Diamond in the rough

Bowness resident pushing for former Gas Plus site to become public greenspace

While the province has stepped in to remediate a former gas station site in Bowness, one resident is looking to take the site’s future one step further – as a public greenspace.

Morgan Maher, a resident of Bowness for several years, first became aware of the Gas Plus site – located on Bowness Road and 63rd Street N.W. – when 9,000 litres of gasoline spread into surrounding soil from an underground tank. The spill was so bad, three homes near the site were declared uninhabitable by Alberta Health Services due to gasoline vapours.

“Having been a resident of Bowness for several years and patron to many Bowness businesses, the Gas Plus site
always seemed to be an ‘elephant in the room,’ and to me it felt like an odd, sore thumb on an otherwise historic,
vibrant main street,” Maher said.

Working with the neighbouring Light Cellar, a “superfood shop and raw chocolate elixir bar,” Maher made
the decision to spread the word on the businesses website and press for it to become a public greenspace in the
community.

“Living and working in Bowness, I got the sense that everyone was patiently waiting for the site to be
cleaned up, and for it all to be over,” he said. “Residents and businesses, as polite and patient as they can be, are
still frustrated, angry, disappointed – and were largely kept in the dark regarding what, if anything was actually
happening to clean this mess up.”

This May it was announced the province would be taking over cleanup of the site. Fined $250,000 for the leak, owners will also be liable for the clean-up costs undertaken by the province.

Maher said the community response to the idea of transforming the Gas Plus site into a greenspace has been great. Before spreading the word online, he took the idea to a Heart of Bowness community meeting and “planted the seed” of the idea.

“Who wouldn’t want a greenspace in place of a gas station? There are other gas stations nearby anyway; another office building or liquor store or faceless chain is boring, unnecessary and uninspiring,” he said.

“Greenspace provides so much to so many people and instantly becomes a gem – for the entire community and
for the city as a whole.”

Since bringing attention to the idea on The Light Cellar website, Maher said he’s been contacted by people ranging from permaculturists and business owners to family and friends offering ideas, suggestions and support.

“Creating a greenspace – any greenspace – is a triumph. These days people are excited, inspired, ready,
willing and able to do great things to make their communities, cities and lives better.”

Maher said he’s had no contact with the City about the space, but was “excited” to read recent articles the
province is taking over clean-up of the site.

“I’m absolutely all for opening dialogue, strategizing and organizing with the city, and anyone involved or
interested,” he said. “When the time comes – likely very soon – it may be me chatting with the City, but I’ll be
speaking on behalf of the community and the Heart of Bowness.”

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