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Route to greener future for Red Deer will require a collective effort

Adopt-a-park or -stream is one city initiative
Red Deer’s Waskasoo Park trail, between Riverside Meadows and Highland Green, offers a bird’s-eye view of the city as well as another walkable route. (Advocate file photo)

Calgary is planting more trees to be green. Edmonton’s mayor is encouraging the “15-minute city” concept of walkability.

The City of Red Deer also aims for a more environmentally friendly future — but is focusing at this time on different initiatives than the two major centres.

“That’s not really where we are going right now, but we’re happy to consider other measures going forward,” said Bobby-Jo Stannard, the city’s community development superintendent.

Red Deer will not be giving out free trees for residents to plant in their yards — as is Calgary, which aims to double the size of its tree canopy.

Instead, the City of Red Deer is asking residents to “adopt” a park, stream or storm drain and help keep these clear of litter or debris.

“We are asking people to work with us, as partners, in stewardship,” said Stannard, who believes small efforts, like picking up refuse from parks or streams will make a big difference if everybody gets on board.

As well, a new environmental rebate grant program is being launched to encourage citizen-focused ecological initiatives, such as building pollinator gardens, planting edible gardens etc. Stannard encourages Red Deerians to stay tuned to the city’s website for more information on the criteria.

Meanwhile, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is advocating for the creation of more “15-minute districts” that allow residents to work, live and shop within close proximity. Sohi wants to widen sidewalks and trails and encouraging sustainable infrastructure to make the city more walkable for Edmontonians.

While the award-winning Walkable Cities concept, put forward in 2016 by Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne University in Paris, has been embraced by many centres across Europe, it’s not without its detractors.

Some people imagine a dystopian future of government-monitored citizen movements and people being limited to where they can drive or live.

This was debunked as a conspiracy theory — but several protesters have recently been hoisting signs against 15-minute cities near Gaetz Avenue and 19th Street in Red Deer, prompting the City of Red Deer to issue a response, saying there are no local plans to impose any kind of restrictive planning principles.

Emily Damberger, city planning and growth manager, said Red Deer neighbourhoods already incorporate “multi-modal planning,” which includes having sidewalks and trails for walking, as well as bus routes. As well, there are often nearby commercial strips, so that some opportunities exist for people to live, shop and potentially work within a proximate area.

For instance, Clearview Ridge was designed with a walkable neighbourhood concept in mind.

The idea is to have good connectivity, said Damberger, allowing people to walk, cycle, take an e-scooter or transit bus, or drive.