St. Patrick's Island
With CMLC’s redevelopment of St. Patrick’s Island now complete, the park’s opening in July 2015 was one of the year’s highlights for Calgarians. And with our completion of the new George C. King Bridge in October 2014, this 31-acre master-planned recreational area – which includes hiking and biking trails, a plaza and amphitheatre, play areas, an elevated rise and restored river channels – is now more accessible to our city’s residents and visitors than ever before.
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 with construction of a bridge to the island in the early 1900s. More than a century later, this all-but-forgotten treasure at the city’s centre has re-emerged as an amenity-rich, family-friendly park space for all Calgarians to enjoy.
CMLC’s redevelopment of St. Patrick’s Island was a key component of our place-making strategy for the Rivers District. Creating infrastructure and developing programs to bring public spaces to life are central to our redevelopment efforts.
With that in mind, we embarked in 2010 on a master planning process to shape the future of St. Patrick’s Island. After nearly a year of extensive study and public engagement (with more than 6,000 Calgarians expressing their ideas, hopes and dreams for what the island would become), St. Patrick’s Island had a master plan based on the principles of “biophilia” – a landscape design approach that nurtures the instinctive bond between people and nature and, by fostering harmony between constructed and natural elements, provides opportunities for life-enriching experiences and activities.
In April 2012, CMLC announced the selection of New York-based W Architecture and Denver-based Civitas as the team to realize the vision for St. Patrick’s Island. Selected by an evaluation committee through a competitive RFQ process, W/Civitas trumped 17 submissions from across North America with their extensive experience in waterfront design.
Save for a brief interruption by the high waters that flooded much of our city in June 2013, our improvements and restorative work on St. Patrick’s Island continued on track, and St. Patrick’s Island re-opened to the public in July 2015.
The revitalized island’s attractions and enhancements include:
- The Tip – a vantage point and seating area at the island’s westernmost edge with great views of the river and downtown Calgary. The area is defined by Bloom: a 23-metre permanent public art installation that provides a focal point and soft ambient lighting.
- The Seasonal Breach – a restored channel where visitors can wade into the water and venture safely out onto a gravel bar.
- Pathways – gently meandering paths wander through forested areas and around the island, ideal for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
- The Rise – a grassy knoll, nine metres high, that provides a perfect setting for community celebrations, performances and movies in the park (and, in winter, for some fantastic sledding).
- The Playmound – a child-friendly area with playground equipment.
- The Lowland Channel – a seasonal riparian wetland at the heart of the island, with an elevated boardwalk for no-impact access to the wetland and the Gallery Forest, an important habitat for nesting eagles, owls and songbirds.
- The Picnic Grove – an accessible family-oriented spot and natural meeting place.
- The Cove – a river access, perfect for fishing or rafting.
- Confluence Plaza – a gathering place with shade, a sun deck, seating areas and a small amphitheatre that hosts performances and other programs throughout the summer.
CMLC hosted a grand re-opening of St. Patrick’s Island in September 2015. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reaction we have received from Calgarians during construction and given the feedback we received during our master plan public engagement, the island has become a recreational oasis for many Calgarians. We’ll be busy programming the space with festivals, guided nature walks and family picnics to help people discover.