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UCalgary students offer visions for Nose Creek park

The North Calgary issue gained prominence last year when community members banded together to looking at saving the natural landscape.

Although the potential for a Nose Creek national or provincial park remains for the moment hypothetical, the vision of what that park could look like is very much rooted in reality.

University of Calgary students from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL) presented their visions at a forum last week, presented by the advocacy group Save Nose Creek.

Andrew Yule, founder of Save Nose Creek, said that the students graciously agreed to publicly show their landscape design projects after the valley area became a focus for a class taught by Faculty of Environmental Design professor Beverly Sandalack and NAK Designs landscape architect Jack Vanstone.

“We’re hoping to capture the imagination of community leaders and political representatives of the area to try and get some more momentum on Save Nose Creek and on creating an inter-municipal park system,” Yule said.

He said the involvement of students represented the reality that advocating for a park in the Nose Creek Valley would be an inter-generational effort.

“I look back to advocates from like 2004 and 1992, and it’s going to be generational, and so it’s nice to see the younger generation coming up and getting excited about it,” Yule said.

Projects led some students to fall in love with under-loved valley

One of the six students who presented her vision for the valley during the evening event was Traci Berg.

“My project began with a series of site visits and observations and every single time that I came onto this site, I just fell more and more in love with it,” said Berg.

“It made me really rethink the perceived value that we have of grasslands, and I wanted to take a closer look at what it is that makes these grasslands special, how we can inform others about that, and how we can best take care of them and make them landscapes that persist well into the future.”

Her design, based on the natural realignment of rivers and creeks by beavers, involved natural non-destructive interventions into the creek valley.

“Another method that I proposed was pattern mowing for healthy grassland succession, and that helps make sure that we’re targeting invasive species, but allowing our natural grasses to come back and really flourish again in the landscape,” she said.

“This landscape has become so special to me, and I do want to see it protected, enshrined and elevated.”

Other projects during the evening focused on the Indigenous history of the valley, the birds and animals, and also the glacial erratic that has become a prominent rock for spray painting and vandalism.

Sandalack said that she chose the area that presented a real-world opportunity for students working on projects that touched on areas of landscape design like transportation, ecology, and public safety.

“There’s so many things that once you start peeling this back, from the general and then you get into the details, I think it really needs to be taken on as an actual project that can start to develop these things,” Sandalack said.

She praised the students, saying that she wasn’t surprised by the quality of the work they produced on the valley.

“The 16 highly individual designers from different backgrounds from all over the world, and they come out and they always find something that just really strikes them,” Sandalack said.

Councillor Jasmine Mian, centre, watches as a UCalgary student with the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, presents her vision for the Nose Creek Valley at Mollie’s Market in Calgary on Friday, May 26, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

City decision makers attended evening presentations

The evening was attended by members of City of Calgary administration and Ward 3 Councillor Jasmine Mian.

“The fact that there are City Councillors here or people with political willpower, who can actually implement real change in our city and in our landscapes that gives me a lot of hope,” said Berg.

Coun. Mian said that she attended the evening to hear the thoughts of the community on the valley.

“It’s really cool to have a group of students so passionate and interested in this area,” she said.

“What I know for sure is that there’s some really great ideas that span from really big pie-in-the-sky ideas to much more tangible projects. I look forward to hearing more from this group about what their priorities are and helping them navigate the complex world that is getting projects done within a city.”

She said the City has to balance a variety of different competing interests, such as those to protect the valley while at the same time promoting job creation through development in an under-served, under-employed part of Calgary. Mian said the ideas she heard speak to the desire for greater community connection to the landscape.

“I think this group tonight raised some really good points about grasslands being really ecologically important, but they’re not necessarily as enticing or interesting for residents to go and visit,” Mian said.

“I think there’s so many possibilities, which is both a huge positive but can also plague us to like where to even start with something like this. So I look forward to more discussions about it.”