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'Stop the chop': Protesters want Hawrelak Park rehabilitation halted until more consultation happens

Dozens of Edmontonians rallied in Hawrelak Park Saturday, demanding the city reassess plans to chop down 220 trees during the upcoming three-year rehabilitation project.

Starting March 13, Edmonton's premiere river valley park will close to complete a $133-million renovation the city says are necessary to ensure the greenspace can continue to be enjoyed for generations.

According to the recently released environmental impact report, the trees will be cut down as the city replaces stormwater, sewage, gas and electrical lines beneath the park. Officials say more than 200 will be planted after construction is complete.

"Today, we are standing up for the trees," said Kristine Kowalchuk, Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition chair.

"We had no idea, no one had any idea that 220 trees were supposed to be cut down," Kowalchuk added.

She believes the city needs to explain better why the park must be closed for three years and if other options were explored, like composting toilets or rainwater harvesting to limit "disruptive" pipe installation work.

Some protesters at the rally held signs that read, "Stop the chop," "Hands off the trees," and "Save our park trees."

Edmontonians rally at Hawrelak Park demanding more consultation with Indigenous and community groups before the three-year rehabilitation project begins in March (CTV News Edmonton/Galen McDougall).

"We just didn't ever really have an opportunity to provide feedback on the full slate of what's being planned for this park," Kowalchuk said. "It really doesn't make sense to be cutting trees down in a park."

"It really would've been great if the city had reached out to the Indigenous community and to citizens to ask what we think park rehabilitation means, and we probably would have said making the park more ecologically healthy."

The river valley advocacy group wants the city to halt construction plans until "proper" consultation can be completed.

"Trees are critical for cooling a city, providing habitat and mitigating the climate crisis," Kowalchuk said. "Just think of what this park will look like when these trees will be gone."

City spokesperson Pascale Ladouceur confirmed to CTV News Edmonton that engagement will occur with First Nations and Métis communities to "mitigate the impact of construction" through a monitoring program supported by an on-site archaeologist and paleontologist.

"Engagement for this project followed the City of Edmonton Public Engagement Policy C593A, appropriate for a project focused on rehabilitation of its existing infrastructure," Ladouceur added.

Most of the infrastructure at Hawrelak Park is original since its opening in 1967, Ladouceur noted.

"The infrastructure has exceeded its lifespan and requires repair, replacement or upgrading to remain operational and meet current and future demands," she added.

"As the project progresses, the City will continue to provide information and updates to communities and make accommodations where possible." Top Stories

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