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 in the lower lands. Spring mornings alive with birds, a summer glimpse of the beavers, fabulous Fall colours and the majesty of ancient spruce standing tall against snow made it a popular place to simply be.
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, 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.
The vision for the new community emphasized connections between homes, yards, and green spaces. A unique set of landscaping, sustainability and architectural guidelines shaped a new habitat where people, native plants, birds and bees could all flourish.
In 2016, the 58 acres of Whitemud Creek Ravine that encompass the Oxbow were protected in perpetuity through a formal Conservation Easement, Edmonton’s first. The Easement ensures that the homes in Larch Park will always border valuable natural habitat and a mature forest.
Homeowners Who Share the Vision
The next chapter of Larch Park is up to you. To truly succeed in the long term, the community needs people who share the original vision — a diverse, vibrant place designed for life in the 21st century.