A new hand guides the preservation, protection and enhancement of the Capital Region River Valley Park System. On April 19, Christopher Sheard stepped down as Chair of the River Valley Alliance (RVA) and Brent Collingwood assumed the role. The River Valley Alliance is a partnership of seven municipalities and designated as steward of river valley parks development.
“The RVA is at a critical juncture,” says Collingwood, Director of Alumni & Corporate Relations with the University of Alberta’s MBA Programs. “With our current phase of projects winding down, our priorities are land acquisition and financial commitments for the next phase of projects. We have made great progress in the last five years, but that momentum is at risk if capital funding cannot be secured.”
The former Senior Director of Executive Education at the Alberta School of Business and committed Rotarian has been a representative for the City of Edmonton on the RVA’s Advisory Committee since 2011, serving as its Chair since 2014.
“Back in 2010, I saw a video by Don Metz showcasing a vision of Edmonton in 2040,” Collingwood explains. “That video, showing what our river valley could be, was my inspiration for getting involved in the River Valley Alliance. My experience has been both exciting and rewarding in telling so many people the RVA story.
“Having completed my term on the Advisory Committee,” he continues, “I did not want to lose my involvement with the RVA. I have a background in governance, I have sat at the Board table for four years, and I have a keen desire to keep the momentum going: I want to lead the Board through this next exciting but challenging phase.”
Outgoing Chair Christopher Sheard warmly congratulated his successor at the Annual General Meeting.
“Over the last five years,” says Sheard about his time as Chair, “the RVA has changed from an organization that had developed a plan for the river valley to an organization that is implementing that plan. It is nearing completion of an aggressive capital construction program, and is planning for the now foreseeable day when our river valley park will be fully connected from end to end.”
Prior to joining the RVA, Sheard had spent much of his professional life as an executive in the ATCO Group. More recently, he served as Chair for Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and the Citadel Theatre, and then led the creation of the Capital Region Board from 2008-2011. During his term as Chair, the RVA engaged in eighteen initiatives to advance connectivity and access within the river valley, including a pedestrian bridge, Alberta’s first river valley funicular, and over 70 km of multi-use trails.
When asked about his next role, Sheard replies, “I am always watching for challenging opportunities. I’m sure one will find me.”
Collingwood is excited about the challenging opportunity he has found.
“Citizens of our shareholder municipalities are experiencing the new trails that bring them to their river valley,” he says. “Councils are seeing the benefits their tax dollars are bringing to their communities, which reinforces the importance of completing trail connectivity. The profile of the RVA continues to grow as the driving force to create a continuous, world-class metropolitan river valley park system from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan, and leave a legacy for generations to come.”
“This isn’t a cause that exists just around a council table or among elites,” Sheard agrees. “This is a cause that resonates in every person on the street. And that is why it will succeed.”