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Calgary opens first City owned, public parkour course in Coventry

After four years of work, the City of Calgary’s first parkour park opened officially to the public in the community of Coventry Hills.

Although the new park has some of the hallmarks of a playground, the play style is meant to engage an older pre-teen and teen audience.

Parkour is the sport of creativity of body movement and getting from one point to another, said Robert Leszczynsk with Breathe Parkour, which consulted on the park project.

“Kids generally are a little less active recently, and having a park like this that’s a little bit more different, a little bit more exciting, is definitely a little more motivating for kids to get out and explore what their bodies can do, instead of sitting at a computer game all day,” he said.

Moraig McCabe, a member of Creating Coventry, said that the decision to replace the older playground with the parkour park came about as a result of consultations within the community.

“We found that most of the playgrounds that were still here were from when the developer put them in. When developers are selling a family community, they’re putting playgrounds, in that are tot lots that don’t have a lot in them, and they’re all the same,” said McCabe.

“But kids grow in their community and they need something to do, and we found that a lot of the sort-of tweens and teens literally were bored. They had nothing to do when we asked them about all the playgrounds and what they liked about them.”

The new park is located at 972 Coventry Drive NE (see map below for more details).

Local children are led by Robert Leszczynsk with Breathe Parkour on how to do some basic parkour as the City of Calgary opens their first parkour park in Coventry on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Design for the park came from the community

McCabe said that the idea for the park came about from a local youth, whose house is adjacent to the park.

“We asked the people roundabout if they would get involved in creating a wish board. So Liam created it. We basically brought him one of these big foam boards and a bunch of playground equipment catalogs and pens and stuff and said, ‘what would you like to dream up for this park?’” McCabe said.

The initial design of one part parkour, another part climbing wall was derailed by Covid-19 said McCabe, but the pandemic did put an extra emphasis on creating appropriate outdoor spaces.

She said that the City of Calgary helped Creating Coventry tender out the park to vendors, and then paid for it.

In total, the park cost approximately $165,000—which was less than the $180,000 typical starting price for a small playground installation.

“Their community engagement and planning were critical in the success of this park,” said Catherine Stotschek, Manager Parks North Operations for the City of Calgary.

Parks Foundation Calgary provided a $5,000 conceptual grant for the project, which allowed for Creating Coventry to create the RFP.

“Having a drawing of a project and a budget is essential for fundraising for this project, and for all projects. Until that point is just an idea. But having a drawing makes it concrete, people want to jump on board, and they want to be part of it when they can see what something will look like,” said Sheila Taylor, CEO of Parks Foundation Calgary.

Catherine Stotschek, Manager Parks North Operations for the City of Calgary, centre, and Liam, a local resident who helped design the first City of Calgary parkour park in Coventry, cut the ribbon on the park opening on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Teens need park spaces too for their interests

Taylor said that it was exciting to see a new park space that was designed for teens.

“In the past, there’s been so much time spent on playground development, which is important, but we do need more spaces that are exciting for other age groups – for teens, for young adults,” she said.

“Something else that’s exciting about parkour is that it’s really unstructured. So depending on your ability and interest, you make it what you want. So it’s good to see that we have different kinds of spaces for people so that they can get out and be active.”

She said that it was also good to see a space that is not affected by the affordability of sporting equipment.

“Affordability is such a huge issue in Calgary, and it’s growing. So to have free spaces where you don’t require specialized equipment or training is really essential,” Taylor said.

“I think we’ll see more of these kinds of spaces popping up because it’s critical that we’re providing these opportunities for families.”

Rockyview Play, which focuses on creating natural play areas, was the developer for the park.

Duncan O’Nions, President of Rockyview Play, said that his team created the park in consultation with Breathe Parkour—which operates a parkour gym and teaches parkour classes in Calgary.

“We find a lot of children want a bit more riskier play, which is kind of what we focus on, but we also want to make sure it’s safe and works within the standard,” O’Nions said.

“The parkour standard itself is kind of limited and it’s more US–North American. So we used that with some expertise on the engineering and the playground standard.”

He said that the pieces used in the playground like cedar planks, metal bars, and climbing walls were all custom built and can support the activities of children and teens doing parkour, but also adults if they choose.