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Proposed urban park in Winnipeg could be 'larger than Vancouver's Stanley Park,' group says

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A group of Winnipeg residents has proposed the creation of a new national urban park in the city.

The park would be located at the “Little Forks” – where the Red and Seine Rivers meet - and encompass a portion of the Assiniboine River.

It would be built around a nature preserve, and include the tip of Point Douglas.

“The full extent of the parks will comprise 430 acres of land and water areas…three times the size Assiniboine Park, twice the size of Montreal’s Mount Royal Park, and larger than Vancouver's Stanley Park,” said Jean Trottier, project lead and an associate professor at the University of Manitoba.

According to the proposal, the park would help with environmental conservation and restoration efforts.

“Our proposal would preserve most existing natural areas in the city centre, and restore more than 14 hectares of former industrial land, adding 85,000 trees in the process. It will protect 10 kilometres of waterways and repair habitat connectivity between the Red, Seine and Assiniboine River corridors,” said Trottier.

The Little Forks area proposal (WPG Little Forks)

The green space would be located near higher-needs neighbourhoods where residents typically have lower access to parks and natural spaces, and seeks to establish a functional continuous river trail network that would connect inner city recreational and cultural facilities.

About 12 per cent of Winnipeg residents would be within a 10-minute walk of the park, including 18,000 indigenous ones.

“The park’s central location would also ensure easy public transit access to all Winnipeggers. All residents of the greater Winnipeg area will be within a 30-minute drive of the National Park. Reconciliation with Indigenous communities will be advanced through the park’s proximity to neighbourhoods with a significant Indigenous population by supporting the mandates and activities of nearby Indigenous organizations (and) by preserving places, and features, of historical significance to First Nations and Metis people by including Indigenous partners in parks ownership and long-term management,” Trottier explained.

Press conference regarding a proposal for a new national urban park (CTV News/Jamie Dowsett)

According to Sel Burrows, a Point Douglas community advocate, the idea to establish a park in the Pointe Douglas neighbourhood came about in a meeting with former premier Gary Doer in 2009.

“In the middle of the meeting, he paused and said, you know, we really have to think about the point of Point Douglas. Why don't we make it a provincial park? And that was the beginning of our thoughts of this area,” said Burrows.

In 2022, Trottier, wrote an article for The Globe and Mail about the federal government’s plan to put a national park inside all major cities in Canada, and suggested Point Douglas as an option. A planning group was soon put together and has been exploring the establishment of Little Forks ever since.

Trottier said that the forest proposal “is not for the faint of heart” given the different branches of government, landowners, and organizations, that will need to join forces to make it a reality. However, he noted the park’s mission is crystal clear.

“Our proposal is simple; now is the time to protect Winnipeg’s rivers in perpetuity,” said Trottier.

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