qualico, portrait galleries, gravel pits in river valleys, and campaign donations.

At the same time as Qualico Developments is bidding to build Canada’s National Portrait Gallery in Edmonton (which I think is a grand idea), Qualico Communities is asking Edmonton City Council to amend municipal by-laws to allow the excavation of gravel from Edmonton’s River Valley. The proposed gravel pit site, located at the south end of 199th Street, has been designated as a Restricted Development Area by the Alberta government since 1974 and is protected by the City of Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley bylaw, which prohibits natural resource extraction projects that are not deemed “essential.” Approximately 21 times larger than New York City’s Central Park, Edmonton’s River Valley is the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America and one of Edmonton’s greatest treasures.

Fearing that the site will make convoys of gravel trucks a regular occurrence in their neighbourhood, local residents of the are showing up in person and online to voice their opposition to the proposed development. Though opposition to the gravel pit is clearly a case of NIMBY, I don’t believe (as Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen suggests) that Qualico is the victim in this fight (I also don’t blame residents for not wanting a gravel pit in their backyard). With the community residents mounting a well-organized advocacy campaign…

…campaign handouts, with suggested content for protest letters. They’ve got a printed target list of politicians, civil servants and media outlets. They’ve got financial resources and a fundraising goal of $50,000…

…I’m more interested in seeing whether Qualico’s $5,000 donations to the re-election campaigns of Mayor Stephen Mandel, Ward 1 Councillors Karen Leibovici and Linda Sloan, Ward 2 Councillor Ron Hayter, Ward 3 Councillor Ed Gibbons, and Ward 5 Councillor Bryan Anderson were enough to influence Council to make an exception for Qualico.

The proposal, which will also need approval from Alberta Environment, will be presented to City Council in June 2008. In February 2008, Premier Ed Stelmach announced $50 million for the creation of the River Valley Alliance Park in the Capital Region.

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