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Year-round Hawkwood outdoor recreation area zips along to completion

Residents of Hawkwood and surrounding communities will soon have new ways to enjoy the outdoors year-round.

The Hawkwood Outdoor Recreation Facility is nearing the end of construction. Features like a freestyle play and parkour course, zip line, amphitheater, and revamped skating rink will be joining existing soccer fields and tennis courts.

“This is cool, and you know, even as somebody who’s been looking at the project every day for more than two years, it still blows me away,” said Heather Kovach, programs coordinator for the Hawkwood Community Association. Kovach has also been working as the project lead for the facility.

Although officially stated to open in late January 2022, the association is planning on holding their first event this December. The amphitheater space will be used for a performance of Christmas caroling.

The community association is hoping that the new amenities will offer something to Hawkwood residents of all ages.

The facility can be accessed from Hawkstone Drive NW, and by Hawkhill Road NW.

The amphitheater and casual skating area under construction at the The Hawkwood Outdoor Recreation Facility on Thursday, November 25, 2021. The facility will provide a variety of outdoor activities for residents of Hawkwood, and surrounding North West communities. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

More than just a park

Starting in 2019, Hawkwood wanted to build an outdoor recreation space for their community members that would be used year-round. They wanted to make sure that their rink space and tennis courts wouldn’t lie dormant out of season.

When the Covid pandemic struck Calgary, the increased demand for outdoor activities caused them to re-examine their plans.

“I think we were ahead of the curve really when we started planning this, because the idea was that every element on this space has to be able to be used 12 months of the year,” said Kovach.

Rising costs due to the pandemic made parts of the $1.8 million project unfeasible, forcing new solutions to be found, which in retrospect, according to Kovach, improved the project.

Previously there was a plan to install solar power panels separate from sunshades for picnickers. Covid-related costs forced them to combine the two elements.

“So for actually less cost than it was going to cost us for the solar panels, and the shade structure, we now have a shade structure made of solar panels, and that the electricity goes right into the grid, and it’s going to power our entire site,” said Kovach.

“We had to get really creative on how to meet those design intents that we had promised the community, and move forward in that aspect,” said Julian Warring, a principal landscape architect with The Tula Project.

Financially and environmentally sustainable

The outdoor facility is also projected to be financially and environmentally sustainable.

Other ways of saving costs included creating sustainable groundwater management on site. It ensured that none of the water poured onto the facility during storms.

“Some might think that being sustainable is expensive, but if you get creative, being sustainable and implement sustainable solutions like the solar shade structure, and managing all stormwater on site and not having to pay to connect to the street, that actually is cheaper and saves money and reduces maintenance costs in the future,” said Warring.

Wildflower and highly durable grasses will be planted in the parkour and play areas. It negates the need for mowing. Other landscape elements will significantly reduce maintenance costs, and maintenance efforts from volunteers.

This sort of long-term sustainability was a major goal for the community association.

“It was almost number two to having a meeting space. It had to be easily maintained and sustainable, because we don’t know where funding is going to come from. We don’t know what’s going to happen to government funding or grant funding. So we have to be actually make sure that we can actually fund it and can take care of it,” said Kovach.

The association will also be selling rink board and tennis court advertising space to help pay for the upkeep of the facility and provide community programming.

Kovach pointed to the expense costs associated with running a skating rink. It’s something citizens in the broader community don’t always think of.

“The automatic response in the beginning is, ‘oh, that rink doesn’t cost that much,'” she said.

“But it does. They’re all very expensive.”

Design of the outdoor recreation facility. HAWKWOOD COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION

Amenities for all ages

Kovach said that the design of the facility was to really engage community members to use the entire space available.

A paved pathway travels the length of the facility. That allows users in wheelchairs, mobility scooters, or towing along wagons to access every amenity.

An unstructured play area with posts and beams lets children play in whatever way they want. Warring used the example of the–ground–is–lava as something kids could play, with the length of the unstructured play area taking them right from the park entrance to the parkour course.

The parkour area was designed by Parkour Visions out of Seattle, Washington.

“It’ll be one of the first outdoor parkour parks in Alberta, and it’s accessible for everyone to use, and they don’t have to pay a user fee to use it,” said Warring.

Making sure that teenagers had a place to gather and play was important for Hawkwood.

“Teenagers get missed. And even the things that they would like to do like skateboarding, communities don’t want it because it makes too much noise,” said Kovach.

She said that although she wouldn’t be using the parkour course herself, the all-season loungers installed near the tennis courts were her favourite.

Festivals and boulders

The amphitheater area will be able to host productions in the warmer months. The shallow bowl shape will be able to be filled with ice during the winter for casual skating.

The renovated skating rink will have basketball hoops installed so it could be used in the summer. Additionally a new water system was installed to keep rink hoses from freezing during winter, making maintenance for outdoor skating and hockey much easier for volunteers.

Another unexpected benefit of the new rink is that the space could be used for festivals. There’s sufficient loading and entrance capacity for food trucks to park inside the space. Kovach said that this was something that would allow a proposed community events like outdoor beer tastings to take place.

Also placed throughout the facility are sandstone boulders. Warring said that these will be multi-use, both for unstructured play by kids, and as additional seating that invites conversation in ways that formal benches do not.

The blocks were sourced locally in Calgary, as were many of the materials used to construct the facility.

Julian Warring, principal architect with The Tula Project, left, and Heather Kovach, programs coordinator for the Hawkwood Community Association, stand next to the new parkour park at the The Hawkwood Outdoor Recreation Facility under construction on Thursday, November 25, 2021. The parkour course will be one of the only available for free in Alberta.

Even space for pickle ball

The Hawkwood Community Association knew from community member demand that they had to have pickle ball courts.

Employing the assistance of a community member, they were able to redesign the tennis court layout. That allowed them to fit in four pickle ball courts instead of the original two that were planned.

“This person then helped us figure out what we needed to have pickle ball available for the community. So we were able to get some funding from First Connect, to provide paddles and everything needed to hold a drop in clinic,” she said.

The pickle ball players are now self organizing, which is something that Kovach said she hopes helps lead other groups using the site forward.

Julian Warring, principal architect with The Tula Project, left, and Heather Kovach, programs coordinator for the Hawkwood Community Association, sit in the new loungers next to the tennis and pickleball courts at the The Hawkwood Outdoor Recreation Facility under construction on Thursday, November 25, 2021. The facility will provide a variety of outdoor activities for residents of Hawkwood, and surrounding North West communities. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Building a community, year-round

Ultimatly, said Kovach, the goal is to help build the Hawkwood community.

“We’re right at the beginning of this sort of something we identified a couple of years ago, that we need to do a better job of doing of bringing our new Canadians, or new Calgarians, or even new Hawkwood residents into the community and make them feel welcome,” she said.

They plan on holding skating clinics for new Canadians to get them as excited about Canada’s national sport.

“So we would provide some lessons, some support, and potentially skates for them to use to try out first because surely there’s nothing better than seeing a new Canadian trying our winter sport, right, and the joy that it brings everybody,” said Kovach.

She said that the love of the outdoors will bring people together. The year-round focus, especially on making the facility usable, fits into the City of Calgary’s Winter City plan said Kovach.

“It’s—and especially since the pandemic—so important for everybody’s mental health to be outside and be active,” she said.

“So if we can provide fun, inexpensive activities for the community that people can come out and give a try, you know, they’re going to discover the joy of the winter.”