Posted by Vi Hughes on Apr 02, 2019

This Tuesday we heard from Brent Collingwood, a fellow Rotarian and the Executive Director of the River Valley Alliance. This is an alliance of seven municipalities in the Edmonton region formed with the goal of creating trail connectivity to the North Saskatchewan river valley from the U of A Botanic Garden in Parkland County in the west, to the mouth of the Sturgeon River east of Fort Saskatchewan. When completed the project will have created the largest metropolitan park in North America, covering eighteen thousand acres with a single trail that has a length of one hundred kilometers. Currently our river valley is used by over twelve million people a year.
 
Our river valley was very industrial at one time, filled with with coal mines, lumber yards, brick yards and other businesses. In the flood of 1915, this was all swept away and the businesses there never rebuilt. In 2003 a group of people with a common vision got together and they formed the River Valley Alliance. It is a non-profit organization made up of shareholders from seven municipalities, with sixteen representative members on their board. This was quite an achievement, as trying to get even some of these municipalities to agree on anything is a challenge.
 
The Alliance has a twenty-five year plan for connecting all of these municipalities with one continuous trail, and also helps to provide amenities and facilities that would otherwise be unaffordable for some of the smaller municipalities, such as better access to the river, cross river pedestrian bridges, boat docks and launches, and community centers. Phase one of their plan was completed in 2017 and helped to create seventy kilometers of new trails as well as a funicular, a footbridge, a community center along with several other projects. Phase two of their plan is now underway an is expected to be completed by 2025/6. The municipalities cover one hundred percent of the up front costs and the River Valley Alliance then reimburses them for sixty percent of their costs from Federal and Provincial government grants they have applied for and received. This really helps the smaller municipalities to be able to afford this type of amenity. We can see several maps of the trails and plans for the future on their website, rivervalley.ab.ca.  We would like to thank Brent for coming to tell us about this very interesting and inspiring project.