Calgarians need to go with the flow
River playground underutilized
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
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.
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.
Although River Cafe in Calgary is popular, it looks out on a lagoon, not the main river.
A floating restaurant on a barge in Frankfurt, Germany.
People in Frankfurt relax on the city’s ‘green beach.’
An example of public art enlivening the Vancouver area.