A summer day in Fort Saskatchewan is likely to find John McGladdery out on the local trails, running, hiking, picking some ripe Saskatoon berries or just enjoying the scenery with his dog, Bandit.
McGladdery, who moved to town with his wife about three years ago, was recently appointed to represent Fort Saskatchewan as a director at large for the River Valley Alliance (RVA), a non-profit group working to build and improve trails and amenities in the capital region’s 18,000 acres of North Saskatchewan river parkland.
The RVA envisions creating a “world class” 100-km park system on par with Central Park in New York City or Stanley Park in Vancouver, with continuous trails stretching from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan.
Seven riverfront municipalities, including Edmonton and Strathcona and Sturgeon counties, are part of the alliance.
McGladdery, who works as an agrologist and is pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Alberta, was drawn to joining the RVA after becoming an avid trail user. He is active in the river valley year-round, cross-country skiing in the winter and getting out for some canoeing and trail running in warmer weather.
“Sometimes we'll go into Gold Bar and run through the city too, so it's nice that the trail systems are getting connected to each other so that you can go for a little bit longer and be out there a little bit more,” McGladdery said.
McGladdery looks forward to continuing the RVA’s work in connecting people with the river valley system in Fort Saskatchewan and the wider Edmonton region. The local river valley has some unique qualities of its own, he said, adding that that no matter where people are in town, with just a minutes-long journey they can be at the edge of the river, feeling like they’re in the middle of a secluded wilderness.
“It's nice you can just get out there with your family. It's free, and everyone's able to use it and there are lots of new parks down there for everybody to enjoy,” McGladdery said. “So it's just kind of an awesome amenity that the city has that everybody is able to get to.”
This year the RVA wrapped up the first phase of its capital plan. The alliance used funding from three levels of government to put $90 million into 13 projects, including 70 km of new trails.
The RVA’s phase one projects in Fort Saskatchewan included the West River’s Edge pavilion and Red Coat Landing, as well as upgrades to local trails and the completion of a trail connection to Strathcona County. Phase one also saw viewing platforms and staircases built in the local river valley.
Phase two of the RVA’s work will see $100 million put into 13 more projects, including 33 km of trails. The phase will also tackle the construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting the Fort Saskatchewan and Sturgeon County trail systems as part of the Highway 15 twinning project.
This summer the RVA will also be hosting its EPCOR RiverFest. The event, which gives people a chance to try out a number of outdoor activities, including river rafting, comes to Fort Saskatchewan on Aug.12.