Cal­gar­i­ans need to go with the flow

River play­ground un­der­uti­lized

Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - RICHARD WHITE

re­moved from the path­way, it­self, cre­at­ing frag­men­ta­tion, rather than a syn­ergy of the de­sired an­i­ma­tion.

For ex­am­ple, if you walk on the main prom­e­nade at Eau Claire, you can eas­ily pass right by the chil­dren’s water park with­out even know­ing it is there.

We need bet­ter link­ages and bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween the path­way and ac­tiv­ity ar­eas.

One great thing about Vancouver’s wa­ter­front in the sum­mer is that there are plenty of pas­sive group ac­tiv­i­ties.

While Cal­gary’s new River Walk looks great, at this time there is noth­ing to do there ex­cept maybe try out the au­to­mated pub­lic wash­rooms (these stain­less steel, high­tech boxes seem to be a cu­rios­ity to many).

On one visit, we saw two moms and their chil­dren strug­gle to get their raft out of the water, which took some ef­fort as there is not an ob­vi­ous place to put in or take out a raft or boat.

East Vil­lage’s River Walk would have been a great place to lo­cate a raft­ing launch or exit area, out­door vol­ley­ball or bas­ket­ball court — and a fun chil­dren’s play­ground de­signed by artists to be both a play­ground and pub­lic art.

An­other les­son is that you don’t need to spend big money on de­signer benches and im­ported rocks when logs along the beach (in our case, along the river) work just as well for to sit or lean up against.

Not only do the logs fit into the land­scape nat­u­rally, but you don’t have the prob­lem of graf­fiti, paint­ing or re­pair.

Too of­ten, we over-de­sign (think over-spend) our pub­lic spa­ces, rather than look­ing for nat­u­ral ways to make them more user-friendly.

Although the hang­ing bas­kets along the south side of the Bow River path­way are amaz­ing, do they re­ally at­tract more peo­ple or make them linger longer?

There is no an­i­ma­tion or sense of ex­pe­ri­ence cre­ated by the bas­kets.

I think the money for pur­chase and main­te­nance could be bet­ter di­rected to cap­i­tal projects for things to see and do year-round, rather than tem­po­rary dec­o­ra­tion.

Ideas for Bow River

an­i­ma­tion

boathouse for stor­ing raft­ing equip­ment for the sum­mer, as well as rental at key points.

Per­haps Cal­gary Tran­sit could of­fer a shut­tle ser­vice for peo­ple to get back to their cars.

There is also some­thing spe­cial about ur­ban beaches as a place for city dwellers to gather along the water.

Both Vancouver and Vic­to­ria have won­der­ful in­nercity beaches where peo­ple of all ages and back­grounds can pic­nic, play and peo­ple­watch.

While Cal­gary can never have a tra­di­tional beach, many other river cities — such as Paris and Frank­furt — have cre­ated sum­mer beaches along their river’s edge.

Ed­wor­thy Park, Prince’s Is­land and St. Pa­trick’s Is­land would make great places for in­ner-city river beaches.

Frank­furt’s “green beach” — in other words, flat lawns along the river’s edge that en­cour­age peo­ple to pic­nic and play along the edge of the river — might be a worth­while con­cept for Cal­gary to in­ves­ti­gate. Pub­lic art is an­other way to an­i­mate wa­ter­fronts.

Vancouver has pub­lic art, both of a hu­man scale and of mas­sive pieces, that in­vites peo­ple to stop, look and ex­plore.

Cal­gary is in the process of adding pub­lic art to its down­town wa­ter­front. How­ever, our track record with pub­lic art is very poor.

De­spite spend­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars on pub­lic art dur­ing the past 25 years, we have not com­mis­sioned a sin­gle piece of pub­lic art that has truly cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of Cal­gar­i­ans and tourists.

Pub­lic art has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate a sense of place along the Bow River if we do it right.

I was most im­pressed with last sum­mer’s River of Light event, which was cre­ated by the United King­dom’s Creat­mo­sphere.

It cul­mi­nated in 500 orbs be­ing re­leased into the Bow River at Ed­wor­thy Park, which floated down the river to Prince’s Is­land, where they were di­verted into the la­goon and col­lected by view­ers and vol­un­teers as a keep­sake.

Be­ing part of the tens of thou­sands of peo­ple lin­ing the river’s edge at night await­ing the ar­rival of the glow­ing orbs with their flotilla of ca­noes and kayaks was mag­i­cal.

It was a won­der­ful cel­e­bra­tion of the Bow River and was def initely a unique ex­pe­ri­ence, help­ing to be­gin to def ine our sense of place.

I can’t help but think the ef­fort and fund­ing cur­rently given to de­vel­op­ing the Bow

C MFor other Richard White col­umns, visit our web­site un­der the head­ing: ‘More News and Views.’ Flow would be bet­ter spent de­vel­op­ing an an­nual River of Light cel­e­bra­tion or some­thing com­pa­ra­ble.

Summary

Cal­gary has com­mit­ted $50 mil­lion to two iconic pedes­trian bridges (read: tourist at­trac­tions), but what are peo­ple go­ing to do af­ter they have seen the bridges?

We need a mas­ter plan to an­i­mate the river year-round from Ed­wor­thy Park to In­gle­wood Bird Sanc­tu­ary/Harvie Pas­sage.

I am not sug­gest­ing we im­i­tate the River Walk in San An­to­nio, Texas, or Vancouver’s Seawall, but rather that we de­velop a uniquely Bow River ex­pe­ri­ence that com­bines walk­ing, cy­cling, float­ing, in-line skat­ing, cross-coun­try ski­ing, ice skat­ing, fish­ing, din­ing, danc­ing, liv­ing, sip­ping and play­ing, all strate­gi­cally lo­cated along a nat­u­ral river’s edge.

We need to cel­e­brate and cap­i­tal­ize on Cal­gary be­ing one of the world’s great river cities.

Cal­gary Her­ald Ar­chive

Although River Cafe in Cal­gary is pop­u­lar, it looks out on a la­goon, not the main river.

Cour­tesy, Richard White

A float­ing restau­rant on a barge in Frank­furt, Ger­many.

Cour­tesy, Richard White

Peo­ple in Frank­furt re­lax on the city’s ‘green beach.’

Cour­tesy, Richard White

An ex­am­ple of pub­lic art en­liven­ing the Vancouver area.

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