Ask anyone who lives across a broad swath of south Calgary for their favourite spot to go for a walk, jog or leisurely bike ride, and the No. 1 answer is bound to be Fish Creek Park.
Created by the province in 1975, the park had previously been owned by John and William Roper Hull. The two men farmed in the area and later built Bow Valley Ranche House, which is still standing near the park’s visitor centre.
Fittingly, given Calgary’s vast footprint, Fish Creek Park ranks as one of the largest urban parks in Canada. At 1,348-hectares, the park dwarfs New York City’s Central Park (341 hectares) and is bordered by more than 20 communities, making it a preferred natural playground for countless Calgarians.
One of those Calgarians is Grant Smith. When Smith isn’t assisting buyers and sellers in his role as a REALTOR®, he can often be found jogging along the park’s extensive pathway network.
“One of the determining factors when we bought our house was we had to be within a short run of Fish Creek Park, because we spend so much time down there,” said Smith, who’s previous home was also near the park.
“I’ve been running down there for 15 years now, I think. Our kids went down there when they were young, we spent a lot of time at Annie’s Bakery, and we like to visit the Bow Valley Ranche restaurant sometimes.”
“One of the determining factors when we bought our house was we had to be within a short run of Fish Creek Park, because we spend so much time down there.” – Grant Smith, area resident and Calgary REALTOR®
Along with Bow Valley Ranche and Annie’s Bakery – which offer visitors high-end dining and a casual café experience, respectively – the park’s countless natural feature provided a beautiful backdrop for Smith to raise a family.
“The park had been a really large part of my family growing up, as we’ve lived around it over the years,” he said.
While Smith has fond memories of jogging through the park and being able to count the number of people on one hand, he says COVID-19 has certainly contributed to an uptick in the park’s popularity.
“My favourite thing used to be that you never saw anybody down there. Now, with what’s going on, there’s people all over the place,” he said.
“I think the nicest thing is I’ve lived in a lot of different bigger centres like Montreal, and it’s just so odd to have such a large green space in the middle of the city that’s so quiet most of the time.”
However, it’s not just walkers, joggers and cyclists that frequent the park. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, weasels, fish, amphibians, and hundreds of bird species that either visit Fish Creek at different times of year or call the park home year‐round. Reports of larger animals, such as moose or even bears, are also not uncommon, with multiple black bears reported in the area last summer.
Summer visitors to Fish Creek Park can normally cool off in Sikome Lake, but the lake is currently closed due to COVID-19. Since opening in 1978, the man-made beach destination has been welcoming up to 20,000 visitors a day and is fed by three freshwater wells near the lake.
For those looking to hone their talents on the bike, the Fish Creek Mountain Bike Skills Park gives visitors three different areas to ride, all free of charge. Opened by the Calgary Mountain Bike Alliance in 2016, the free park is the biking equivalent of a playground – ideally suited to youngsters and less experienced riders. However, even advanced riders will be able to enjoy themselves.