Just three skips of a stone from East Village, St. Patrick’s Island is one of Calgary’s oldest parks. Its development as a public space began in the late 1890s and gained momentum after a bridge to the island was built in the early 1900s.
More than a century later, this all-but-forgotten treasure at the city’s centre is poised to regain its former glory…and then some! As part of the rejuvenation of the Rivers District, St. Patrick’s Island has a master plan to steer its development as an amenity-rich, family-friendly park space for all Calgarians to enjoy.
Moving west to east, the park design includes the following attractions and enhancements:
• At the island’s westernmost edge, The Tip invites visitors to soak up the views of downtown Calgary from seating bars, large river rocks and an informal plaza.
• Crossing the island between the Bow River’s northern channel and its main stem, The Seasonal Breach is a gravel bar that transitions up to a lawn area and small pedestrian plaza with seating and bike parking. In the summer months, visitors can wade into the water and venture safely out onto the gravel bar. Come winter, it’s the ideal site for outdoor skating.
• The Rise – a large hill whose south slope faces downtown Calgary and East Village – provides a place for gathering and occasional performances. In winter, bring your toboggan for some fantastic sledding.
• A true riparian wetland at the heart of the island, the Lowland Channel greatly enhances the diversity of species that inhabit the island. An elevated boardwalk provides no-impact access to the wetland and an entryway to the Gallery Forest.
• To the north of the Lowland Channel is The Playmound with children’s playground equipment and benches for parents to sit and chat while the kiddies climb and play.
• Located in a young balsam poplar woodland, The Picnic Grove includes picnic tables and outdoor grills amid an inviting mix of sun and shade.
• Occupying the southeastern third of the island, the old-growth Gallery Forest is the island’s most important habitat – home to nesting bald eagles, great horned owls and songbirds.
• Near the island’s eastern end is The Lookout plaza, where visitors can experience the joys of water in the expanded lagoon or The Pond – an interactive water feature with jumping fountains that invite kids of all ages to play. Amphitheater steps make The Lookout suitable for small festivals. The Lookout is serviced by ample parking, washrooms, maintenance sheds and electrical services available to food trucks, ticket kiosks and so on.
• The Cove on the island’s southern edge encourages visitors to fish, kayak or wade into the river’s edge. It provides quick access to The Lookout and Lowland Channel.
• St. Patrick’s Island also includes specially designed play areas for children; 1.6 kilometres of paved and soft pathways for running, riding and strolling; elevated walkways to showcase and educate on the island’s natural habitat; public washrooms; utility sheds; and increased parking near the Calgary Zoo to accommodate family picnics and gatherings
Development of the island amenities began on March 12, 2013, and the revitalized St. Patrick’s Island is expected to open to the public in the fall of 2015. During construction, the island park will be closed to the public.
In conjunction with the island’s redevelopment, construction is underway on the beautiful new St. Patrick’s Bridge, linking the island to East Village on the south and Bridgeland on the north. It is slated to open to pedestrians by the end of 2014.