A group has come together to propose a boundary and rezoning of the land that includes part of the Oleskiw Surplus School site to a Natural Area Zone. Please read the below, and if you would like to be a project supporter, email Patsy Cotterill at nutmeg@telus.net or Hubert Taube at taubeha@shaw.ca directly with your full name and community of residence.

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Dear Honourable Mayor Iveson,

It has come to the attention of Edmonton’s naturalist and conservation community, that City Administration has proposed the rezoning of the southern portion of the Oleskiw Park Natural Area from Public Parks zone (AP) to a zone that would enable its clearing for residential uses.  We, the undersigned, do not support this proposed zoning change, and request that this sensitive natural area be zoned to its appropriately managed designation of “NA” (Natural Areas Protection Zone) in order to ensure its permanent protection.

The Oleskiw Park Natural Area is one of Edmonton’s oldest conserved tableland natural areas having been incorporated and protected within the Oleskiw Park site since the neighbourhood was developed in the 1970’s.  This 3.1 hectare natural area was officially named “NW638” by the City during its natural area mapping initiative in the early 2000’s.  The NA inventory work also informed the creation, and 2007 Council approval, of the City’s Natural connections Strategic Plan and Natural Area Systems Policy (C531).  It was the Natural Connections work which confirmed how rare, and extremely threatened, such non-river valley natural areas are.

Since the approval of Policy C531, this important “stepping stone” habitat patch has been purposefully managed as an official Natural Area under the direction of the City-wide Natural Area Management Plan.  In addition, the City’s 2017 Environmental Sensitivity Mapping initiative mapped this Natural Area as having “High” Environmental Sensitivity; again, reaffirming its significance to the City’s natural area network and the multiple important ecosystem services it provides to our Open Space network overall (e.g. habitat, areas for nature play and appreciation, stormwater filtration, carbon dioxide removal and storage, heat island mitigation, air quality improvements).

With the confirmation in 2015 that the Oleskiw Park Site is no longer required for a school building envelope, Edmontonians now have an exciting opportunity to permanently protect Natural Area NW638 without any conflict with future schoolboard needs.   Therefore, we, the undersigned, would like to request that Council direct Administration to provide a fourth zoning scenario in their public consultation whereby the Natural Area, an ecologically determined buffer zone, and potential naturalization and/or restoration areas, be zoned as “NA” (see attached).  

The Natural Areas Protection Zone was added to the zoning bylaw in 2007 (30 years after the establishment of the Oleskiw Park Natural Area), “…to conserve, preserve and restore identified natural areas.” As described above, Natural Area NW638 has been consistently identified and managed as a natural area by the City and as such, should receive the NA zone designation.  

We note that an important requirement of the NA zone is that “When … an application is to rezone an identified Natural Area to the NA Zone, the Development Officer shall require a Natural Area Management Plan ….” We also recognize that these are extraordinary times that have financially hit the City of Edmonton very hard.  Therefore, the Principal signatories and Project volunteers of this letter, commit to completing a draft Site-Specific NAMP (SSNAMP) for City Administration review that would:

  1. Identity a proposed boundary for the purpose of zoning of the Natural Area, including the buffer;
  2. Consult with the Westridge Wolf Willow Country Club Community League (and interested community members) to develop a statement of the extent of human and recreational activities permitted within the NA Zone; and
  3. Follow the direction outlined in the City’s Guidelines for Developing Site-Specific Natural Area Management Plans in the City of Edmonton to produce a SSNAMP for the Oleskiw Park Natural Area.

We are very excited by this great opportunity to show how a community of conservationists and progressive City Administrators can come together for the good of this important Natural Area and its surrounding community.  With Council’s support, the undersigned is keen to uphold one of Policy C531’s key tenets, that of “Incorporat[ing] the local ecological knowledge of Edmonton’s citizens and organizations into our decisions.” Through this proposal, we can all work together to set the stage for long term, community-based stewardship of this important Natural Area.  

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Principal signatories:

Patsy Cotterill, Resident of Rio Terrace, BSc. Botany (Hons.), past NAAC member, SSNAMP Vegetation Lead

Hubert Taube, Resident of Westridge, University Lecturer (retired), SSNAMP Avian Lead

Lu Carbyn, Resident of Westridge, Ph. D., Zoology, SSNAMP Terrestrial Wildlife Lead

Manna Parseyan, Resident of Lendrum, M.Sc., Earth Sciences, SSNAMP Soils Lead

Harry Stelfox, Resident of Twin Brooks, Nature Stewardship Volunteer, SSNAMP Naturalization Advisor

Project supporters: Individuals who support this Natural Area rezoning initiative:

<Your Name and Community of Residence Here>