Elk Island National Park
Elk Island National Park of Canada is located 45 km east of Edmonton, Alberta. It is the sixth oldest and seventh smallest of Canada’s 46 national parks. Initially created as a wildlife sanctuary for elk in 1906, Elk Island is recognized world-wide for its conservation efforts for plains and wood bison. It also protects a representative portion of the Southern Boreal Plains and Plateaux Natural Region. It was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2016 and is also part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve.
Federal Infrastructure Project Completion
Project name: Welcome Area Improvements – Wahkotowin Visitor Information Centre
Project description: Located at the South entrance of Elk Island National Park, off Highway 16, the welcome area is the first entry-point to welcome visitors to the park. This project offered the compete rehabilitation of the Visitor Information Centre (VIC), including the construction of a fully accessible and gender neutral washroom facility, a newly paved and expanded parking lot, as well as minor restoration of the barn that included painting and a new wood shingle roof as per Federal Heritage Building Review Office guidelines.
The newly designed VIC includes an Indigenous exhibit, with a traditional bison hide Star Blanket, and information related to visitor activities to ensure a meaningful experience. The VIC also provides important wildlife information to ensure the safety of both the visitors to Elk Island National Park and the many animal species found here. These major upgrades will contribute to a high-quality visitor experience and will play a significant role in helping Canadians connect with nature and Indigenous heritage.
The design of the new washroom facility and upgraded VIC incorporates many Green building design features such as increased use of natural sunlight, energy efficient LED lighting systems, high efficiency heating systems, as well as a bottle refilling station for those long hikes along Elk Island’s network of trails. The expanded parking lot will now better accommodate motor coach traffic and tours as visitation is expected to increase in the area.
VIC Project Partnership:
Elk Island worked closely with Indigenous communities and Corrections Canada in the development of the VIC exhibits through a pilot program spearheaded with CORCAN – a key rehabilitation program of the Correctional Service of Canada. This program aims to enable federally-sentenced Indigenous women offenders the chance to obtain additional employability skills and training at Elk Island National Park to help them be prepared for success when they are released. Participants in the program are from the Edmonton Federal Institution for Women, an Indigenous Healing Lodge in Edmonton. As part of the release program, participants are required to incorporate a cultural component under the guidance of Elders from the Edmonton Federal Institution for Women. With the guidance of Elders, the women painted a traditional buffalo hide Star Blanket and contributed heavily to the written portion of this exhibit.
Project Name: Astotin Lake Visitor Facility Rehabilitation
Project description: Announced in June of 2016, this project consisted of improving the visitor experience in the park by providing new and upgraded facilities in the main visitor day use area, campground, and trails. Highlights include a new main washroom facility with outdoor sinks, a new Astotin Campground registration and information kiosk, an Astotin theatre rehabilitation project, new kitchen shelters and washrooms throughout the campgrounds, and new picnic tables and fire pits.
Project name: Park Boundary Fence Repair and Replacement
Project description: Much of the park boundary fencing was replaced, with remaining sections to be replaced in the coming years. The boundary fence is integral to the protection of bison within the park limits.
Bison can easily be seen by visitors to Elk Island National Park. North of the Yellowhead Highway on the Elk Island Parkway, plains bison and other wildlife such as moose, elk and coyotes can be viewed. The area on the south side of the Yellowhead Highway is dedicated to wood bison. The wood bison roam the hills and forage along the lakes and can be viewed from hiking trails and from roads along the park’s boundaries.
Project name: Access Roads Rehabilitation
Project description: Access roads to areas within the park were improved to provide for a safe, high-quality travelling experience for visitors, as well as for staff that frequent multiple areas of the park on a daily basis. Access roads and areas included in this project are the Tawayik day use area, Bison Loop and lookout, Bison handling facility, administration and operations building, and Wood Bison trail head.
Project name: Astotin Lake Recreation Area Water Distribution Facility Upgrade
Project description: The water distribution facility at Astotin Lake Recreation Area was upgraded and renewed to today’s standards.
Project Name: Wastewater Facilities Rehabilitation
Project description: As part of this project, the Elk Island wastewater facilities, originally constructed in 1965, were upgraded to today’s standards which will support the protection of the aquatic ecosystem.