The pandemic has shown us the value of greenspaces in Calgary. Stuck inside, many of us found relief and refuge along the Elbow and Bow rivers, and in places like Nose Hill, the Weaselhead, and Griffith Woods. There is growing consensus that parks, greenspaces, and natural areas provide significant benefits to our mental and physical health, climate resiliency, and sense of community. We need to ensure that as Calgary grows, these areas remain accessible and continue to thrive as healthy ecosystems.
The Weaselhead Natural Area
Calgary is lucky to have the most parkland area (in hectares) per 1,000 people than any other city in Canada, and 53% of our urban area dedicated to greenspace. Unfortunately, many Inner City and Established Areas do not enjoy the same degree of access to Calgary’s greenspaces.
Hectares of Parkland Area in Canada’s Largest Municipalities Source: The Globe and Mail
The Municipal Development Plan pledged to increase greenspace in these parts of the city to 2 hectares per 1,000 residents. Through environmentally responsible methods like remediation, restoration, and renaturalization we can continually work to invest in our greenspaces here in Ward 8. If elected, I will fight to ensure that residents of Ward 8 have improved access to existing greenspace and advocate for projects that increase and improve the greenspace we all share.
To effectively face the challenges of climate change, we must strengthen Calgary’s climate resilience. Integrating more native plant species into landscaping and expanding urban tree coverage increases biodiversity within the city and improves our ability to adapt to extreme climate events.
Goals to restore 20% of Calgary’s open space by 2025 through habitat restoration, and increasing our urban tree canopy coverage from 8.25% to 16% must be realized if we are to increase environmental stability and meet the challenges of climate change. The inclusion of native plant species is important and the urban tree canopy coverage goals should be improved to include goals for native tree species, which are more adaptable to our climate and encourage greater biodiversity.
We also need to encourage more visionary ideas like Dale Hodges Park, which transformed a former gravel pit into a world-class greenspace and a vital stormwater buffer into the Bow River. With more projects like this, we will create more opportunities for Calgarians to get outside, attract people to our city, and help combat the increasingly unpredictable effects of climate change.
Financial Benefits of a Healthy Environment
It may not seem obvious, but rewilding and naturalization of formerly human-made and manicured greenspaces, grass boulevards, and lawns also has a financial benefit to The City’s budget and is a smarter use of tax dollars. Naturalization projects are becoming more prevalent in Calgary for good reason: they contribute to reducing operating and maintenance costs for things like mowing, planting, and watering as we face increased pressures from an increasing population and climate change. In addition, these projects create and encourage biodiversity, which is critical for ecosystem health, pollinator health, and agriculture.
A view of Dale Hodges Park in Northwest Calgary Source: The City of Calgary
Looking to the Future
Our city must be designed with the next 50 years in mind and we need to create a place that supports healthy people and a healthy environment. In 2014, The City of Calgary Parks Department established the imagineParks strategy, a 30-year vision from our city’s greenspaces. It recognized that managing our greenspaces requires balancing human activity, land use, and conservation.
If elected to be your Councillor, I will advocate for initiatives that protect and expand our valuable greenspaces, and ensure accessibility and use for all Calgarians. We all deserve to live in a healthy, green city where everyone can thrive.