It is reasonable to imagine tipis as the first homes in Larch Park. Archeologists found evidence of occupation easily dating back 8000 years. More recently, the Papaschase, Cree descendants of one of the chiefs who signed Treaty Six, camped along the Ravine embankment.
“Location, location, location” was as true then as it is now. Rabbit Hill, a short walk West, offered open views for scouting bison while the fish, edible berries and tool-making resources of the River Valley made the Larch Lands an attractive place to live.
Agricultural Land Within City Limits
Fast forward to twentieth century, the arrival of the first railway and the incorporation and growth of the City of Edmonton.
Edmonton eventually extended its city limits to encompass the Larch Lands, zoning them Agricultural. Members of the Poole Family, recognizing the value of the Oxbow and the intact ecosystem in Whitemud Creek Ravine, purchased them with preservation in mind. To cover the property taxes —$375/ year— they leased the upper lands to a local farmer. He paid $400/ year to harvest two crops of hay each summer.
This arrangement was ideal for the many people who enjoyed spending time wandering through the lower lands. The call of the birds, a glimpse of the beavers, the majesty of old spruce standing tall against snow, the fabulous colour of the fall leaves all combined to provide a restorative place to be.
The 21st Century: A New Chapter Begins
In 2003, the City established a Neighbourhood Area Structure Plan for Magrath Heights. This changed the zoning of the Larch Lands. Property taxes increased substantially, prompting the Poole Family to explore new ways to protect the Oxbow. They initiated discussions with the Edmonton and Area Land Trust, as well as Melcor. These talks laid the foundation for Larch Sanctuary and the community of Larch Park.