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Calgary woman collects Alberta parks memories as areas pulled from system

Earlier this year, the Alberta government announced it intended to partially or fully close dozens of parks and hand off management of 164 more.

When Calgarian Tanya Yeomans heard this, she wanted to see which parks would be affected. When she couldn’t find a map of these locations anywhere, she decided to make her own.

At the same time, she wanted to hear more about what these parks meant to her fellow Albertans. So, Yeomans decided to add a storytelling component to her project.  

“I’ve only visited a handful of the parks, but I wanted to hear more about those parks from the perspective of people that have spent time in them,” she said.

Yeomans set up an anonymous survey for Albertans to share their park tales. She’s since received dozens of lengthy, heartfelt accounts. These can now be read as pop-ups on the interactive Alberta Park Stories map. While it took about a month and a half to collect the stories, Yeomans said putting the map together and formatting the data only took about a day of work.

Some of Yeomans favourite contributions come from the Bleriot Ferry Recreation Area.

“One contributor wrote a really heartfelt story about spending a night there helping a friend grieve the unexpected loss of a family member,” she said.

“At the same location another individual proposed to his wife after riding bikes around the coulees and taking the ferry. It’s really interesting that some of those places have different meanings for different people.”

Governments need to look long term on Alberta Parks: Yeomans

Yeomans believes Albertans have a lot to say about their parks. Sharing their thoughts through collaborative storytelling and participatory mapping puts both knowledge and meaning in the hands of individuals to explore on their own.

She hopes that the project will highlight that these park spaces are important to Albertans. Any changes should be done with an eye to the future.

“I think the governments need to take into account the long-term repercussions of removing [these parks] from the park system,” said Yeomans.

“One of the reasons we get to enjoy spending time in Canada right now is because 40 years ago Peter Lougheed had the foresight to protect these spaces.”

Yeomans hopes to wind down time spent on the Alberta Park Stories project. However, anyone with a story to tell can submit it through this survey page for the next month or so.

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