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'It’s very Edmontonian': Idea aims to connect downtown Edmonton with South through a leisure pathway

Group of professionals have pitched an idea for a linear pathway that will run from MacEwan to Whyte Avenue.

The proposed High Level Line Project aims to connect downtown Edmonton with South.

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The proposed High Level Line Project aims to connect downtown Edmonton with South.

A group of Edmontonians have pitched an ambitious idea to use green space to link downtown with Old Strathcona.

The High Level Line project, which would see a 4.3-kilometre strip of parkland run from north of Jasper Ave to Whyte Avenue, is the brainchild of a group of architects, landscape architects, engineers and urban planners.

“The river valley, as amazing and beautiful as it is, has long acted as a barrier between those two areas,” said landscape architect Kevin Dieterman.

“So we studied achieving that connectivity.”

So far, the High Level Line is just an idea, and they don’t know how much it would cost or how it would be built. For now, they want Edmontonians to think about it.

“We are really just interested in generating a conversation about the idea and getting the idea out there and having people contribute to it, add to it and test whether this is a great solution for Edmonton,” Dieterman said.

“We are just drawing this out there like, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if Edmonton looked like this?’” he said.

The group launched a new website devoted to the idea Wednesday, that shows the proposed pathway starting near MacEwan, before crossing Railtown Green and Jasper Avenue, crossing the High Level Bridge and going through the Garneau tunnel, and ending up at Whyte Avenue.

They also suggest having shacks at different points on the pathway, selling ice cream in summer and hot chocolate in winter, or other amenities like washrooms and sports equipment rentals.

The idea is to get people to experience their surroundings instead of just passing through them, according to Michael Zabinski, another of the project’s architects.

“We are all trying to get from point A to point B in as little time as possible, but there is so much along the way that we miss by doing that,” he said.

“I think it’s a very Edmonton project. I think the infrastructre is so unique to the city, the geography that is so unique to the city. It’s very Edmontonian,” he said.

Mayor Don Iveson said the project might have “potential,” despite the hurdles.

“I think I see more potential than I see barriers,” he told Metro.

While it would no doubt come with a hefty price tag, he said designers could look at fundraising or sponsorships to offset costs.

“There are still barriers, there are cost issues, there are feasibility issues, but if we really want to dive into those and take a serious look at this proposal...

“I just think it would be a stunning way to connect our two busiest and densest cultural and economic nodes.”

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