St. Patrick’s Island gets a facelift

Recent revitalization of St. Patrick’s Island has expanded East Village efforts onto a flood plane and into people hearts.

Thanks to a hefty $20 million from the community revitalization levy (courtesy of the Dave Bronconnier days) this 31-acre island in the middle of the Bow River has been modestly transformed from a space of considerable disrepair to a
community haven.

Responding to the requests of the public in surrounding communities, the facelift tried to keep it as natural as possible.

Susan Veres, vice president of the Calgary Municipal Land Development, comments that the public wanted what she refers to as a “light touch,” meaning any development should be to enhance the natural environment of the island and not involve heavy construction.

That choice has been a breathe of fresh air considering recent downtown developments which have resulted in a surplus of concrete and steel.

Calgary’s maturity has, in many cases, eliminated some of its greener spaces.

St Patrick’s Island acts as a pleasant detour option between the East Village and Inglewood, offering lots of space to play and an abundance of educational programs.

The changes are clearly putting the island back on the map, perhaps even reminding senior citizens of the days the island was used as a city campground.

Calgarian Will Pritchard is concerned, however, that investing so much resources into an area considered a flood plane could potentially be a waste.

“[The island might be] more expensive to maintain considering there could be another flood [or other] environmental factors,” said Pritchard.   

He is in favour, however, of the island being used to demonstrate environmental healing and reconstruction.

Perhaps a hands-off approach would reduce the risk of damage on the investment.   

Comments that the redevelopment
of St. Patrick’s Island has been well received, and well worth any potential
flood risk.

“Islands flood themselves, that’s what they do,” Veres said, adding that it was of course a consideration in the recovery of the island.

The result was the re-establishment of a natural channel that not only takes pressure away from the edges of the island with changing river levels, but also offers a safe oasis for visitors to dip their toes.

Veres said the resulting reaction to the changes have been remarkably positive, even humbling.

A self launch in July inspired a number of comments, ones that they are still taking time to respond to.

By taking into consideration of exactly what the public wants, they can really work to tailor the space to be an inner-city oasis.

And Calgary deserves a little bit of heaven in the middle of its chaos, with all of the city’s efforts in growth
and development.

Perhaps the island’s success will even inspire more desperately needed projects of the greener intent.

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