St. Patrick’s Day

Set to transform a previously underwhelming East Village island into an all-season destination, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) has announced plans for their $20 million overhaul of St. Patrick’s Island.

Based on a plan that would see the island’s natural state balanced with Calgarians’ vision of the island as an “urban oasis”, the project will include a beach, running paths, a small amphitheater and an area for skating in the winter.

“We are ready to breathe new life into this space,” said Michael Brown, president and CEO, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC). “The landscape program we are delivering balances the wishes of Calgarians with the natural context of the site and offers multi-zoned recreational experiences from the very tip to the very bottom of the island. The design addresses social and security issues, to make the park an all-season destination.”

The redevelopment of St. Patrick’s Island will also include specially designed play areas for children; 1.6 kilometres of paved and soft pathways for running, riding and strolling; elevated walkways to showcase and educate on the island’s natural habitat; public washrooms and utility sheds and increased parking capacity near the Calgary Zoo to facilitate family picnics and gatherings.

In recent years, the island had become a haven for less family friendly activities, serving as an unofficial campsite for the city’s homeless.

In 2010, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) got the nod from the City of Calgary and its Board of Directors to undertake a master plan program for the 12.5-hectares island which would include a new pedestrian connection from the island to the north banks of the Bow River and the selection of New York-based W Architecture and Denver-based CIVITAS as the landscape development team to deliver Calgarian’s vision for St. Patrick’s Island.

“Calgarians are clear in their desires for St. Patrick’s Island, they want the island to remain as a park oasis – a beautiful, natural and wild space”, said Barbara Wilks, founder of W Architecture. “At one point, the island was actually three islands; there was a breach where the water would come across every year and there were wetlands. So, our objective was to reveal and restore the natural processes that made the island and offer a set of experiences which vary, literally, every day of the year”.

The redevelopment of St. Patrick’s Island is being co-ordinated with the construction of the new $25 million St. Patrick’s Island Bridge, which is currently underway and on track to be completed by the end of the year.

The landscaping plan for the island begins this spring with the removal of invasive plant species and early preparation work on the seasonal breach and lowland channel. The island will be closed for public access starting March 18 and will remain closed for 18-24 months.

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