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St. Albert votes against $20.8M loan for Millennium Park project

A sign against St. Albert's plans for Millennium Park can be seen on a trash can in the park's area in April, 2024. (Evan Kenny/CTV News Edmonton) A sign against St. Albert's plans for Millennium Park can be seen on a trash can in the park's area in April, 2024. (Evan Kenny/CTV News Edmonton)
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St. Albert council has decided not to borrow more than $20 million for a new park that's seen considerable pushback from the community.

Millennium Park is a $16.6-million project planned for a wooded area between St. Albert Place and Lions Park.

To cover the design, construction and any unforeseen costs, St. Albert council needed to pass a $20.8 million borrowing bylaw on Tuesday.

Ahead of the vote, plans for the park received public criticism over design changes made in 2023, which would see 56 per cent of the area's trees removed.

Ciara Fraser started a petition against the bylaw and gathered more than 4,500 signatures. She spoke to council Tuesday, saying tree removal and the cost of the park were major themes of community discontent.

"We implore you: Preserve the trees and wetlands, display financial responsibility and represent us honestly," Fraser said. "Doing it right, from the community's perspective, would be giving us a say on the extent and direction on this park. It will be for us, after all."

Before the vote, Mayor Cathy Heron said she did not expect to see such strong pushback against the park.

"When I say I was surprised, I was," Heron said. "I thought this was going to be fantastic, and not only for the community as a gift, but a place for our downtown businesses to use, to attract."

Heron said there is support for the park, but she believes it's less visible than the opposition.

"There have been people who told me they would not come today because they were fearful of speaking in favour (of the park) with the opposition in the room," Heron added.

While council discussed using the borrowing bylaw to fund public engagement and feedback sessions on the current park design, councillors ultimately voted not to borrow the money.

Heron and councillors Natalie Joly and Wes Brodhead were in favour. Councillors Shelley Biermanski, Sheena Hughes, Mike Killick and Ken MacKay all voted against.

MacKay said the initial design from 2018, which removed just 28 per cent of the forested area, had better balance due to robust public engagement.

The park is an important project for resident and downtown vibrancy, he added, however he felt council "changed the game in the fourth quarter."

"How do we get back to finding that cohesive vision that was prevalent in our first one?" MacKay asked. "I think that means going back to the drawing board."

To date, the Millennium Park project has cost the City of St. Albert around $400,000. 

On Thursday, Heron's office said the next steps with the park are yet to be determined. 

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