In­ner city blessed with parks

Fore­sight of Cal­gary has paid off

Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos -

Ev­ery­one knows Cal­gary is blessed with many parks. Some are very well known — Prince’s Is­land, Nose Hill, Fish Creek, Bow­ness and Ed­wor­thy — oth­ers, not so much.

Our new sub­urbs are also full of pocket parks, nat­u­ral ar­eas and play­grounds.

What is of­ten missed are the won­der­ful parks hid­den in the grid­work of our in­ner-city com­mu­ni­ties.

I will never for­get when my nephew came to visit us in the mid-’90s (he was then about eight years old). As we were ex­plor­ing the city, he said to us: “How many parks do you have, any­way?”

Now that he’s grown up, he and his wife were re­cently vis­it­ing Cal­gary with their young son.

His wife ba­si­cally said the same thing: “I could live here! You have so many parks and play­grounds.”

While many of us love to com­plain about the way our city is grow­ing and evolv­ing, per­haps we shouldn’t be so harsh on our­selves.

Cal­gary has a won­der­ful 100year his­tory of cre­at­ing parks. I am re­minded of it daily, es­pe­cially along the 6th and 5th av­enues park­way from Hill­hurst to Park­dale.

It is a con­stant re­minder to me that some­one back in the early and mid-20th cen­tury was in­sight­ful enough to cre­ate a won­der­ful col­lec­tion of parks, f ields and nat­u­ral ar­eas in what was once the edge of the city.

Ri­ley Park /Burns Me­mo­rial Gar­den

Ri­ley Park with its flower gar­dens, wad­ing pool and cricket pitch is a trib­ute to Cal­gary’s early Parks and Re­cre­ation lead­ers.

Orig­i­nally part of the 146,000-hectare par­cel of land known as the Cochrane Ranch, what is now the park (on 10th Street and 6th Av­enue) was home­steaded by the Ri­ley fam­ily from 1888 to 1909, when it was left to the City of Cal­gary.

In the 1950s, the Se­na­tor Burns Me­mo­rial Gar­den was de­vel­oped in the north­east corner us­ing 20,000 pieces of flag­stone from his de­mol­ished man­sion.

It is a pleas­ant ur­ban park that com­bines both ac­tive and pas­sive ac­tiv­i­ties.

I love to walk through this park in the sum­mer, when there are fam­i­lies pic­nick­ing and en­joy­ing the wad­ing pool and play­ground area, young cou­ples wan­der­ing hand-in-hand, and crick­eters do­ing their thing.

It is truly a com­mu­nity gath­er­ing place.

Hill­hurst Com­mu­nity

Cen­tre Park

Lo­cated at 14th Street and 6th Av­enue, this is Ri­ley Park’s sis­ter.

With ac­tiv­i­ties like ten­nis, base­ball and soc­cer, the Hill­hurst Com­mu­nity Cen­tre Park com­ple­ments Ri­ley Park nicely.

There is also a bustling weekly farm­ers’ mar­ket in the sum­mer and a pop­u­lar year-round Sun­day morn­ing flea mar­ket.

The com­mu­nity cen­tre also has a day­care and many other com­mu­nity pro­grams.

The most re­cent ad­di­tion to this park is a com­mu­nity gar­den. This is an in­ti­mate mixed-use park.

Kiddy corner to the QES is the West Hill­hurst Park with a re­cre­ation cen­tre (arena, gym­na­sium, squash courts and meet­ing rooms) Bowview out­door pool, a new play­ground, two base­ball di­a­monds and youth soc­cer fields.

Lo­cated at 18th Street and 6th Av­enue, it is a busy place year­round.

One of its most unique fea­tures is how the gym­na­sium is con­verted into a church ev­ery Sun­day, a great ex­am­ple of co­op­er­a­tion and adap­tive re­use of fa­cil­i­ties.

Grand Trunk Park

Sixth Av­enue takes a jog at 19th Street and be­come 5th Av­enue (those plan­ners love to mess with the grid sys­tem ev­ery once in a while just to keep us on our toes).

At 23rd Street and 5th Av­enue is a small pocket park with yet an­other play­ground and a non­reg­u­la­tion soc­cer field.

I am told the name of the park ref­er­ences the fact that this area was orig­i­nally called Grand Trunk af­ter the Grand Trunk rail­way that pre­ceded the Cana­dian Na­tional Rail­way.

Con­structed in 1911, the Grand Trunk Cot­tage School still oc­cu­pies the south­west corner of the Park.

It was one of the seven cot­tage schools con­structed in 1911 in out­ly­ing sub­di­vi­sions to pro­vide tem­po­rary accommodation for over­crowded Cal­gary’s class­rooms prior to the First World War (sound fa­mil­iar?)

I have seen ev­ery­thing from bocce ball to base­ball be­ing played in this park. One day, I counted nine dif­fer­ent im­promptu ac­tiv­i­ties tak­ing place in it.

He­li­copter Park

Fifth Av­enue dead ends at 27th Street at what is per­haps one of the city’s best play­grounds.

Lo­cated at 27th Street and 5th Av­enue, it is known as He­li­copter Park be­cause the play­ground’s cen­tral climb­ing struc­ture is the skele­ton of a he­li­copter.

The STARS he­li­copter reg­u­larly flies over the park on its way to and from Foothills Hospi­tal.

It is one of hun­dreds of play­grounds in the city be­ing up­graded into mod­ern ac­tiv­ity ar­eas.

I love the way play­grounds have be­come more imag­i­na­tive, al­most like sculp­ture parks. They add vis­ual in­ter­est to the land­scape even when there is no one there.

The park also has one full­sized base­ball di­a­mond, which also serves as an open field for pas­sive fun such as tag or kite fly­ing.

One of my sources tells me that their fam­ily drives in from the sub­urbs to take their kids to this play­ground.

West­mount School

Field

Fifth Av­enue ac­tu­ally con­tin­ues on the other side of He­li­copter Park.

Just two blocks away is the for­mer Park­dale El­e­men­tary school, which closed in 2003. How­ever, in Septem­ber 2011 it re­opened as West­mount Char­ter School, which is lo­cated at 29th Street and 5th Av­enue.

While some may see the clos­ing of in­ner-city schools as a neg­a­tive thing, in most cases they be­come pri­vate or char­ter schools — mean­ing they at­tract chil­dren of par­ents with high in­comes, who soon dis­cover the joys of in­ner-city liv­ing.

Some even de­cide to move into the com­mu­nity, ren­o­vat­ing older homes or build­ing new ones.

Ei­ther way, they con­trib­ute to the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of our older com­mu­ni­ties.

There are nu­mer­ous new in­fill de­vel­op­ments in the im­me­di­ate area of this school that stand as ev­i­dence of this trans­for­ma­tion.

Park­dale Com­mu­nity

As­so­ci­a­tion Park

Park­dale Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion and the Nifty Fifties Cen­tre is just a few blocks fur­ther west at 34th Street and 5th Av­enue.

Here, you will find an­other theme-en­hanced play­ground — this time, a train-ori­ented de­sign.

There is also an out­door hockey rink with boards and lights, a re­minder of the old days when mi­nor hockey leagues played on out­door rinks.

There are also some old base­ball di­a­monds and a bas­ket­ball court. In­side, there are plenty of pro­grams for peo­ple of all ages, in­clud­ing a fledg­ling farmer’s mar­ket ev­ery Wed­nes­day from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Cal­gary’s 6/5 Park­way

The dis­tance from Ri­ley to Park­dale Park is only four kilo­me­tres, yet it is rich with parks and re­cre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties.

In ad­di­tion to these parks, there are two nat­u­ral ar­eas along the es­carp­ment — one from 19th Street to 21st Av­enue and one from Crowchild Trail to 29th Street.

Both have be­come pop­u­lar dog parks with amaz­ing views of the river val­ley and down­town sky­line.

Cal­gary is lucky to have such amenity-rich, in­ner-city com­mu­ni­ties. It is no won­der they have be­come at­trac­tive places for fam­i­lies, empty nesters and se­niors to live and play to­gether.

All of our es­tab­lished neigh­bour­hoods are be­ing re­ju­ve­nated with new man­sions, skinny in­fills, mega renos and bou­tique con­dos.

The 6th/5th Av­enue park­way is just one ex­am­ple of why Cal­gary’s cen­tury-old com­mit­ment to parks and re­cre­ation has paid div­i­dends as we have some of the most vi­brant in­ner city com­mu­ni­ties in North Amer­ica.

For­get “Heart of the New West.” For­get “Be part of the en­ergy.”

Cal­gary new moniker should by “The City of Parks and Path­ways.”

Cal­gary Her­ald Ar­chive

What could be finer than a spring day last year in Ri­ley Park? The park is one of many such gems within Cal­gary’s in­ner city.

Cal­gary Her­ald Ar­chive

A STARS air am­bu­lance crew has some fun at He­li­copter Park in Hill­hurst in 2009. The park is at 27th Street and 5th Av­enue.

Richard White for the Cal­gary Her­ald

A play­ground in West Hill­hurst Park is a busy place year-round.

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