The federal government is now on board to make Fort Edmonton Park a year-round facility.
Details have been confirmed for a $165 million expansion to the popular river valley attraction.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the request for funding moved to the front of the line when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission completed its work in Edmonton.
“This project reflects that commitment. That’s the reason, when we got this application, we were very excited to partner with the province and the municipality and the leadership shown by the Fort Edmonton Park Foundation.”
The Indigenous People’s Experience facilities will be worth $45 million, and will be located near the existing man-made pond on the outskirts. It’s been worked on for four years, and Mayor Don Iveson said it’ll enhance Edmonton’s story telling of its history, but now from a perspective that’s respectful, and prior to when it’s been told from a “colonial point of view.”
“This in a way begins to offset that,” he told reporters Friday. “It doesn’t undo it, but it offsets it by creating a space for respectful telling of Indigenous history and the collaboration that happened in this river valley for hundreds of years as the fur trade came here.”
“It’s not just a building,” said Bill Demchuk, the executive director of the park. “We’ll have several different teepees that will be out in the area, we’ll have the Metis cabin, and our treaty lodge where we’ll be able to explain history of treaty.”
Edmonton’s contribution will be $73 million, with a lot of it for the below ground work that needs doing on upgraded utilities. It’s an investment Mayor Iveson said had to be done anyway.
Other improvements will include an expanded 1920s styled midway.
“We have the midway now, but it’s going to be expanded into more things,” Demchuk said. “We’ve got bumper cars, a new ferris wheel, a maze, a roller coaster – a recreation of the Green Rattler that was the roller coaster that existed in Borden Park back in the day.”
The whole entrance will be redone, with a front admission area will allow for improved visitor services and shopping.
“We’ll reclaim that train station as a living breathing train station where people will be able to learn about Edmonton and Alberta’s railway history.”
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The park’s foundation intends to raise $10 million, and Demchuk said the federal announcement will help kick start that fund raising campaign.
Once it opens in 2020 Demchuk expects attendance to double to half a million visitors a year.
“Our free admission day last year had 14,000 people. This park is 158 acres, it’s a big space, even when you have a couple of thousand people here it seems empty. Getting 3,000-4,000 people a day here won’t be insurmountable.”
Utlity work is expected to begin in the fall, and will work around the visitors. The other work will begin in 2018.