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'Honouring the beaver': New name unveiled for 100-km trail through Edmonton River Valley

North America's longest river valley trail has a new name.

The Amisko Wacîw Mêskanaw, or Beaver Hill Road, winds for more than 100 kilometres, crossing 8,000 hectares of parkland and connecting six municipalities along the North Saskatchewan River.

Linking Parkland County, Edmonton, Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan and Sturgeon County, the trail runs through Treaty 6 territory and the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 4.

Its new name, given by Plains Cree Elder Jerry Saddleback, was unveiled in a Thursday ceremony.

“What an incredible accomplishment this is because we’re now honouring the beaver. The beaver himself, he has his own way of how he sees the ecosystems, far different from us!” Saddleback said.

It pays tribute to the historic Cree name for the trail, which was a significant corridor for trade and a gathering ground and ceremonial place for Indigenous communities throughout the region.

More information on the trail's significance and the naming process can be seen in this video.

Markers bearing the name will be placed every 50 kilometres, and a trail symbol designed by Dene/Métis Artist Matthew Weigel will be added to existing infrastructure to help with wayfinding.

The trail project has been in the works since the early 1990s, driven by the River Valley Alliance (RVA), a collection of members from the seven municipalities connected by the trail.

“It is our hope that this reclaimed name inspires more storytelling about the Indigenous peoples, past and present, who have stewarded this beloved trail system since time immemorial,” said Katherine O'Neill, RVA board chair.

The alliance said Beaver Hill Road is around 75 per cent complete, with a 25-kilometre stretch from Devon to Edmonton still needing to be connected.

So far, $150 million has been spent on the trail, and more money is needed for the final stretch, and the group said it is working to secure additional funding to finish the project in the next few years.

"That's a little bit of a hurdle right now, but I know that we'll make it happen," said Town of Devon Coun. Gurk Dhanoa.

"And for what we have and the time that has been spent, I really hope we can get the support from all levels of government and we can finish this trail off."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Marek Tkach Top Stories

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