UK artist Tim Knowles spent a month in residency at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, just to see how the area moved – even down to the twigs birds would use for their nests.
That data collection helped inform the design for the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary’s reconnection project, which officially opened to the public on Monday.
The $9.7 million project upgraded several park amenities that over time and human use – and with the impact of the 2013 flood – had neared end of life. The popular birding locale was first established in 1929 and is the only federally recognized urban facility of its kind in Canada.
Work was done to identify areas to improve, repair and enhance flood and erosion control in the area, plus restore lost fish and bird habitats. In 2018 there was an initial plan that Calgarians could view and provide feedback, with work beginning in 2022 after collaboration between the City of Calgary’s Infrastructure Services, Operational Services and Public Art.
There is a new Logjam pedestrian crossing that also acts as a flood-lagoon control outlet, the Bow River was reconnected to the canal and lagoon area; the latter is more than 100 years old. Further erosion improvements were made, channelling was done and natural barriers were installed, plus new pools and riffles were established for fish and other wildlife.
“All of these improvements play an important role in the goal of restoring our ecosystems within the sanctuary and creating healthy habitats for all the species that make this facility our home,” said Anne Cataford, manager of linear infrastructure with the City of Calgary.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that the City has made important decisions to protect parks and backed it up with budget dollars. She said this investment would ensure the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary would remain a treasured place for residents and visitors.
“Parks are an important part of our city’s infrastructure,” she said.
“They go a long way towards making us one of the most livable cities in the world.”
Creating a connection to the area
Knowles got involved in the project as there was an international call for artists to work with the City of Calgary’s Water Services division.
He thought the sanctuary was a fantastic space. Knowles watched for a month the movement of birds, logs floating down the river, and deer moving to and fro in the meadows and along the banks of the Bow River.
“I thought it was fascinating and really important that the lagoon was stagnant, not supporting a lot of wildlife. But birds were coming, but there weren’t many fish and things, he said.
“The whole aim of this, as you know, is to reconnect it and make that you know, bring life back to the lagoon.”
There were a variety of aspects to deal with, including the lagoon, the channel, the flood control outlets and the log jam crossing. The channel – though there at one point in the river’s history – wasn’t discernible and had to be re-dug. Knowles said they chose a path that saved as many trees as possible.
They reused many as natural impediments in the water and along the channel banks to provide stability and habitat. Some were used as a part of the Log Jam pedestrian bridge.
Knowles said it was an iterative process, not one that just sprung to mind as he tracked the area’s movements. He worked with engineers and designers – with public feedback – to come up with the final design.
“The whole kind of thing you just have to evolve it slowly fitting the brief and the requirements and that sort of steadily changes,” he said.
The project received $750,000 combined from the Government of Alberta’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.
The City of Calgary invested $9 million.