Feathers will be flying at the Inglewood bird sanctuary once a new capital project planned by the city gets underway in 2022.
The city is working on a project to reconnect the lagoon at the Inglewood bird sanctuary to the Bow River. The work on the project is set to start in 2022, and community engagement and consultation have been ongoing since June 2021.
City plans state that reconnection is needed to maintain the health and longevity of the sanctuary and the signature lagoon.
The clear and calm pool is currently home to many species of duck and other waterfowl. The hope is that by opening up the connection it will create habitat for fish from the river.
Reasons for reconnection
Although birds are making the smooth, clear waters of the lagoon their home, there are concerns about its water quality. In the past, there have been cases of avian cholera that were thought to have developed in the stagnant waters.
Tim Walls, Wetlands and Capital Planning Supervisor at Calgary Parks, said that’s on of the reasons why the project is necessary.
“We are trying to minimize the risk of evulsion, like what happened to Harvey Passage during the 2013 floods. If we lose the structures at the south end of the lagoon, which is holding the lagoon in place, we could capture the main stem of the river and impact the bird sanctuary,” Walls said.
“This reconnection plays into the city’s biodiversity targets, which is to restore 20 per cent of open spaces in Calgary. We are trying to restore habitat, increase wildlife connectivity, and improve conditions for fish.”
Currently, there’s a marshy, flooded woodland that is blocking the lagoon from the river. To link the two back together that area will need to be cleared. The city has said in its project outline that 47 trees will be removed to complete the project. The trees are said to be at the end of their life cycle.
Additionally, the visitor experience will also be impacted throughout construction. There will be pathway closures at the sanctuary, which will mostly be contained on the north side of the sanctuary near the river where the connection will be made.
Concerns about the project
Not everyone is fully on board with the project, however. John McFaul, president of Nature Calgary, said that while there are some problems with the lagoon, he’s not sure about the project’s necessity.
There’s concern this might negatively impact the habitat that waterfowl and other sanctuary visitors need to thrive. The main point of contention invovles Bank Swallows.
“One thing that was brought up in public engagement sessions that concerned me and some others was that the city had already tarped over Bank Swallow nesting sites. It was done prior to any public engagement. It felt like it was putting the cart before the horse in that process,” McFaul said.
Walls said regarding the Bank Swallows that they will be impacted, but it will only be during construction and is temporary.
“We will be creating some channels along the north bank where the swallows nest. To do that, we have to meet certain regulatory requirements. Specifically, fish windows, where the fish won’t be present in that part of the river,” Walls said.
“We had to tarp the swallow nests to allow for that construction without impacting the fish population. We couldn’t have done that if there wasn’t available nesting habitat within 400 meters. Swallows are already moving upstream.”
Beyond the Bank Swallows
Bank Swallows are listed as threatened under the federal endangered species act. But Bank Swallows aren’t the only species that may be affected by the project. McFaul said that waterfowl might not find the change in habitat agreeable.
“The lagoon is a prominent space for species like the wood wuck. They aren’t native to Calgary, but they’re certainly an animal that attracts a lot of attention from birders,” McFaul said.
“The thought was, is the new flow rate going to impede their ability to live and find food. City engineers said that the flow rate won’t change much. It’s supposed to allow the water to refresh but not drive off waterfowl.”
The removal of the trees is also sparking some misgivings. Mature trees, like the ones planned on being cut down, provide homes for birds. Many nest and find shelter within the branches of these trees. McFaul does acknowledge that the area is abundant in other foliage that could still provide shelter, but that the loss is unfortunate.
Construction on the reconnection will start in 2022.