It’s springtime! Soon Calgarians en masse will be out and about on the city’s 1,000 km of pathways. This is the largest urban pathway network in the world! But it was not always so.
Although city plans back to 1910 referred to Calgary’s impressive inventory of natural features and open spaces, which could be enhanced with connections between them, it wasn’t until the 1970s that multi-use pathways started becoming a reality.
Confederation Park received the city’s first official pathway. Created to celebrate Canada’s centennial, the park reflects Superintendent Harry Boothman’s vision for an area that supports Calgarians’ activities and preserves the existing coulee environment, vital to flood control. The pathway was constructed in the early 1970s and it still meanders parallel to the creek that is the centre of the park.
Calgary’s network really got going when the “Bow River Pathways” was formalized for the city’s centennial in 1975. Today, the Pathways spans 48 km between Bearspaw Dam and Fish Creek Provincial Park. Although the Chinook Trail Association started a dirt path along the Bow River’s north side in 1969, construction of the Pathways heralded a new era for the city’s pathway network and parks.
Further development of the network was a result of Calgarians’ input for more recreational choices and for the protection and enjoyment of the city’s natural spaces. The network subsequently grew to connect the Bow River to the Glenmore Reservoir via the Elbow River Pathway, with extensions moving out from the rivers, such as the Nose Creek Pathway.
Today, the network has grown far beyond the rivers and reservoirs. The Rotary/Mattamy Greenway’s construction began in 2010 and it now encircles the city with 145 km of pathways that connect 55 communities. It’s a unique multi-use pathway that continues the legacy of the pathway network, where people and nature meet.
Before heading out for the 2023 season, check out these guidebooks “Calgary’s Best Walks” and “Calgary’s Best Bike Rides” by Lori Beattie. To order or join one of Lori’s walks, visit www.fitfrog.ca. And remember the efforts of Calgarians in building and maintaining a network that facilitates the enjoyment of our urban lives while taking in and preserving our stunning natural environment.
– Anthony Imbrogno is a volunteer with The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society/Heritage Inspires YYC