense. In terms of transportation, the use of existing corridors seems both financially responsible and environmentally sound. Everything I’ve read about BRT (or Bus Rapid Transit) suggests, at the very least, we need to take a sober and genuine second look at light rapid transit.

“If you’ve gone part way down the incorrect path, that’s regrettable—but not as regrettable as going all the way down the incorrect path.”

These words were spoken by Mayor Ivor Dent in April of 1972. City council had just voted to put the brakes on an invasive transportation plan which would’ve plowed a freeway through the MacKinnon Ravine (Vue Magazine).

That was then.

Rose garden on the north end of the bridge two years ago

Rose garden on the north end of the bridge two years ago

Apple tree in the rose garden a few years ago

Apple tree in the rose garden a few years ago

Rose garden now...

Rose garden now…

There is no energy on the part of City Council to reverse or even reconsider this decision, which appears to have been a fait accompli from the beginning.

With all due respect to the bridge, it’s not the steel and wood structure that I will miss. It’s not a beautiful bridge. It’s utilitarian, and there is at least one other like it in the city (in the Goldbar area). However, the location of this bridge, in the heart of the city and the river valley, makes it irreplaceable. Yes, in four years (probably more, given the transportation department’s ridiculous track record), this area will see a new bridge, maybe even a nice bridge, but it will serve the southeast LRT, not the pedestrians who use it, not the people who live around it, and certainly not the nature that surrounds it.

Gone, the peace of the central river valley.

View from a bridge

Gone, the unobstructed view of the river valley, with the vast and quiet expanse of sky above.

Gone, the trees, plants and wildlife that made this area their home, especially the canopy of poplar trees at the south end of the bridge. In the middle of summer, it was like walking into a lush and secret grove. In the winter, like a Gorey landscape.

south end of bridge

south end of bridge

south east side of the bridge, now

south east end of the bridge, now

Gone, the City’s commitment to The Way We Green river valley strategic plan.

Gone, the rose garden in Louise McKinney Park.

Gone, the Botanical Society gardens on the Muttart grounds.

Gone, the best commuter bridge for pedestrians in the city. A meeting place, a viewing place, and an iconic and beautiful Edmonton place.

There’s not much more to say. This bridge and the area around it has given me so much over the last 20+ years. Nothing I could say could ever repay the grace and beauty I’ve received. If it’s possible to call a thing a friend, the Cloverdale pedestrian bridge was a friend.

Goodbye friend.

Bridge on a blue sky day

A list of every blogpost where I’ve mentioned the Cloverdale Bridge by name in Donna’s River Valley (which still does not even come close to capturing all the moments I’ve spent on the bridge).

River blue...

River blue…

A bridge in winter

A bridge in winter

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.

DSCN4571.JPG

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