Park facelift pitched
Conservancy prices works at $180 million
By ROSS ROMANIUK, SUN MEDIA
Last Updated: 20th June 2009, 4:18am
A redeveloped polar bear-friendly zoo, splashy new conservatory, treetop zip-line and man-made recreational rushing river are among the attractions that will come to Assiniboine Park for $180 million.
The Assiniboine Park Conservancy has set that price tag for an ambitious makeover of Winnipeg's primary green space, and said yesterday it wants 75% of the cost covered by the three levels of government.
In announcing the project at the park's Lyric Theatre, Conservancy chairman Hartley Richardson and president Margaret Redmond said they're seeking $45 million from private donations and the corporate sector, and the same sum from each of the city, province and federal government.
Their plan is to complete the decade-long transformation in stages as the cash comes together.
Among the slated improvements to the 105-year-old park are a "family centre" building, a new conservatory with rock and waterfall features, a zip-line, a river-style water facility, a vastly expanded duck pond and a renovated zoo with improved entrance off Corydon Avenue.
"The vision and plan for Assiniboine Park is both exciting and achievable," Richardson told a crowd of park stakeholders. "It is inspiring, it is dynamic and it will take the park to a whole new level."
Assiniboine Park Zoo would see dramatic upgrades -- particularly to its polar bear enclosure, with an underwater viewing area added -- as well as a polar bear conservation and research centre.
Though the zoo has had no polar bears since last fall, Richardson said "at least two" such animals would be sought.
Other park and zoo makeover proposals in recent years have gone nowhere, but Redmond said this project's business plan makes it credible.
A first phase to possibly open within two years is a children's "nature playground," Redmond explained, "with tree forts, a children's garden and beautiful rolling hills and swings in the trees," as well as a larger duck pond for "interacting with the water" via islands, stepping stones and miniature boats.
The "family centre" in that area will include a small eatery. As well, Redmond said, the project calls for a "rushing river running through the forest, where you can ride inner-tubes."
Senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews and a spokesman for Premier Gary Doer, said they look forward to seeing more details.
Coun. Grant Nordman (St. Charles) said that while the cost sounds daunting, the city's share of perhaps $4.5 million annually for 10 years might be found by shuffling cash within current budgets.
"How do you feed an elephant?" Nordman said. "With one bite at a time."
Source: Winnipeg Sun