Redeveloped Prairie Winds Park is a vital community hub in northeast Calgary
Wander into Prairie Winds Park in northeast Calgary any summer day and you’ll see children enjoying the wading pool, families playing cricket or having a picnic, and people on the tennis courts. In the winter, people are out tobogganing, skating and enjoying the great outdoors in the popular regional park.
Prairie Winds Park opened in 1990, but recently underwent a complete redevelopment, says Michelle Wong, who worked on the project as capital lead for Calgary Parks.
“A lot of the original components built at that time had reached the end of their lifecycle,” she said. “It was due for kind of a complete overhaul and refresh to bring it up to current standards, and to better meet the needs of a now much larger community that surrounds the park.”
She says the City of Calgary spent almost a year engaging the community – reaching out to community groups and giving the general public a chance to provide input, including those for whom English is not their first language.
When the revamped Prairie Winds Park opened this past summer, it included some new and interesting features. One is a water park with a spray pad, wading pool and Calgary’s first outdoor lazy river. “It’s a unique feature that you’re not going to get in any other outdoor water play facility in the city,” said Wong.
“It was due for kind of a complete overhaul and refresh to bring it up to current standards, and to better meet the needs of a now much larger community that surrounds the park.” – Michelle Wong, Calgary Parks
Another unique area in the park is called the playscape.
“It’s technically a playground,” said Wong. “But it’s more than what you would typically imagine if you were to think about a playground. It’s more like play combined with landscape.”
The playscape has a zip line, concrete wave, hill slides, and a half basketball and sport court, along with playground equipment, such as climbing poles that let children choose how they want to play.
“Kids can decide for themselves – do they want to run through the poles, do they want to try and climb the poles, do they want to play tag through them? It’s very different,” said Wong.
The City also replaced a baseball diamond with a cricket pitch, added a second skating rink for winter and built two more picnic shelters.
A new public art feature was built at the top of the tobogganing hill, with a sunken seating area set around a round, bronze ball that represents a native prairie wildflower seed head.
“Now when you come up to the top of the hill, you have a place to sit and take in the views and watch the planes go by,” said Wong.
An issue emerged when the redesigned park first opened, as rough concrete scraped the feet of some children using the new lazy river.
Wong says because the lazy river has a current, there does need to be some traction so children don’t slip, but “all the actual concrete issues we had (last) season have been addressed and we’re fixing it up even more, so when it opens next season it will be perfect.”
Raj Sidhu, treasurer of the Falconridge/Castleridge Community Association, says he’s one of a group of 50 people who regularly use the park for exercise, and the new zip line seems to be a popular new feature.
However, he adds that more lights are still needed along park pathways, for safety.
Cheryle Gaze, a local resident, says family time is so important these days, given all the technology available to kids.
“Kids love parks where they can run off energy and play with their friends on the great variety of playground structures,” she said.
Gaze says Prairie Winds Parks is also a hub for residents connecting with friends and extended family, and a place where stay-at-home moms, including those who might be relatively new to Canada, can go and meet other people.
“It’s a place to take in the sun, experience a bit of nature, and have some water fun,” she said.