Breathe: Edmonton's Green Network Strategy

Edmonton, Alberta 

Photo Credit: O2 Planning + Design Inc.


Initial Research by: Zoe Goldman

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2018



Project: Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy

Type of Urban Strategy: Green Cities, Sustainable Design 

Type of ProjectLand-use Planning

LocationCalgary, Alberta 

Date Designed/Planned: 2017

Construction Completed:  30 year strategy

Designer: O2 Planning + Design Inc.



Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy is a 30-year strategic plan that provides an opportunity for the expansion of Edmonton’s parks and open spaces. Designed by O2 Planning + Design Inc., the network strategy values open spaces to further ecological, civic and wellness functions for the residents of Edmonton. The strategy aims to revitalize the current parks, plazas, and recreational spaces through the implementation of three primary standards; connected, multifunctional, and open spaces. 


The network follows the River Valley and Ravine System as a framework for the new designed and planned aspects such as ecological parks, trails, and corridors. This will allow the city to be efficient with their land-use and provide new opportunities for more sustainable strategies, stewardship and engagement. The end goal for the Breathe project is to create and sustain a healthy city through the integration of ecology on a variety of different scales such as neighbourhoods, cities, and regional levels. 

(O2, 2017)


Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy is an open space planning strategy for implementation throughout the entire city of Edmonton. The project is designed by O2 Planning + Design Inc., who worked alongside the City of Edmonton to ensure it aligns with the city’s objectives and future goals. The project strives to respond to the city’s rapid population growth within the next 30 years with a green network strategy that encourages multi-functionality and connections throughout Edmonton’s open space network.


The Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy project covers the entire city of Edmonton, from the urban core to its emerging peripheral communities. The project divides the city into neighbourhood groups to analyze and address each specific areas issues and opportunities. The project groups are the central core, mature neighbourhoods, established neighbourhoods, developing neighbourhoods, urban growth areas and industrial neighbourhoods (O2, 2017).

The Green Network includes all of Edmonton’s land and water/open spaces that are owned by the public and are publicly accessible. Examples of this are parks, plazas, main streets, natural areas, corridors, and green infrastructure. The green network aims to be multifunctional and consists of three essential functions – ecology, celebration, wellness.


Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy was approved by City Council in 2017 and replaces the previous Urban Parks Management Plan (UPMP) that guided “the future acquisition, design, construction, maintenance and animation (use) of City Parks, river valley and natural areas” (City of Edmonton, 2018). The project works in preparation for Edmonton’s increasing population to ensure that a network of open spaces will support existing and future communities. The goal of the Green Network Strategy is to create an integrated, multifunctional network of parks and open spaces that supports healthy ecosystems, wildlife habitats, meets the needs of existing and future communities.

The project considers the amount, function and distribution of all publicly accessible open space. The Green Network consists of three main functions - ecology, wellness and celebration – that help us understand the benefits that the network provides to citizens, the city and the environment. The functions help emphasize the interconnected nature of the city’s open spaces and how they form the multifunctional green network. The ecology network supports and enhances the environment by sustaining healthy and resilient ecosystems. The celebration network connects people and builds a sense of place by providing spaces for communities to thrive, gather and celebrate. The wellness network promotes healthy living and fosters well-being through diverse kinds of recreation, mobility and environments.

The project proposes strategic directions for the future of Edmonton’s Green Network by incorporating research on the functions and benefits of the Green Network and guidance from Edmonton’s key planning documents. Accompanying each strategic direction are a handful of policy actions that provide steps towards achieving the direction and ultimately, the overall project goal. The ten strategic directions for the Green Network include:

-Ensure it is safe, accessible and inclusive for all

-Create open spaces are vibrant, sustainable and functional

-Encourage community engagement

-Improve awareness and education opportunities

-Ensure adequate supply, quality, diversity and distribution of open spaces

-Improve connectivity and access to open spaces

-Preserve and enhance ecological integrity

-Adaptively manage spaces according to the changing trends

-Improve collaborative planning

-Develop a sustainable funding model

(O2, 2017)


The main goal of Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy is to ensure that as Edmonton continues to grow, all neighbourhoods are supported by a network of multifunctional open spaces, creating a healthy and sustainable city. By using a transformative strategy, the project encourages connecting and integrating open spaces on all levels, from the site to the regional scale (City of Edmonton, 2018).

Additionally, the project supports the six strategic goals identified in Edmonton’s “The Ways” planning document:

-Transform Edmonton’s urban form

-Enhance the use of public transit and active modes of transportation

-Improve Edmonton’s livability

-Preserve and sustain Edmonton’s environment

-Ensure Edmonton’s financial sustainability

-Diversify Edmonton’s economy

(O2, 2017)


The undertaking of Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy began by looking at the existing documents for the City of Edmonton and its open space network. These documents “The Way Ahead” and “The Ways” are the core planning documents that direct the growth and management of Edmonton through 6 strategic goals (O2, 2017). All plans and strategies in Edmonton must align with the objectives and vision of “The Ways” document.

The next phase of the project looked at understanding how an entirely green network works as a whole by looking at open space function, distribution, quality, and supply. This process involved compiling a Geospatial database to create an inventory of all of Edmonton’s open spaces and information about function and connectivity. The database allowed planners to make integrated, informed and spatially explicit decisions regarding the future of the green network (O2, 2017).

The project team assessed each open space based on its contribution to the three overarching themes of the green network – ecology, celebration and wellness. This assessment was done by defining 15 functions of open spaces, based on how they benefit citizens’ well-being and the environment, and assigning a functional score to every open space in Edmonton. Additionally, the City of Edmonton undertook three phases of public engagement, where citizens learned about the project and were asked to share their feedback on current open spaces, their issues, and what they would like to see in the future (City of Edmonton, 2018).


The City of Edmonton brought in O2 Planning + Design Inc. to undertake the development of the Green Network Strategy. The O2 team documented and analyzed all existing open spaces, created a Geospatial database to inventory this information, and developed ten strategic directions to help guide the future of the Green Network.

The design team was responsible for producing creative planning and design strategies to enhance, restore and expand Edmonton’s Green Network. To complement these actions, they created management and operation guidelines to ensure the open space network continues to flourish into the future. The planning and design actions respond to each policy action within the ten strategic directions. An example of this is crime reduction under the Safe and Inclusive direction. The designers suggest incorporating Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles in the development and programming of open spaces and developing a Park Safety Strategy.


CIP. CIP. "Breathe: Edmonton's Green Network Strategy." Canadian Institute of Planners. Accessed July 14, 2018. City of Edmonton. "Breathe." City of Edmonton. Accessed July 14, 2018. CSLA. "Breathe: Edmonton's Green Network Strategy." Canadian Society of Landscape Architects. Accessed July 14, 2018. O2 Planning + Design. "Breathe: Edmonton's Green Network Strategy." O2 Planning + Design. Accessed July 14, 2018. O2 Planning + Design. "Breathe: Edmonton's Green Network Strategy Strategic Plan." City of Edmonton. August 2017.


The project provides decision makers such as land use planners, developers, private landowners, community partners, and citizens with a better understanding of open space priorities, processes and requirements. When all of these parties understand these concepts, it helps to ensure that public open spaces and land are used effectively and will provide a multitude of functions and benefits for citizens, the city and the environment.

Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy presents an opportunity for Edmonton to become a leading city in open space planning and is recognized for its innovative approach. The project was awarded the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) 2018 National Award in Planning and Analysis for Large Scale Design and the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) 2018 Planning Excellence Award for Recreational Planning.


One of the main concerns associated with the projected population growth in Edmonton is ensuring the open space network is effectively used. As Edmonton’s population is expected to almost double, reaching over to 2 million residents, it is essential to recognize the value of open spaces, and the multitude of benefits they provide for residents and communities.

(O2, 2017)


Edmonton’s Green Network is filled with an abundance of world-class parks, trails, plazas, natural areas and open spaces, and is what makes Edmonton one of the most livable cities in the world. The Green Network is “an integrated system of open spaces, municipal parks and connections that provide value to residents and the environment.” As Edmonton expands, the city must ensure that it’s Green Network is evolving as well to meet the needs of existing and future communities.

Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy is a 30-year strategic plan, guiding the sustainable care and expansion of Edmonton’s open space network, allowing the city to make the best use of its public space.