Despite widespread support from city councillors and staff, an ambitious park project that would connect Edmonton’s downtown to Strathcona will not receive funding from the city — for now.
The High Level Line Society (HLLS), a non-profit group made up of volunteer Edmontonians, was seeking an $85,000 grant in order to help complete a design study on its proposed 4.3-kilometre green space.
The concept connects MacEwan University to Whyte Avenue using the High Level Bridge, integrating the historic streetcar, and would include pop-up markets and live-performance areas along the route.
“It’s not just about getting from A to B. It’s about the experience,” said Kevin Dieterman, a landscape architect involved in the project.
The mayor and city councillors expressed support for the project, mainly because of how it aligns with the city’s strategic goals.
However, because the funding request is meant for the society’s operations and not for a capital project, the society was told there was no money in the budget.
Instead, the city’s Urban Planning Committee passed a motion that indicates an intent to support the project in the future, and consider it when moving forward with other city projects, such as High Level Bridge rehabilitation.
“It sort of breaks my heart a bit that this is the motion we have to put forward today,” said Coun. Ben Henderson.
“I have every belief that this project is going to happen. I think it would be a colossal crime if we don’t take advantage of the volunteer imagination."
“I’m hopeful we will get there as we do the work on the bridge. We’re just not a position right now to put dollars on the table,” added Mayor Don Iveson, acknowledging the funding constraints compounded by the pandemic.
The financial ask was significantly less than the $500,000 the group requested in 2019.
“It’s not the outcome we had hoped for going into the meeting, but we’re also not unrealistic about the situation that the city and everybody is in right now,” said HLLS chair Gillian Thomson.
Thomson said HLLS will now shift towards private donations to help fundraise.
As part of a commitment pledge, city administration offered HLLS support in the form of staff assistance.
“We definitely have some staff time to help them continue to shepherd the work that they’re doing going forward,” said Stephanie McCabe, deputy city manager.
The city will provide an updated report on the society’s park concept in one year.