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Evanston adds first ever pathway accessible winter amenity to the northwest

The community of Evanston in northwest Calgary has added the first ever winter amenity to the Rotary–Mattamy Greenway pathway system.

Phase one of the amenity plan, 10 years in the making by the Evanston Creekside Community Association (ECCA), provides a uniquely designed natural skating rink, tobogganing hill, and natural play elements directly on the pathway system.

The nearly $600,000 community park opened officially to the public on Saturday, representing a major milestone in the transformation of the park space along Symons Valley Parkway and Evanston Drive.

“It is very exciting to be first in the city to be able to offer this sort of access to our community,” said Robbie Morton, president of ECCA.

“I think it’s a very important gathering space for the community of Evanston—it’s multi seasonal, and it’s multi generational.”

The community is currently working on funding phase two of the project. It would add an outdoor shade structure, a natural theatre space, and community gardens. Phase one funding was provided by the City of Calgary, the Parks Foundation Calgary, the Government of Alberta, and Tourmaline Oil in addition to fundraising within the community.

Focus on creating positive places to get outside

Ward 2 Coun Jennifer Wyness said that the opening was great, because it was continuing to put focus on creating creation spaces and promoting community gatherings.

She said that the space, the first winter amenity in Calgary that’s directly accessible on the regional pathway system was huge for creating accessibility.

"We want to do not just accessibility for differently-abled individuals, but as well as multi generational. We want to have our kids come up with our parents, and our grandparents, and to be able to play together," she said.

"We want an active city, we want active living. It helps with health, mental health, wellness—it's something very important."

Coun. Wyness said that she would be working with Evanston on trying to help them fund phase two of their project, along with other unfunded community park projects in her ward communities. She identified that for some communities in Ward 2, 17–years–on, have still unfulfilled amenity promises made to community members.

Parks Foundation Calgary CEO Sheila Taylor said that the opening of the Evanston park is helping to fill that gap in the northwest.

"We need to be able to give people places to go, and enjoy to spend time with family and friends, and so this new park will play a huge role in supporting this community and the greater region here," she said

Although warm weather prevented planned opening festivities like skating, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing, visitors to the opening of the new Evanston Park were treated to sleigh rides, music, and some slushy tobogganing on Saturday, February 19, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Winter amenity focus new for Calgary

Taylor said the Evanston park is marking a shift in thinking about how to provide year-round recreation. She highlighted the increased number of skating paths being created in the city as one way this thinking is changing.

"You're seeing even this area here, there's lots to do in the winter, because we need to be more than just a summer city," she said.

The Covid-19 pandemic, she said, has put a renewed emphasis on helping people to get outdoors - including in winter.

"We know that in winter isolation is worse than ever for people. We need to be able to give people places to go and enjoy to spend time with family and friends."