Edmonton city council votes to halt Prairie Sky Gondola project

·3 min read
The historic Rossdale power plant is one stop on the proposed five-station gondola route across the North Saskatchewan River.  (Prairie Sky Gondola - image credit)
The historic Rossdale power plant is one stop on the proposed five-station gondola route across the North Saskatchewan River. (Prairie Sky Gondola - image credit)

A proposed gondola project that would carry passengers over the North Saskatchewan River has been grounded by Edmonton city council.

After much debate at Monday's council meeting, councillors passed a motion Monday 12-1 to not continue with Prairie Sky Gondola's proposed lease agreement.

Coun. Anne Stevenson's motion asked council to accept the proposed land deal for information and not approve the agreement with the private company.

Some residents who opposed the project say the proposed gondola station would disrupt traditional Indigenous burial grounds near the Rossdale power plant. Several councillors cited those same concerns at Monday's meeting.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said allowing the gondola project to happen would be hurtful to Indigenous communities and push back reconciliation efforts.

"There could be remains anywhere and everywhere on this site and I just cannot in good conscience support a project that even have the slightest doubt that could be built on ancestral burial ground, particularly when we have made such a strong commitment as a city to reconciliation with Indigenous communities," Sohi said Monday.

The urban gondola was first proposed as part of The Edmonton Project in 2018, a competition hosted by a consortium of local businesses that aim to construct a new landmark in the city. The gondola won the competition, beating out several other pitches including building the world's largest tree house in an Edmonton park and a series of saunas along the river valley.

Prairie Sky Gondola told CBC in a statement that the gondola project is not dead, despite council's decision Monday.

'We are not deterred by today's decision," said president and CEO Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson in a statement."  Maybe it's time The Edmonton Project is revived. This city needs more big ideas for people to believe in and more empowered city builders daring to do them. We're proud of what we did and we're excited to explore what we can do next."

Hansen-Carlson said the company is committed to reconciliation.

Coun. Andrew Knack said he believes council made the right decision, but he hopes people are still incentivized to put forward innovative ideas to council.

"We don't want to signal with our decision is that Edmonton is closed off to innovation or to creativity. Hopefully the message people take is that no matter what, those types of projects need to lead with an Indigenous lead process," Knack said.

Although Knack eventually voted in opposition to the gondola, he was initially in support the project, and said he enjoys debating new ideas.

"I don't think this is on the folks at Prairie Sky, they actually worked really hard over the last few years to try to come up with something innovative and unique.

" As time went on, I started to think about I think maybe this is actually more interesting than I first gave it credit for and and I think that's due to a lot of the work that was done," Knack said.