One of the things in life that takes me to my happy place is being able to explore a new park. It goes back to when I was eight years old and first allowed to go exploring on my own in Berlin, Germany while my mom was visiting with yet more relatives that I had never met before. The wonder of coming around a corner and seeing what came next in the greenery never has left me, so I was looking forward to exploring Calgary’s newly renovated St Patrick’s Island park. “Renovation” is a bit of understatement, more like rip things apart real good and put them back together in a new way is more like it. Even with the extreme makeover, the island is big enough that they managed to leave a good part of the old trees, and some of the landscape as is.
I walked over from the west side of Inglewood, wanting to explore the newer section of the river path I had not seen yet so I walked across the Elbow river bridge and up the Bow River pathway.
It’s a nice path, divided out for cyclists and pedestrians, although I don’t understand why they “merge” them together in some places, seems enough room to separate them?
I come to the new St. Patrick’s Island bridge: It looks impressive, although slightly marred by the plain concrete deck of the actual bridge. I guess there was no extra budget to make things nice after the Peace Bridge. Lots of people out and about, even though it’s a pretty cool day for summer with a threat of rain.
Walking away from the bridge and around Big Lite, I immediately realize I should have brought my wide angle lens. This thing is big and presents some angles I can only do up close with the wide angle. Oh well, I back up a bit and came up with this:
I’m not sure how I feel about Big Lite yet. Does it light up at night? Could use a bit of color. The base is being left to be natural low bush from the looks of what they have planted – not sure why you shouldn’t be able to walk under this thing. Turning around from where I took the last picture I see I’m on a little bridge over one of “The Breach”(s) they have made on the island
The city re-created two river channels that used to bisect the island into three about 60 years ago. This is a very good thing, as it has made the island much more interesting and created new recreational opportunities, such as a wading area:
Believe me, gravel is a much better idea than sand here. Sand gets washed away as soon as the river goes over it next spring, the city would have to do annual sand dumps to keep a beach here. The gravel is nice round stone, not hard on the feet or to sit on really. You just might want a cushion if your are a tender puss.
The low bridge in the middle acts as a dam regulating the water flow, to the north of it the channel narrows to a stream you can sit beside and meditate if you want to be a bit more away from the people
This island is pretty much cut off from the rest of the island, and is full of shrubs to allow the birds to hide in. Nice!
The far east side of the part closest to the parking is more developed with shelters, fancy pavers and picnic spots, including some grills if you bring your firewood. I didn’t think to take a picture of this area, but it’s pretty nice if you want something more developed. There are actual washrooms you can use here too. See how long that lasts.
The other interesting feature is the hill they created on the island. Rather than cart all the fill away from the breaches they created, they dumped it all in a nice pile and covered it with grass. Here is the top of it, with a “fire pit” :
It’s about 1 1/2 stories up, so you don’t see over the trees really, but you do get some view. If you took a sled up here in winter the view would be better, and you’ll get quite a bit of speed going down, as the slope is quite steep:
Did someone forget to file down a rough edge?
So, how do I feel about this park, post renovation? Overall, big improvement. My only lamentation is there are not many places left where you can go along the river and just sit at a bench by yourself enjoying the river in relative peace. But hey, it’s a big city, I can’t expect that kind of thing to stick around. The new water feature is great and is sure to be packed every hot day in the summer from now on. Hopefully the city can build another park like this every few years, there certainly is demand for these kinds of more formal parks. Oh, needs a food truck or two parked around the area on the weekends. I could’ve gone for an ice cream cone if someone had been about.