Gazing over the verdant post-rain wetlands and fields of the Nose Creek valley, Andrew Yule points to the things he and other residents feel will be lost with coming change.
At the heart of a new advocacy group, Save Nose Creek, is the desire to preserve—or at least have a conversation about preserving—the natural spaces that abut the Northern Hills communities.
“I feel like it’s time to take action, time to speak up because if we don’t speak up, we’re just gonna get whatever happens in the valley,” said Yule.
Pointing far south from the ridge overlooking from where Queen Elizabeth 2 highway becomes Deerfoot Trail, Yule talks about the types of projects that exist in other parts of the city that he wants to see, and not see up north.
Chief among those are the warehouses and light industrial yards that connect directly to the creek along McKnight Boulevard industrial area in Greenview.
“My big concern is, if you look through the Nose Creek Valley, Nose Creek as it goes down through Calgary, there’s areas like McKnight where you have warehouses butted right up against the creek bed, and that’s not what we want here in Northern hills,” he said.
“We want to we want to be able to experience this green space.”
Advocacy in its infancy
Yule formed Save Nose Creek in June of this year. It currently has a small core membership of between 10 to 15 people.
The group includes David Hartwick and Tavis Settles, who both serve as part of the Northern Hills Community Association. They’re alongside other community advocates who have been involved in the Green Line and community school projects.
The group is currently operating through Twitter and Facebook, but is planning on more engagement methods in the future.
“We are in our infancy, and I’m hoping to get more voices,” said Yule.
“That’s where I’m at right now, trying to get more people involved. It’s really about telling the representatives this is what we want.”
Conversation about linking impacts of projects
Yule talked about development projects currently underway, and under proposal, that are shaping the future for the area.
The industrialization of the Nose Creek area was initially proposed in the 1990s, before being formally passed by Calgary City Council in 2005 as the Stoney Industrial Area Structure Plan.
That plan, which covers the current development of industrial use adjacent to the Calgary International Airport and east of Deerfoot Trail, also covers the western portion of the Nose Creek Valley and ridge next to Coventry and Harvest Hills.
At the time, current Mayor Jyoti Gondek spoke to the Calgary Herald in her capacity as the president of the Northern Hills Community Association. She was quoted as saying “The wetlands have been protected, the environment has been protected, the landowners have been protected – but where are the residents in all of this?”
Yule said that sentiment hasn’t changed, and residents still feel under-heard when it comes to changes in the valley.
“It’s just like ‘bring us to the table so that we can kind of tell you our perspective of what we need as a community,'” he said.
Among the other changes they want discussed include the widening of Country Hills Boulevard, development of connector roads to the 11 Street overpass, transit-to-roadway changes, turning the creek area into a park, and the proposed Airdrie-Calgary bike highway.
Uncertainty, not NIMBYism, said group
Yule directly addressed the issue of being perceived as advocating for not in my backyard.
“I think there’s a lot of NIMBYism in our community, just because we don’t know what’s being built,” he said.
“We don’t know what’s going on next door.”
He pointed to the transformation of a long-established green space held in reserve for transit use only along Coventry Hills Way NE, being turned into a regular roadway.
“People don’t want that transit way to turn into a regular road because we don’t know what we’re going to connect to,” said Yule.
“I think that can change if we have more engagement from the city, more initiative from the city to make sure that communities are listened to and heard throughout this development process,” he said.
Among other concerns, is that the 2005 plan is moving forward without what Yule said, is further consultation with the community.
“We just want to know what’s going on so that we can provide input and that we can work with the developers,” he said.
Development of park and community space proposed
In the group’s proposal document they’ve provided to members of city council, provincial MLAs, and Members of Parliament, they made reference to development in the Nose Creek area.
But those developments are chiefly centred around local community functions rather than purely commercial development.
The group has proposed the valley floor being transformed into a park area not unlike Fish Creek Park.
They’ve also proposed that the City of Calgary transform currently zoned industrial lands next to the transit way in Coventry Hills into a community centre.
Writing in their proposal document, they stated that “the Northern Hills Community Association has been in dire need of a Community Centre space since the Northern Hills were created.”
“If the city were to purchase all or part of this land to create large community spaces it could ease the fears of development while also giving residents a benefit to it. The Livingston Hub is an example of the type of community centre missing on the eastern side of Coventry Hills.”
Yule freely admitted that the name Save Nose Creek is a dramatic one. He also said that this wasn’t about an all-or-nothing approach.
“I am being dramatic. I mean, I’d like to see where we can go, and worst-case scenario, we get a little bit of engagement and best-case scenario, we get an official park designation for the Nose Creek Valley,” he said.
Yet, he said, that was a bit of a long shot because of the current area structure plan.
“I guess I’m cautiously optimistic that we can actually save Nose Creek, and preserve the nature.”