Jewel of Bowness

$10 million makeover for popular park

At over 100-years old, Calgary’s Bowness Park is getting a well deserved $10 million makeover.

“I came to this park with my family as a child, I’ve fallen in the lagoon more than once, my sister had her wedding reception in this park,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “So even though I’m an east sider, like Calgarians across the city, I much love this park and I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to invest in this renovation.”

John Hextall created Bowness Park before the First World War as a weekend retreat for nearby Calgarians, when Bowness was still a separate community from Calgary. The park once had cabins for visitors, a swimming pool, carousel and orthoponic device — a phonograph designed in the 1920s to play electrically recorded discs — which played music on the lagoon. Bowness was annexed by the city in 1964. Today, the 30-hectare park continues to be a natural haven for urban dwellers looking to enjoy its riverside amenities.

The redevelopment, which started this March, will focus on the high-use park’s aging buildings, general wear and tear and pathway system upgrades to handle the ever-increasing crowds who make use of the popular area.

Planning for the redevelopment commenced in 2008 with a public open house.

“Citizens told us they wanted to celebrate the park’s rich history as a functional and enjoyable space that can be used year-round,” said Nenshi.

Highlights include a new park entrance bridge; new concession and café building, construction of a new parking lot to encourage use of an existing boat launch and tree removal and planting to encourage a sustainable cottonwood forest.

The redevelopment is also ensuring the park maintains its history with the restoration of the popular mini-train and the re-introduction of an orthoponic device for a musical component in the park.

“This park is the central jewel of Bowness and an anchor of Calgary’s park system,” said Ward 1 Alderman Dale Hodges. “People from all quadrants of the city enjoy the park and treasure the recreational opportunities it offers. As Alderman of Ward 1, I am proud to have championed this valuable and worthy project.”

Funding for the project was made possible by the community investment fund ($10.1 million) as well as additional funding from the Enmax Legacy Fund ($327,000). The community investment fund was created in 2011, investing $252 million over five years on community improvements with amenities such as libraries, parks and emergency services. For more information as well as an electronic version of the parks concept plan check out www.calgary.ca/parks.

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