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Calgary ski fence being removed, but ski bench searching for permanent home

Do you remember the ski fence in Altadore?

Remains of the fence are evident, but the prior owner, Dirk Van der Vorst, now deceased, also left a unique bench in the yard. It was also made of skis.

The fence was a memorable one, always attracting attention and serving as a neighbourhood wayfinder. The bench is an extension of that history.

The attention-grabbing fence motivated Andrea Joyce, director of mobility for the Marda Loop Community Association (MLCA), to acquire the bench from the property, which is now being redeveloped.

Joyce first encountered the ski fence shortly after moving into the community four years ago.

“It’s like one of those holy crap moments when you’re like, ‘Wow, what is that?’ And then it was how we oriented ourselves in the neighbourhood and then as I got to know people, they would talk about it the same way,” Joyce said.

Joyce has been mapping out how to reduce neighbourhood speeds and build a greater sense of connection in the area.

“The best way to do it is to activate public spaces with place marking,” said Joyce.

After hearing of Van der Vorst’s death, Joyce had considered inquiring about a piece of the fence as a warm reminder and to pay tribute to the owner and his creation.

“(It would be a) kind of public art somewhere in Marda Loop to be cool and start conversations and get people talking,” she said.

Property sold, demolition begins

The property, however, was sold to a contractor and was demolished. Joyce said as construction went on people were helping themselves to the skis.

“If you go by it now, it’s kind of a third-to-half empty of skis and I had kind of given up on that and said, ‘OK, we’ve missed our opportunity on that,’ but I did know about a ski bench,” said Joyce.

This ski bench was found among remnants at the home of Dirk Van der Vorst, the creator of the fence and the bench. TWITTER / EVAN WOOLLEY

Joyce said she found the bench in a “jumble of stuff,” while being shown around the property by Van der Vorst’s neighbour.

According to Joyce, the bench the MLCA now owns is Van der Vorst’s second. The first one he made was stolen.

After spotting the bench, Joyce told the contractor to leave whatever they can to the community.

The bench is currently sitting outside of the MLCA. Joyce will be asking the association to put inside to ensure it too doesn’t get stolen. She’s working with the city and her area councillor to find it a new home.

“It’s just a crazy, kick-ass piece of colourful, humorous, quirky public art and I’m hoping to find a way to get it installed permanently somewhere in Marda Loop,” Joyce said.

‘One of the originals’ said Van der Vorst’s friend and neighbour

The effort to make the bench a permanent fixture is awesome, according to Mike Tingley, friend and neighbour of Van der Vorst.

“Anything that they could do to (honour) Dirk’s memory because he was, I don’t know if you’d consider him one of the founders, but he was one of the originals of the neighbourhood. He was such a character,” Tingley said.

“When he died, I was like, ‘I’d like to get a piece of that fence,’ and just screw it to my fence in the back alley.”