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August 01, 2015

The long and winding path

The Rotary/Mattamy Greenway links Calgary’s neighbourhoods like never before

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth

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One of the biggest issues that new homeowners face when choosing a neighbourhood to buy in is finding a community that’s close to the amenities that suit their lifestyle while staying within their allotted budget. Many Calgarians list proximity to parks and pathways as a top must-have when choosing a community to live in, but are often priced out of properties that are close to the vibrant inner city parks and path systems they want to access.

But things are about to change, as the face of Calgary’s pathway system is about to become more accessible to hundreds of thousands of Calgarians. Thanks to an ambitious project called the Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, which is rapidly nearing completion.

Think of the Greenway as a ring road for cyclists and pedestrians — once completed, the 138-kilometre network of parks and paths will encircle the entire city, connecting dozens of suburban communities  and making it easier for people hop on their bikes and get to just about any corner of the city or take a serene nature walk without having to travel very far.

The Greenway is the brainchild of Calgary Parks Foundation, the organization also responsible for projects like the Calgary Rotary Challenger Park, the Crowfoot Pedestrian Bridge, and James Short Park, among many others.

“This system will be so accessible because not only will it encircle the city, but it is outside the back door of so many Calgarians,” says Myrna Dube, CEO of Calgary Parks Foundation. “The Greenway passes directly by or right through 55 different Calgary communities where more than 400,000 people live. And then the rest of Calgary can connect to it through the City’s pathway system.”

Calgary Parks Foundation started the Greenway project in 2009 and Dube expects the circle to be completed by the spring of 2017, with 90 per cent of the pathway being finished by the end of this year and many portions already open to the public (though she notes that the Foundation is open to adding specialized parks and other amenities on an ongoing basis). In addition to the loop, there are rest stops (with benches, garbage bins, and some signage) planned for every half kilometre or so as well as some special facilities like outdoor fitness centres and off-leash dog parks, including the Jim Davidson Bark and Play in Auburn Bay, featuring dog care education as well as separated areas for large and smaller dogs. Dube is pleased that in addition to the physical fitness aspects of the Greenway, Calgary Parks Foundation is also adding an educational element for nature lovers, specifically in the wetland areas along the loop.

“Wherever we have a wetland, we make it a wetland interpretive area,” Dube says. “We believe strongly that the more we can all understand how fragile our ecosystem is, the more we can take action to help conserve it. These are interpretive wetlands where we have signage and information about the wetlands. Some of them have boardwalks that we’ve built right over top of the wetlands, which is quite spectacular because you get to view the wildlife at a very close up level.”

Of course, a project of this scale can’t be facilitated or financed by a single organization and Dube is thrilled by the support that the Greenway has received from the community at large. As the project’s name suggests major sponsorship has come from both the Rotary Clubs of Calgary and Cochrane as well as Mattamy Homes, but they have also partnered with a number of other members of the home building and development community for each individual leg of the loop. Dube says that the developers in the communities the Greenway runs through or alongside have been incredibly supportive and are more than happy to help provide this special perk to their residents.

“It is a win-win for everyone,” Dube says. “All the developers do wonderful things in their community for the people who live there but this adds another connector. It connects their communities with other communities and provides additional recreational outlets for their residents.”

While the fitness and nature opportunities that will come with the completed Greenway are obvious, there are also other ways that this project will benefit Calgarians. It’s a great community builder in that it physically and symbolically ties the city together, and Dube points out that because of the uniqueness and sheer length of the pathway, it could also make for economic and tourism opportunities for the city, possibly as a site for ultra-marathons, bike races, or other international sporting events.

“Once it’s finished it will be another Calgary icon,” Dube says. “It’s no wonder that this has come together because of the entrepreneurism in this city — people and businesses here do jump on board with projects where they really share the vision. I think it’s amazing for the city.” 

The Rotary|Mattamy Greenway is a visionary project being developed by Parks Foundation Calgary. When completed, the $60 million Greenway will be a 138-kilometre network of parks and pathways encircling the city. Key contributors to the projects are some of Calgary’s biggest residential developers, whose communities will be connected to one of the best urban park and pathway systems in North America.

Phase 1 of the Greenway runs from Airport Trail N.E. to 17th Avenue S.E. and is complete with the exception of the at-grade rail crossing near Memorial Drive, being completed by project supporter CN. Phase1 comprises the 13-kilometre Bob Skinner Pathway, numerous rest nodes, two playground parks, a fully fenced off-leash area and the ARC Resources Interpretive Wetlands. This $6-million phase is fully funded and was completed on budget.

Phase 2
stretches from the Western Irrigation District (WID) Canal on the eastern border of Calgary to Highway 22X, crosses over the highway at 52nd  Street S.E. and traverses the communities of Auburn Bay, Seton and Cranston before entering Fish Creek Provincial Park. Greenway signage has been installed through Fish Creek Provincial Park.

Residential developers were significant contributors to Phase 2. Brookfield Residential Properties is developing the Greenway in its communities of Auburn Bay, Seton and Cranston. In these communities, users will find the Jim Davidson Bark and Play off-leash area, an overlook of Fish Creek Park in Cranston and a wetland in Auburn Bay. Hopewell Residential Communities is developing a spur of the Greenway into its community of Mahogany. This area incorporates climbing rocks, wetlands, pathways and the TransCanada Corp. Outdoor Fitness Park. An interval running track is to be completed in the community next year.

Phase 3 is the remaining 55 per cent (74 kilometre) of the 138-kilometre Greenway. It will travel north from Airport Trail through the neighbourhood of Cityscape (Mattamy Homes), then connect with two new, side-by-side communities on the most northeastern tip of the city, SkyView Ranch (Walton) and Redstone (Qualico).

Thirty-nine kilometres of Phase 3 are already built. Walton Development and Management, Qualico, and Mattamy Homes are already committed to developing the Greenway in their communities in Phase 3.

The Greenway is expected to be 90 per cent completed by the end of 2015, with the remaining 10 per cent targeted for completion by the end of 2016.

Source: Calgary Parks Foundation

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