As anyone who has recently spent time in any of the city’s 8,000 hectares of green space can attest, Calgarians are eager to get outside.
Driven by the long-awaited arrival of summer and the need for closer-to-home recreation options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of Calgary’s parks is on the rise.
One of the many parks that seen an increase in activity is Confederation Park. Situated along 14th Street and 30th Avenue N.W., the park was created in 1967 to mark the centennial of Canadian Confederation.
In recent years, the park has seen the addition of a natural play space, new seating and barbecue pits, and an observation deck near the lagoon.
These upgrades, which were made to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, have been well received, according to one of the City of Calgary employees behind the project.
“Numbers are up,” said Daniel England, project manager for Calgary Parks. “The reception has been very positive and (has) boosted visitors to this park.”
While England points out the City isn’t yet measuring visitor numbers at parks across Calgary, anecdotal evidence points to an increase in the number of Calgarians heading to parks since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have had a huge spike in attendance … just based on the number of folks there needing to empty garbage cans and traffic in the parking lots,” he said.
“The feedback we received prior to starting our work was that people wanted places and spaces for all ages to recreate. This is now of course important with COVID-19, as we are changing how we relax and recreate – closer to home.”
“I think the focus will really be on these existing networks that we have, nurturing the inner-city parks that we have and developing ones outside as well.” – Daniel England, Calgary Parks
Despite the new additions to the park, the main attraction remains its stunning natural setting. With a wetland running the length of the park’s 160 hectares, trees, shrubs and other vegetation provide habitats for a variety of birds and other wildlife. They also create the perfect backdrop for the many event photos that take place in the park.
Although the area around the park still lacks a protected bike lane, Calgary’s extensive bike network connects the park to the downtown core. In the winter, nearby Confederation Park Golf Course hosts the Lions Festival of Lights and provides plenty of terrain and groomed trails for cross-country skiers.
The ability to further develop spaces like Confederation Park, while maintaining what made them so appealing to start with, is something England says will be key to the City’s ongoing parks strategy.
“I think the focus will really be on these existing networks that we have, nurturing the inner-city parks that we have and developing ones outside as well,” he said.