Congratulations to the new The Wander Trail System at Edmonton Valley Zoo — our pick for the WHERE Edmonton Magazine 2014 Best New Attraction!
If your most recent memory of Edmonton Valley Zoo involves posing for a photo with the statue of Humpty Dumpty, it’s time to plan another visit. A lot has changed since its days as Storyland Valley Zoo, and the new additions are proof that change is good.
Since 2010 Edmonton Valley Zoo has undergone expansive renovations to complete three new phases of the zoo. The Wander is the second phase of the re-design and parts of the attraction have been open since December 2013, with the Grand Opening taking place on July 11, 2014. The Wander is a themed walkway that connects the new entry plaza to the rest of the zoo, andre-enacts the story of the North Saskatchewan River with features that mimic its origin as glacial water in the Rocky Mountains, to its presence in Edmonton. “We’re so connected to the river in Edmonton and with The Wander we want everyone to understand a little more about it” Denise Prefontaine, Director of the Zoo, says.
The Entry Plaza, where you’ll find a Wild Earth Cafe and the Zoo-tique Gift Shop, represents the urban city of Edmonton. Sharp eyes will notice that the floor of the plaza is formed by non-uniform concrete squares of various sizes — it’s because they depict the dominion grid of how Edmonton was settled. Non-artificial rocks, a mosaic path, and water features make up the rest of the walkway, which ends at a structure resembling an ice cave in the Columbia Icefields. With coloured stained glass-like windows and a reflective surface that keeps things cool, the structure is a serene spot to take a break on a hot day.
Between the two points, the “river” takes guests by a beaver dam play structure that children can climb on, a beach area with sand and a wading pool, a trout pond and wetland marsh, rock steps and benches, shallow streams of water that are meant to be walked and splashed in, and smaller rocks that children can move and stack within the water. Despite its intricate setup, there are flat pathways around the features so that The Wander is completely accessible for those with mobility issues.
Of course, an attraction at the zoo wouldn’t be complete without some animals, and all of the enclosures that surround The Wander contain animals from mountainous regions to fit with the theming: “[w]ith the re-designs in the zoo, we wanted to educate people about the habitats and land that animals live on as much as the animals themselves” Tammy Wiebe, Executive Director of the Valley Zoo Development Society says.
Though The Wander serves to make the animal enclosures at the zoo more easily accessible, all of its features make it an attraction itself. It’s fun, it’s functional, and it’s also beautiful. The spot at the very top of the attraction provides a stunning view of the deep green trees in the river valley, and it’s the perfect place to snap a few group photos and commemorate the outing to the newest phase of the fantastic Edmonton Valley Zoo!