Jen Henderson is a journalist breaking news in the capital region. She is a staff reporter at the St. Albert Gazette and  covers provincial and federal politics, crime and court. 

Protesters gather to preserve the park space

Protesters gather to preserve the park space

Dozens of members from the Braeside community gathered on Saturday to protest the rezoning and redistribution of land on Sturgeon Road.

A group called the Friends of the St. Albert River Valley made up of mostly Braeside residents, protested against the future development being planned for a green space between Sturgeon Road and the Sturgeon River. The group gathered with signs along the road and through the park to help spread their message and raise awareness about the proposed development.

The plans propose rezoning the land located at 53, 55 and 57 Sturgeon Rd., changing the designation from a low-density to medium-density residential area.

Unnamed private developers have planned to place an 80-unit apartment style complex in the location, including 118 parking stalls with 80 underground stalls and 38 above ground.

Along with the rezoning, the developers are proposing a land swap with the city. The developers have offered a sloped private portion of land that currently sits behind the homes along the Red Willow Trail in exchange for a street-front portion of Red Willow Park.

On Saturday Greg MacKenzie, the consultant on the project, hosted a public site walk where members of the public could visualize the potential project.

The walk through showed the .13 hectares or 1300 square meters of land in the proposed exchange. The portion in Red Willow Park that would be made private includes part of the trail, which would be realigned at the developers’ expense.

Many gathered to express their displeasure with the proposed development and were concerned with issues relating to parking, congestion, and city infill. But the main issue was with the alteration of the river valley.

“You can’t recreate it,” Marilyn Wangler said about the river valley. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Homeowners around this area regard it as part of the jewel and the crown of this river valley that seems to be up for sale right now and it shouldn’t be.”

Wangler has lived in the neighbourhood for 42 years, and does not want to see changes to the natural green space that drew her to the neighbourhood. Newer residents say they wouldn’t have bought houses in the area if they knew the space was going to be transformed into apartment complexes. They say the apartment complexes and the land swap will fundamentally change the use of the space.

Milton Davies, a registered professional forester working with the development team, said that the land swap would give residents access to a better quality of parkland. The trees along the trail that the city would gain access to are much healthier and better maintained than the wooded area.

“A lot of these trees are showing signs of degradation earlier on,” Davies said. “They’re approximately 25 to 35 years old and probably won’t last another 5 to 10 years. The things that I see in there are starting to cause tree failure right now.”

Residents said that they have already seen some of changes they feared when the Tendor condo structure was built. They say it has caused more traffic congestion and parking issues, along with the removal of trees and the destruction of the natural green space.

The next public information meeting is planned for Wednesday, Nov. 9 at St. Albert United Church. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the presentation will start at 7 p.m.

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