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Six month extension sought for Crescent Road’s COVID-19 closure

So far, the response to the closure of Crescent Road NW has been, well, overwhelming.

Even “transformational.”

Now the north Calgary community wants the city to extend the road closure along the McHugh Bluff for another six months.

Initially, when COVID-19 public health measures were implemented, the City of Calgary saw problems with crowding in the area. In April, Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson said he went up to the area to survey it for himself.

“There were pieces of that roadway that were completely inappropriate,” he said, at the time.

Barriers were put up, restricting vehicle access.

Later in May, the community posted a survey for community members to fill out, gauging the interest in keeping the restrictions in place.

On Wednesday, the Crescent Height Community Association (CHCA) posted to social media their intent to push the city for a six-month extension to the closure.

CHCA board member John McDermid, who has been a part of overseeing the Crescent Road closure, said it’s drawn mostly rave reviews.

“The response has been pretty overwhelming. People just love the space,” he said.

“We’re seeing kids ride their bikes up there, scooters… Chalk messages on the sidewalk and roadway. It’s just kind of transformational for the area.”

McDermid said that one of the driving reasons behind the requested extension is they want to see usage in all seasons. Calgary’s had a beautiful summer; usage was predictably up.

Now they want to see it in fall and winter.

City decision within a month

The city has been keeping tabs on the so-called adaptive roadways during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re tabulating data to inform decision on which ones to close, which to keep open and which to continue seasonally, they said.

The city has been reluctant to talk about extensions to these pandemic spaces, because they don’t want to create an area that draws hundreds of people regularly.

According to the city, they’re especially interested in data collected once school resumes Sept. 1.

Coun. Druh Farrell said she’s checked out the area on several occasions since it was closed to traffic. She said the vast majority of area residents support the closure extension.  

“If you go up there, you’ll see that it’s people from a number of different parts of the city, enjoying the promenade,” she said.

“It’s become a draw, but a lovely draw for people to enjoy that view and walk in safer, quieter conditions.”

Farrell said there’s no rush to formalize the extension. We’re still in the pandemic and responding to changing conditions, she said. But since it’s not a major transportation corridor, it makes sense to allow the community to continue with the experiment.

“It’s become something different, something delightful. So, the community would like to experiment with another six months to see how it would work over the winter months,” she said.

Those against?

The view from the Crescent Road NW closure. COURTESY CHCA

McDermid said they’ve heard from residents who want the strip reopened. It’s a public roadway, they say and a destination for people from around the city because of the view.

“Our position has been just to close it to vehicles, not to people out there enjoying it,” he said.

The area does have residential permit parking requirements, so parking is limited. On the east side of Centre Street, McDermid said there’s a patchwork of hourly parking areas.

Most people coming to enjoy the area are parking at Crescent Height High School, he said.

Ultimately, McDermid said they just want to discover what more the space could be for Calgarians.

“We just want an extension of the space that it’s become,” he said.

“It’s very welcoming to people who are able to social distance – walk, bike, ride your scooters.”

The city said they expect to make decisions on their pandemic road closures by the end of September.