Larger Westerner going greener

Westerner Park has officially tripled in size. Its new 50-year lease with the city increases the Westerner grounds to 320 acres from the 115 acres it has leased for 25 years.

Westerner Park has officially tripled in size.

Its new 50-year lease with the city increases the Westerner grounds to 320 acres from the 115 acres it has leased for 25 years.

The Westerner now extends to include the old landfill which can be used as either green space or parking in years to come, as well as the city’s new off-leash dog park Oxbows.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said the city looks upon its lease with the Westerner as a permanent arrangement that is of great benefit to the city.

“Westerner Park is a huge economic generator for the city,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling after signing the land lease agreement at the Westerner’s annual general meeting held Wednesday night.

In 2009, the Westerner hosted 1,500 events with about 1.5 million visitors.

Flewwelling said several events attracted people from all over Western Canada and the northern United States.

“We’ve just done Agri-Trade and we had nearly 85,000 or 90,000 people and that’s equivalent to the population of the whole city.”

Flewwelling said in its first 25 years on the site, the Westerner has done an amazing job and he looks forward to seeing facilities expand and green spaces developed.

Change came in 2009 with the opening of the new Donald Administration Building, 580 more parking stalls, the reconfiguration of traffic flows and the construction of the new northwest gate.

The Westerner also turned green with 225 trees and 1,200 shrubs planted. And that’s only the beginning.

“We’re looking to put more trees in and make the parking lot more of a park-like area,” said Westerner Park president Wendy Barnes.

Planting will begin after Westerner Days so it doesn’t interfere with the annual summer celebration.

Trees and benches will also be added near the pond by the northwest gate.

A covered walk-way to run along the outside the ENMAX Centrium and pavilions is another project for 2010, where concession stands may operate.

The long-term strategic plan includes a number of upgrades expected to be completed by 2018 including new transit stops, an expansion to the Centrium, more exhibition and meeting space, and improved connections to Piper Creek walking trails.

The new parking fee during major events is helping to pay for improvements.

“We hope it hasn’t caused too much of an inconvenience for people. I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it. If you go to Northlands or the Stampede grounds, you’re paying a lot more than $3.”

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