Parks Canada commits to discussions of National Urban Park in Windsor

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The City of Windsor has signed a ‘statement of collaboration’ with Parks Canada to develop a National Urban Park.

The city will now start discussions with the federal agency to transform and connect parts of the Ojibway Prairie Complex into an urban park that will allow people to explore nature while protecting biodiversity in the area.

“It starts a conversation with the federal government, it’s a sign that they are interested in coming to an agreement or some kind of resolution on how to deal with the Ojibway Prairie complex and really maximize its value,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

The minister responsible for Parks Canada Jonathan Wilkinson announced the National Urban Park Program in Saskatchewan this week. There are currently seven parks under consideration throughout the country including in Meewasin Valley in Saskatoon as well as in the municipalities of Winnipeg and Halifax. About $130.9 million has been dedicated to the creation of these national urban parks.

“There’s quite a bit of flexibility in terms of how the money gets spent and our focus is going to be on working with municipalities and in some cases provinces to ensure that these are areas that we will all be very proud of. That will provide access to nature for local residents and potentially can help provide tourism benefits to local communities,” said Wilkinson.

The park in Windsor could include areas like the current Ojibway Park, Ojibway Shores and the Black Oak area.

“The question is how do we stitch together all of those great pieces of land, put the right pathway infrastructure in place so that people have multiple kilometres of pathways to explore this great urban national park in their own city,” said Dilkens.

Wilkinson said he hopes to have a clear path forward within the next year.

“The timelines are probably going to be different depending on the local circumstances and also depending on the degree of urgency that the municipality attaches to working with us,” said Wilkinson. “But, certainly I would hope that within the next year we will be in the position to actually have done a lot of the consultation work and be able to be a lot more definitive about what this might look like moving forward.”

Part of the discussions moving forward will be incorporating the Ojibway Shores lands, currently owned by the Windsor Port Authority, into the National Urban Park.

“The right thing for the federal government to do as owners of that land is to compensate the port authority fairly and make sure that the land is included in the National Urban Park so that everyone has the comfort that it will never be developed,” said Dilkens.

The Windsor Port Authority issued a statement to congratulate the formal agreement between the City of Windsor and Parks Canada.

“The Port Authority now looks forward to continued discussions with the City and Canada as to how the Port’s Ojibway Shores property could be integrated into the planned Urban National Park. The identification of a replacement property is key to the solution to ensure the Port can move forward with its primary mandate of economic development and growth,” said the statement.

Minister Wilkinson said he is committed to working with the port authority while developing the park.

“We’re going to be exploring all opportunities that may be available for us to create a park that’s actually going to be a park that folks in Windsor will use and appreciate,” said Wilkinson. “Those are exactly the conversations that we will be beginning very soon, moving forward to ensure that we are doing the right thing to make this a beautiful space.”

Parks Canada has also committed to working closely with Indigenous partners to ensure the national urban parks promote Indigenous voices and provide opportunities for connections to the land and water.