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Opening of the Balmoral Circus Park invites active community engagement and participation

While there’s no big top here, there’s a buzz around the recently renovated Balmoral Circus Park in Calgary’s northwest that’s now fully open to the public.

Located at 19 Avenue and 2 Street NW, the Balmoral Circus Park took a formerly paved intersection and transformed the space into a connection point for residents in Tuxedo Park, Mount Pleasant and Balmoral.

The design benefits the community with a double row of trees, and a paved half-circle space to facilitate play and different types of activities. There are also heavy tables, perfect for grabbing a coffee from a nearby shop and having a conversation with a friend.

“There’s a hard surface area for which kids can ride their bicycles, said Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong.

“Also, there is a grassy area for people to be able to picnic and lounge and do other things. I am thrilled that this park is now complete for all Calgarians, especially those in Ward 7 to enjoy year-round.” 

This project expanded an existing green space to support the arrival of more people to engage with this community and passive recreation providing all directions access. Wong said there’s a circular track for people to walk and cycle around and there’s a paved intersection that provides accessible pathways for people to use along 19 Avenue and 2 Street NW.

Originally made in the 1930s, during Calgary’s Beautiful movement, the park’s redesign is being undertaken in anticipation of the Green Line and Bus Rapid Transit’s arrival on Centre Street, with the aim of promoting civic growth and sustainable transportation.

Funding for the project came from the Established Area Growth and Change Strategy Capital Fund. There was also $25,000 from the CN EcoConnexions From the Ground Up program, in partnership with Tree Canada, to plant two rows of trees around each quarter of the circle.

Important crossroads for the community

Ann Nakaska, who was walking with her grandkids through the area Monday afternoon, said she’d watched the area evolve over the past three or four years.

“Even before they did [the renovation], they had the chairs out and a lot of the kids would come and they had a bit of a skateboard ramp and [they] would play,” said Ann Nakaska, who has frequented the area over the past several years. 

“During the summer they would put on games in the center and so kids from the community would all come and play on Friday afternoons.”

Nakaska said it’s crucial to foster a sense of connection between neighbourhoods; enhancing cohesion and accessibility can improve the community’s quality of life and support sustainable growth. Wong agreed, especially with the further densification of inner-city neighbourhoods.

“It is extremely important, especially when we’re talking about additional changes to communities through what we call a densification of our housing,” he said.

“Having a space such as this park is extremely important to a growing community.” 

The park’s original design was done by William Reader, who served as the city’s first park superintendent. This historical significance is not confined solely to government involvement. It also resonates in the evolution of the Tuxedo and Mount Pleasant communities.

“One of the things that we are attempting to do is not just build a park but build a place where people can share their stories of the communities and the development of the park itself through a variety of storyboards and different sorts of ways of demonstrating heritage,” said Wong.

The phases of the project started in February 2020 with a notice of motion providing $30 million for public improvement.

Throughout the development of the project, public engagement was done with nearby residents. Nakaska recalled the city notices for public engagement and the two charettes that were presented. The final design combined the two visions, she said.

“That told me they were listening to the people in the community and what they wanted it for,” said Nakaska. 

“They’re trying to make it more community-minded, and more gathering places for people of all ages and, more inclusive, too, so that everybody can use it.”