Aga Khan park still in the works

Four years after announcing a new park would be built by the Aga Khan Development Network in Burnaby's Central Valley, there is still no design or budget.

Then again, the Aga Khan will be funding the entire project, including the design and construction. It's to be built on 13 acres of city-owned land south of Sprott, adjacent to the Scandinavian Centre and the Ismaili Jamatkhana.

The announcement in late 2008 indicated that the development network would build the park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aga Khan becoming the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

After many months of no news, Burnaby parks director Dave Ellenwood said he received a call about three weeks ago from the Aga Khan's representatives who asked for information, including topographical maps and descriptions of the function of land in the area, which was provided.

They said the Aga Khan was still wanting to pursue the project and the information would help them in their conceptual plans for the site, Ellenwood recalled.

"We're willing to give them the time that they need and they remain very easy to work with," he said. "There's nothing that's really a barrier to this project, we're just letting it take its time."

No precise dollar amount has been mentioned for the project, but it will be significant, he said. "Judging from their developments in Toronto and around the world, they commit the resources that are required to give the community a first-class amenity.

"It's not going to be a bench, and a picnic site and an umbrella ... At the start of this process they wanted to make a contemplative nature park that allows people to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the area."

The development network built a museum and park in Toronto for about $70 million and spent roughly the same amount in Cairo, Egypt where a complex of several buildings was constructed.

Ellenwood said it's not yet known if any buildings are being contemplated for the Burnaby site which he expects will be on a smaller scale.

Burnaby parks staff created three rough concepts along themes of the environment, activity, peace, tranquility, beauty and serenity, and presented them at public consultations held in 2010.

People were very supportive of it and the concepts were sent to the Aga Khan Development Network for their consideration, he said, adding that city parks and planning staff will become involved as the design moves forward and is refined.

The Aga Khan has a strong connection with Burnaby since it was chosen as the home to the first Shia Muslim settlement in Canada over 35 years ago and is the location of the award-winning Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre on Canada Way, the first such purpose-built building in the country.

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