The City of Edmonton is holding public consultation in an effort to get the public’s opinion on plans for the enhancement of amenities in the river valley, as well as preservation.

The first of two open houses was held Wednesday evening so city planners could begin the first phase in the Ribbon of Green project.

“What we’ve been hearing overall is there’s a strong need to protect Edmonton’s ecological resources, there’s a lot ecologically sensitive areas within our study areas, and that these areas need to be protected,” said Ryan Andres, the Principal Planner with the city.

The initiative to transform the river valley will follow Edmonton’s Breathe strategy.

‘Breathe’ is the city’s green network strategy that has been set up to plan and sustain connection and integration of green spaces.

Breathe is still being finalized with the completion date set for spring 2017, but the Ribbon of Green initiative is already set to implement the three main themes of ecology, celebration and wellness.

Those themes are set not only to protect the river valley through water and waste management, maintaining biodiversity, and climate regulation, but also aspire to enhance the recreational, tourism and community value of the area.

“People also want to access the river valley, they want to be able to drive there and park their car and walk, to take a trail from their house in their neighbourhood and be able to come down into the system and have a place to have a picnic,” said Andres.

“I use the park system for running, biking, getting around in the river for kayaking, canoeing and so I want to see a more connected, complete river valley system,” said Michael Stewart, who lives near downtown.

“For me the biggest thing is connectedness so that you don’t have to cross roads to continue on the trails,” said Stewart

The river valley is Canada’s largest urban park with more than 160 kilometres of maintained pathways and trails.

“I think it’s great to be planning for our river valley to make it accessible and preserved. It’s our greatest asset and seeing it kept that way and providing uses, but also keeping a natural state so you get out there and just get in the trees and enjoy the river valley and pretend for a while you’re not in the city,” said Edmonton resident Dianne Assaly.

Assaly also said she would be willing to see an increase in taxes in order to see the river valley properly developed.

The City also spoke about the need to preserve the river valley.

“These study areas are really diverse, there’s some that are really ecologically sensitive and haven’t been impacted too much by development,” said Ryan Andres.

Andres’ group is set to perform analysis this year before presenting a finished report to council in fall 2018.

The Ribbon of Green project is a long term project , even after gaining council’s approval Andres says it could be decades before being finished.

“We’re really at the first stage so this is our opportunity to connect with the public and collect some initial feedback on how they view these areas, what they want to see prioritized,” said Andres.

“The next stage of this project is to take that information and complete some ecological, recreation and cultural analysis and we’ll be coming back to the public this fall to present that analysis and more feedback and really that’s where we’ll get more direction.”

There is another open house event being held at the Clairview Community Recreation Centre on Thursday March 23, 2017 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

There is also a public survey available on the City of Edmonton’s website, along with more information on the Breathe strategy.