With Calgary Municipal Land Corporation’s (CMLC) redevelopment of St. Patrick’s Island completed in July 2015 inner city residents and visitors were given a 31-acre recreational area in the heart of the City of Calgary that allowed for adventure, escape and relaxation from the pressure of inner city living. A once neglected island was transformed into a recreation area which included hiking and biking trails, a plaza and amphitheatre, play areas, restored river channels and limited river access.
Unfortunately, very little input was received from recreational river users who would have benefited from more extensive river access infrastructure. Contact was made with CMLC by individual river users during the site development to see if a trailered boat ramp could be integrated into the design, but it was too late to make changes in the design at that time. The discussions did indicate that it would be possible to meet the needs for trailered boat access at a later date if the need still existed.
In 2016 the Calgary River Users’ Alliance (CRUA) was formed by local recreational river user organizations to improve non-motorized boating access to the Bow and Elbow Rivers in Calgary. CRUA is an alliance of 15 river user organizations and related businesses covering all aspects of Calgary’s river use. The organization moved quickly to engage with the City of Calgary to make much needed improvements to river access on both the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Through a series of City of Calgary Council motions, a vision for the future of recreation river use was forged with the Calgary River Access Strategy passed by City Council in February 2017.
A total of four river access sites on the Bow River were approved as Priority 1 Projects, West Baker Park Boat Ramp, Sunnyside Hand Launch, Inglewood – 12 Street SE Boat Ramp and Ogden Bridge Boar Ramp.
Unfortunately, regulatory delays and budget restraints has delayed construction to where West Baker Park and a second site at Shouldice Park will be available in 2019. Ogden Bridge should be available in 2020 but Inglewood has been put on hold for some time. When delays with development of Inglewood became evident, CRUA asked Calgary Parks Department to open discussions on an alternative to proposed development and look at the feasibility to enhance river access at St. Patrick’s Island. CRUA was advised by Calgary Parks Department to take the proposal to CMLC as the lease holder of the property. The proposal was presented to CMLC in January 2019 with the following agreement in principal finalized in April.
St. Patrick’s Island is perfectly positioned to offer a river takeout point for recreational river users above the Western Irrigation District Weir that was redeveloped into Harvie Passage and reopened to the public in 2018. What is clear is that not all river users wish to traverse Harvie Passage to a takeout further downstream. Although float tubers, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up boards can use both St. Patrick’s Island and other sites upstream river access sites, a trailered- boat access site is not available for larger and heavier recreation river craft. This is of importance to the drift boat fishing community, large canoe and kayak lessons programs, and larger commercial rafts. Without a takeout ramp above Harvie Passage the city reach of the Bow River is excluded from drift boat fishing. With minor improvements to the current access to the St. Patrick’s Island Cove lagoon, trailered boats could be loaded or off loaded into the river. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation has agreed to infrastructure upgrades to facilitate trailered-boat access to the lagoon.
Total Budget of $18,500
From a starting point in the St. Patrick’s Island/ West Zoo parking lot (Figure 1) the trailered boat would be driven along the top concrete pathway (Figure 2) to the top of the steps into the lagoon. The vehicle would be driven down the open space to the left and onto the lower pathway where the trailer would be backed into the lagoon (Figure 3). The existing concrete pathway will be expanded to allow vehicle access onto an improved gravel based turnaround and staging area. A number of light bollards and trees will need to be protected.
There will be challenge is to secure adequate parking spaces for truck/trailer parking. The closest parking spaces to the ramp are assigned to disabled drivers and it is our understanding they could be moved to an alternative location. By extending the length of the stalls on each side of the access to the boat ramp into the open space, 6-8 truck/ trailer parking stalls could be assigned to river use vehicles. Alternatively, angled parking could be assigned further away but still within a short walking distance of the boat ramp.
The current Calgary Parking Authority rates are $12/day or 1.75/hour, but currently truck-trailer combinations are not authorized to use this parking zone. Discussions are taking place with CPA to find a resolution to parking assignments.
A commitment from member organizations and the public will be needed to make the project happen. In addition, financial support from the river recreational community, associated businesses, government agencies and public interest groups is essential.
Calgary River Users Alliance
Contact: Peter Crowe-Swords