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Natural gem: Calgary wants public input on 12 Mile Coulee restoration

Tuscany resident Jon Neufeld said the 12 Mile Coulee natural environment park is an area that gives you a mountain feeling in your own community.

Now, the City of Calgary is doing public engagement on restoration work in the 190-hectare northwest Calgary park, located at the intersection of Stoney Trail and Tuscany Blvd NW.

Neufeld, a resident of Tuscany since 2005, said he and his family are outdoor enthusiasts, spending time hiking, camping, backpacking and cycling. 12 Mile Coulee delivers that right inside Calgary.

The green area is 12 Mile Coulee. SCREENSHOT / GOOGLE

“For me, the 12 Mile Coulee area is really special place because it’s got that really natural and wild feel while still being super accessible and right in the middle of our of our community,” he said.

While there’s two-lane paved track atop the west escarpment – that’s a part of the Rotary Mattamy Greenway – down in the coulee most of the trails are single track, dirt trails. They wind through the trees and traverse the sides of the coulee. There’s also a creek system that runs through from Bearspaw, emptying into the Bow River to the south.

12 Mile Coulee got its name because the coulee and nearby road were 12 miles from the post office at Fort Calgary. The area served as a mail drop for the stagecoach trip to Cochrane.  It opened as a park in 2001.

– City of Calgary

Neufeld said anecdotally it feels like the park has been getting busier. People are getting outdoors more during COVID-19, the area’s still growing, too. Plus, citizens from around Calgary are coming to hike and bike.

Work plan for 12-Mile Coulee

The route has signage inviting citizens to participate in restoration engagement. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The upcoming $350,000 restoration work is being funded through the provincial municipal stimulus package. Due to the funding arrangement with the Alberta government, work must be completed this year.

Nicole Brugman, ecologist with the city’s urban conservation team, said the park has had a management plan for several years and it was time to look at 12 Mile Coulee for restoration work.

While they will be surveying citizens for their input on restorative work, a slope next to the intersection of Stoney Trail and Nose Hill Drive needs immediate attention. There’s a rocky outcrop with a trail overtop it that’s getting worn. Soil erosion and weathering add to the concern, Brugman said.

“We want to reroute that higher up and kind of reincorporated into maybe a better alignment to get people away from that rocky outcrop,” she said.

There are two other goals for the work: Trail safety and water quality in the creek bed, Brugman said.

“There are a lot of trails that traverse several areas of the creek,” Brugman said.

“There’s a lot of muddy sections… that’s impacting the water quality of that creek, which goes into the Bow River.”

To address some of these things, they want more information from the public on use in the area.

Protect the natural environment, said Neufeld

Tuscany resident Jon Neufeld said it’s important to keep the area as natural as possible. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Neufeld said he’s going to participate in the public engagement. It’s important to him and he wants to see the area protected. He wants to make sure trail use limits erosion in the area, too.

“I’d like to see it remain natural. I don’t want to see paved trails or heavily maintained or heavily-built trails through the bottom,” he said.

“I recognize we need to balance that with accessibility and erosion prevention and those sorts of things. But I’d like to see the city continue to focus on that natural immersion.”

Brugman said they have a responsibility to maintain the health of the local biodiversity. They want to find a good balance between user experience and the natural escape.

She added that the city’s designated trail guidelines have a minimum of 50 centimetres for designated trails, so they should be able to keep in intimacy of the location.

 Neufeld said the coulee is “braided with all kinds of trails” and he’d hate to see the city close them. He worried you would focus too many people on to the other trails, creating potential conflicts.

There’s a little worry that the city may try to make is more appeal to the mass audience, Neufeld said. He does see the need for maintenance and restorative work, it should be done cautiously.

“I think maintaining it as a natural space where people can go and experience nature without it being gentrified, or paved over, is really important for people,” he said.