City looking into making downtown Edmonton more child-friendly

Canadian news headlines

You’ll find plenty of bars, clubs and other adult-oriented spaces in downtown Edmonton, but now the city is asking how it can make the core more kid-friendly.

An online survey released Tuesday asks families for their input on potential additions to the city hall and Stanley A. Milner Library grounds to make them better places for children.

Kristen Baker, the alternate assistant director of It’s All About Kids daycare downtown, said the current amenities in the area for children are far from satisfactory.

Play places downtown are lacking, she said, aside from a few small parks and the nearby river valley.

The city hopes to add child-friendly elements to the civic precinct. (City of Edmonton)

“Children, they need to be children. They need to be outside. They need to be exploring their surroundings,” she said.

“And they learn through play. So when they get to go and jump off a rock or run around a grassy field, that’s giving them boatloads of learning.”

Baker highlighted playgrounds as an example of a play place, but noted clean, safe, natural areas also make for fun spaces where kids can explore and entertain themselves.

Corinne Bishop, a project manager with the city’s open-space planning and design department, said the concepts will be based on citizen feedback and could include play structures, surface design and public art.

She said the goal is to add the kid-friendly elements to the city’s civic precinct, which encompasses city hall, Churchill Square, the Stanley A. Milner Library and Centennial Plaza. Parts of the civic precinct are under construction, providing the opportunity to explore the addition of new elements catered to kids.

“We know that there’s a lot of child-friendly opportunities in this area, but we’re looking for elements that are intentionally created and placed for children of all ages to use, play and interact with,” she said.

Bishop said the goal is to create safe, connected and welcoming areas for children — which, according to Child Friendly Edmonton’s annual report, make up about 13 per cent of the city’s population.

Improved safety?

Portions of the civic precinct are under construction, providing the opportunity to explore adding kid-friendly elements to the area. (CBC)

The report from Child Friendly Edmonton, a city council initiative, notes “child-friendly” spaces welcome children and their caregivers by specifically catering to their needs.

One element of the downtown core that isn’t so child-friendly is safety, Baker said.

Daycare staff avoid certain areas when walking with the children downtown due to concerns about strangers approaching them.

“If there was more police presence in certain downtown areas then we wouldn’t be so affected by not being worried about heading out with our children all the time,” she said.

Bishop noted safety is always a consideration on city projects, but it’s too early to determine if the Edmonton Police Service would be a stakeholder.

The public survey is the first step in the project, which will be followed by public consultation on proposed concepts in 2019, she said. The timeline for when the project will be finished is not yet known.



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