Could a 430-hectare national urban park be in Winnipeg’s future?

Winnipeg group presenting a proposal to have a national park, known as “Little Forks,” in Winnipeg. As Alex Karpa reports, the park would stretch from the tip of Point Douglas, along portions of the Seine, Red, and Assiniboine rivers.

A Winnipeg group is hoping to turn the large green space known as Point Douglas Park into a national urban park in the city.

“It’s happening, and this can be a major change for the inner city in Winnipeg,” said long-time community activist Sel Burrows.

The proposal for the Little Forks – what organizers are calling the prospective urban park – is to preserve an area of land that stretches from the tip of Point Douglas along portions of the Seine, Red and Assiniboine rivers.

“The full extent of the parks would comprise 430 hectares of land and water areas, more than three times the size of Assiniboine Park, two times the size of Montreal’s Mount Royal Park and larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park,” said Jean Trottier, an associate professor in the University of Manitoba’s department of landscape architecture.

Winnipeg’s Point Douglas Park greenspace on May 29, 2024. (Alex Karpa, CityNews)

One of the barriers faced by proponents of the project, according to Trottier, is a mix of private and public landowners.

“It’s going to take a while to get them together,” he said.

Work on the proposal, which is spearheaded by Parks Canada, began in 2022. It’s in line with the objectives of the national urban park program, which conserves and connects people with nature. It also joins the global call to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s land and seas.

“This urban park will have a significant impact by establishing a nature preserve, environmental restoration areas, ensuring equitable access to nature through continuous river trail networks and creating ceremonial and gathering spaces,” said Laurie Ringaert, former president of the group Save Our Seine.

To ensure equitable access to nature and recreational opportunities, the proposed park will be located near Winnipeg’s higher-needs neighbourhoods, where residents typically have lower access to parks and natural areas.

“Those of us from the inner city feel that this is really important that we focus on getting something exciting like this for the inner city,” said Burrows, who is also the coordinator of community crime hotline The Point Powerline.

Map of area for proposed Little Forks urban national park. (Alex Karpa, CityNews)

And while he proposal hopes to preserve and protect urban green spaces in Winnipeg, there’s more to it.

“This park proposal signals a very welcome and significant gesture towards reconciliation and healing, not just between people and people, but to the land itself, including the rivers,” said Katherine Bitney, a member of the North Point Douglas Residents Committee.

The group is hoping to see the project approved within the next few months.

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