The City of Calgary’s newest regional park—the first to be built in a decade—is also one of the city’s greenest.
The City of Calgary unveiled their first net-zero building in the city facilities inventory as part of the opening ceremonies for the Haskayne Legacy Park on Sept. 16.
The park’s pavilion building, which draws power from a nearby solar array and heat and cooling from geothermal system, will be used to provide park programming as well as hosting private events like weddings.
“We can run environmental education initiatives out of this site, similar to what you might experience at Ralph Klein Park or the Inglewood bird sanctuary,” said Kyle Ripley, Director for Parks and Open Spaces at the City of Calgary.
“This pavilion building will also be open for rentals for weddings and that type of thing, coming in 2024.”
The City of Calgary has approximately 600 buildings in its infrastructure portfolio.
The solar array was designed to provide 33.6 kW of electricity to the pavilion from 84 solar panels. The City of Calgary said that the electric generated by the array would offset proximally $8,000 per year in electricity costs for the pavilion, with an expected 11-year return on investment from the $112,300 cost to build the array.
Haskyane Legacy Park’s other green feature is a preservation area for native Alberta fescue grasslands, which as a biome, has been critically reduced to just 16 per cent of the original size in the province.
“We are looking at the biodiversity of our city and how that biodiversity is changing with climate change and we want to make sure that we’re able to respond to that. We’re considering the species that are currently growing in the city. We’re looking at species that may be growing in the future as the climate change,” said Ripley.
“Preserving natural environment parks is critical to that success and that increase of our biodiversity.”
He said that it goes beyond preserving nature though. The goal of the trail that goes through the grasslands area, said Ripley, allows Calgarians to connect with nature, with heritage, and to each other.
Haskayne Legacy Park is located southwest of Range Road 31, which can be accessed by Highway 1A going west towards Cochrane.
Ripley said that the City of Calgary is currently working with private landowners, but that the new park provides the possibility of cyclists and pedestrians to travel from Cochrane to Chestermere on dedicated paths—with the possibility of having a trail all the way to Canmore.
“Providing those recreational opportunities for Calgarians, Albertans, and visitors: I think it’s critical. It’s one of those things that helps make Calgary one of the top five places in the world to live,” he said.
Long road to park opening
The park came about as a result of land purchases by the ENMAX Parks Program, along with a final land purchase and donation of $5 million by Dick and Lois Haskyane.
Although the park area, which abuts the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, and was conceptualized at the same time as that park in 2007, lack of road access to the site meant delays for park construction.
Ripley said that part of the delay in construction had to do with not having significant urban development near the park’s location.
“When the park was first envisioned the city was growing at such a rate that the feeling was by the time we were opening by the time today happened, that urban development would catch up to it and we would have access from the eastern side of the park. Development obviously slowed down that didn’t occur,” he said.
“So, we had to work very closely with the county of Rocky View to develop the access road.”
Rocky View Country Reeve Crystal Kissel said that the county put $300,000 towards creating the access road to the new park, and a commitment to manage the road going forward.
“I will tell you when I was notified and towards the end of July, and the date was set for September and we didn’t really have a road,” she said.
“Rocky View County is very proud to be a partner here today. The City of Calgary paid the lion’s share of the road costs of $4.4 million, and when you drive down that road if you’ve never been here before, it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Tim Harvie, superintendent for Glenbow Ranch, said that the creation of Haskayne Legacy Park was instrumental to provide increased access to the eastern edge of the park.
“This park has been so instrumental in accessing Lambo giving it another point and so many more Albertans can come and enjoy Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park as well,” he said.
“Frankly, the east end of the park just up the river here along the river is some of the most beautiful parts of the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. And it’s the least visited because it’s the furthest from the other access points.”