Part 3 of 3: What can Calgary learn from Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy?


Photo Credit: Edmonton Journal

Calgarians don’t like to admit that Edmonton has us beat in some respects, but in terms of designing a city strategy that aims to create a vibrant, well-functioning winter city, we think Calgary could take a few pointers from our rival to the North.

Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy

The City of Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy explores the potential that winter can offer the city’s residents, businesses, industry and visitors in terms of creating a more inviting, vibrant and prosperous city during the winter. From street hockey tournaments and signature winter drinks to building public gathering places designed to capture sunlight and block the wind, the City of Edmonton aims to create a more vibrant and authentically Edmonton winter city by focusing on 10 goals that call for social, cultural and economic change.

Check out 25 Reasons to Love Edmonton's Winters

Check out 25 Reasons to Love Edmonton’s Winters

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Check out Edmonton's Freezeway Proposal

Check out Edmonton’s Freezeway Proposal

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photo credit:

IllumiNITE Edmonton Sculpture Competition photo credit:

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Check out Edmonton's Ski to the LRT Plan

Check out Edmonton’s Ski to the LRT Plan


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Check out Edmonton’s WinterCity Implementation Plan here or follow WinterCity Edmonton on twitter here

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4 Great Reasons to Invest in Cities’ Natural Environments

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1. Investing in Surrounding Wetlands can save Cities Billions of Dollars in Water Purification
The City of New York invested $1.5 billion over 10 years into protecting their water sources, which meant they were able to avoid building a water treatment plant that would have cost the city $8-$10 billion.

2. Investing in Rivers and Coastal Wetlands Reduces Cities’ Storm Protection Costs
The City of Calgary is investing in protecting and restoring the city’s river ecosystems through it’s Riparian Strategy because they have found that protecting these areas helps to protect the city from floods and erosion, and improves water quality.

Studies have also found that coastal wetlands can reduce the severity of impacts from hurricanes in the United States, providing storm protection services with an estimated value of US$23.2 billion per year.

3. Integrating The Natural Environment into Hospitals Reduces Healthcare Costs
A study published in Science by Richard S. Ulrich in 1984 found that patients recovering from surgery in rooms with windows facing a natural setting had shorter hospital stays and took less pain medicine than patients whose windows faced a brick wall.

4. Investing in Outdoor Trail Systems Supports Local Economies
The City of Toronto’s Natural Environment Trail Strategy found that well-maintained recreational trail systems encourage spending by trail users at surrounding local businesses.

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Calgary’s Wild Berry Patches

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Photo Credit: Cabin Organic

One of our favourite parts about Calgary summers are the Saskatoon berries and wild raspberries, and we aren’t just talking about the famous Saskatoon berry pie from Pearson Berry Farms sold at Calgary’s Farmer’s Market. Active Neighbourhood’s Roxanne LeBlanc has shared a number of her secret wild berry patches around our city. Do you have some wild berry patch locations you would like to add to the map? Email us at or leave a comment below.

Please be well informed about which plants are edible and which are not when picking wild berries. Check out this website to read up on edible berries in Alberta!

Saskatoon Berries
Saskatoon berries grow along riverbanks of the Bow and Elbow, as well as on hillsides.  They begin to ripen in mid to late June, depending on the location and can be found right through until early to mid August.  Bushes located further south will ripen soonest.

Watch for Saskatoon bushes along the bikepath above Beaverdam flats, the river pathway through Inglewood and Stanley Park. There are even a couple of bushes right next to the Trans Canada Trail pavilion at Eau Claire.

Chokecherry bushes can be found in even more locations than Saskatoons and ripen a bit later in the year.

Raspberry bushes, although not as common, are out there for the picking as well.


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 1. Paskapoo Slopes
Paskapoo slopes is home to an array of berries, the most prevalent being Saskatoon berries, chokecherries and gooseberries.

2. Edworthy Park
Edworthy Park has an abundance of Saskatoon berries along the banks of the Bow River.

3. Stanley Park
Stanley Park’s river pathway has many Saskatoon berries.

 4. Inglewood Riverside
There are a number of Saskatoon berries along the Inglewood River Pathway.

5.  Beaverdam Flats
The Beaverdam Flats bike paths have a number of Saskatoon berry bushes.


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30X30 Challenge – A Diary


Thirty minutes of nature, for thirty days – the 30X30 Challenge.

by Celia Lee

Day 1: Yamnuska trail. Look up to find I’ve walked into herd of mule deer. Flash back to horror story from my youth about evil deer. Creep silently away. Overcome great fear of falling on icy rocks, am filled with sweet, sweet adrenaline. Wild turkey tries to exert dominance. Eat copious amounts of cheese. Sleep deeply.

IMG_6539Day 3: Middle Lake. First selfie. :/

Day 7:  10:00AM. Stare at blinker on screen. Glance at empty notebook. Experience mounting malaise. Get up. Put on kettle. Eat rice cracker. Sit. Stare at blinker. Feel sinking weight of failure. Check Twitter. Make list. Feel better. Sit back at computer. Check email. Stare at blinker.

11:00AM Sit at ContainR park in Kensington. Contextualize relevance of blog I’m trying to write within scope of universe. 

xander_basementSigh, release shoulders, squint at sun. Transcribe two interviews in 1.5 hours. Back to office. Catch up on all email. To quote Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Oh, the pain. The pain… is GONE.” 




Day 15: Montreal, winning at parks.  

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Day 20: Mississauga, Ontario – place of birth. Go for run. Notice how pretty river is. 

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Find this cat:

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Find these birds:

Find this birdie:









Jogging soundtrack (to drown out all that nature racket): Beyonce, Chet Baker (Coool Jazz Moods) 

All that nature racket:


(First person to name all the birds in this clip gets a free car. Juuuuust kidding. You’ll have to settle for our measly respect and admiration. Also, I don’t know what kind they are, so I’ll have to take your word for it. Check out the Audubon Society for bird species and bird calls, like this Song Sparrow.)

Minutes spent actually running: 5

Day 22: Get locked out of apartment. Forced to wait on rooftop with the trees and the birds, waiting for locksmith. 


Day 23: Run errands. Procrastinate. Sit down at computer. Check Facebook. Stare at blinker.

DUDE. You know the drill.

Take notebook and pen outside in sun. Leave cell phone behind. Stare into space. Chat with person who walks by. Fall into flow in less than a minute.




One more week left, and hoping I keep this up beyond the Challenge. The toughest thing isn’t spending the full 30 minutes outside – I’ve gone well over every time  – it’s realizing that getting out into nature isn’t procrastination.

Being in nature has always given me perspective. In this case, it would seem the world doesn’t hinge on me making that one phone call, or completing that one blog – which makes it way less intimidating to pick up the phone, or put pen to page. A wise person I know repeatedly tells me, “Family first. Then exercise. Then work.” The idea is that exercise makes the work more efficient and enjoyable. Great advice. Now I would add that that exercise is best performed in or around nature, or, if you’re in the City, around, or preferably under, trees, preferably pine trees. Which is great food for thought for City and Provincial policies and funding streams… but then that’s a whole other blog.

For more on the benefits of nature, check out this David Suzuki Foundation infographic.

If you’re still reading, I’ll finish off with this collection of pictures of places I like:

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And this soundclip of an indignant cow:


Happy spring!


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By Leanne Junnila | 5.19.2015

44. Cavernous Isolata III

Photo Credit: Daniel Kirk,

That’s right, I think the avant-garde, oddity, and spectacle should be celebrated and even included as a strategy for the design of our cities. Now that just sounds crazy. Let me explain. Humans have had a long love affair with oddity and spectacle. Attracting visitors to peculiar attractions evolved from PT Barnum’s American Museum and the circus sideshow acts of the mid-1800s[1]. The social willingness and attraction of people to pay for the experience of a ‘spectacle’ is still alive and well, and we need only look at the Las Vegas strip to see it in action.

Okay, I’m not suggesting that our cities should be reorganized to mimic a three ring circus (although some might argue they already do a perfect job of just that!). Much of North America was built at a time when purely functional architecture was popular and cities were constructed without many public plazas and squares. But these days, crazy, fantastical things are so easily found on television and online that I think there is a need for elements of whimsy, surprise, and even shock in the public realm just to get us out the door. For example, street performers, temporary art installations, or pop-up markets can do this. In Calgary, many people went to see “the giant head” sculpture in front of the Bow Building when it was installed because it was an oddity, something interesting and worth checking out. Celebrating the fringe, the surreal, and the strange gets us talking. The increasingly popular Market Collective and Beakerhead are other types of local events that celebrate the fringe. They support local artisans, revitalize underutilized spaces around Calgary, and offer playful opportunities to interact with the environment.

Sometimes small installations actually have a big impact on a city. They’re called ‘micro-spatial urban practices’[2] and they also include things like: guerrilla and community gardening, housing and retail co-ops, flash mobbing, bartering economies, street art, and Parkour. As these small projects accumulate they can build more vibrant streets (either temporarily or permanently).

So if creating ‘micro-spatial’ urban projects makes our communities more vibrant, where and how do we start? I believe a few friends and neighbours can get together and do something in their communities (for example, the ‘Calgary Bench Project’ or Park(Ing) Day), and community associations can look for small project funding to experiment with design projects (I’m sure the Faculty of Environmental Design students at the UofC have plenty of ideas to share in the community). Calgary Dollars grants support these types of projects. Dream up an idea and see if your community association will support it! For example, a group of Calgary citizens created the ‘Vibrant Village Society’ in Inglewood and now have really great events like the Summer Inglewood Night Market. These urban projects could be temporary or permanent. It’s up to us to grow Calgary into the type of city we want for our children, and I think Calgary has enough great things going for it that it’s worth the effort to make it just a little bit better. Perhaps you’ll see something strange and interesting while you’re here.


IMG_2262Leanne is currently completing a masters degree at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design, on the public realm and how people interact in cities.






[1] Levin, Amy (2007). “Defining Memory: Local Museums and the Construction of History in America’s Changing Communities”. Altamira Press, UK.

[2] Iveson, Kurt (2013). “Cities Within the City: Do-It-Yourself Urbanism and the Right to the City”. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37-3, 941-56.

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Your Sustainable Guide to Calgary’s Festivals – 2015

It is beginning to feel a lot more like summer in Calgary. The cherry and crab apple trees are bloomnig, the Bow River bike paths are beginning to fill with more cyclists and Canada Goose Goslings, and our calendars are beginning to fill with festivals festivals festivals! Calgary has a wide variety of summer festivals throughout the city, and many of them are beginning to make sustainability a priority.

This summer, we are compiling a list of the green initiatives Calgary’s festivals are taking this year. The list of festivals will be updated periodically throughout the summer.


Photo credit: Calgary Folk Fest 2014

May Festivals
Calgary International Children’s Festival
May 20-23 2015
-Accessible by bike and transit

Lilac Festival
May 31 2015
-accessible by bike and transit
-bike racks provided at each intersection, bike valet provided at 19th Ave
-Diverted 45% of waste in 2014
-Goal of 75% waste diversion from landfills in 2015
-Styrofoam free


June Festivals
Sled Island
June 24 -28 2015
-cycle racks at most venues
-bike valets at outdoor venues
-promotes helmet use by partnering with Prohab Helmet Society
- 88% waste diversion from landfills in 2014
- Goal of 90% waste diversion from landfills in 2015
-Obtains volunteer shirts from eco-friendly vendors


July Festivals
Calgary Stampede
July 3-12, 2015
-accessible by bike and transit
-twice as many bike racks available compared to 2014
-extended bus and LRT hours
-many Car2Go parking locations adjacent to venues

Calgary Feistival
July 17-19 2015
-accessible by bike and transit
-supervised waste disposal sites

Calgary Folk Fest
July 23-26 2015
-free, secure bike lock stations
-accessible by bike and transit
-carpooling boards and resources posted on website
-water bottle free
-uses compostable dishware and cutlery

Calgary International Blues Festival
July 27 – Aug 2 2015
-recycling provided at event


August Festivals
Inglewood Sun Festival
Aug 1st 2015
-Accessible by bike and transit
-Diverted 62% of waste in 2014
-Goal of 75% waste diversion from landfills in 2015
-Styrofoam free

Calgary Reggae Fest
Aug 14 -16 2015
-styrofoam free
-all recyclable/compostable products
-supervised disposal sites
-on site bike racks
-accessible by bike and transit

Global Fest
August 20-29 2015
-accessible by bike and transit
-provides shuttle services to and from events


If you would like us to add a festival to this list, please comment below or email us at


Kate2-150x150Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who’s passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She spent the summer helping to connect Active Neighbourhoods with the Bridgeland community. She has recently finished a degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver.


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Six Fast Facts – What Kids Need in Cities

In recent decades, our cities and our ideas around childhood and parenting have changed a lot, however, one of the most significant changes is that children are disappearing from our cities’ public places and outdoor spaces.

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1) Kids Need Cities They can Explore On Their Own

This article, mentions Free-Range Parenting, a type of parenting that gives children more freedom to explore their communities without constant adult supervision.  Research is also beginning to show that over-protective parenting may be one cause of increased anxiety and depression in youth. What better reason to develop more walkable, bikeable, slower-traffic streets?


2) Kids Need Cities with Less Vehicle Traffic and Fewer Parking Lots

In a project done with over 1000 schools and recreation groups, children said traffic and parking was one of the biggest things stopping them from going outdoors and into public spaces. Mark Francis and Ray Lorenzo, two researchers who have led many urban design projects with kids, agree that our cities need more narrow, shared streets, where cars are slowed to around 16 km/hr by the presence of more trees, planters or other objects on the street.


3) Kids Need Schools Close Enough to Walk or Bike to

We know that the number of children walking and biking to school has been dropping, and we are now beginning to understand the effects this has on children’s health, on air quality where children spend their time and on traffic problems. The Public Health Agency of Canada finds that only 1 out of 10  children and youth  meet Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines,  and 20% of morning rush hour traffic is due to parents driving children to school. Check out Calgary’s upcoming Bike to School DayMayor Nenshi’s Walk or Roll to School Challenge or the Walking School Bus concept  for some interesting ways to get kids walking to school.


4) Kids Need to Help Manage The Spaces in Cities That are Dedicated to Them

Francis and Lorenzo, found that children and youth want to help in designing and building playgrounds, parks, art centres and community centres, but most notably, they want to be involved in managing these spaces and deciding how they are used.


5) Kids Need a Say in How Our Cities are Designed

City planning used to be a very political and technical process, however in recent decades, we have started to understand city planning as being a social and cultural process and have begun to include communities, groups and individuals in design conversations. Because children have some unique needs compared to other age groups, it is important to involve them in all levels of decision-making. Check out these 5 methods on how to involve youth in community and transportation planning.


6) We Need a Culture Shift

When researching what kids need in our cities, it became increasingly clear that urban design changes can only do so much.  We also need to shift our understandings of children’s independence and safety. This article argues that we are unwilling to give children freedom to explore neighbourhoods on their own because of fears of abduction or crime.  Crime, however, has declined a lot in the last two decades, while the number of children killed as as passengers or pedestrians has increased. In order to involve children in decision-making processes and have their needs recognized, we need to change the way we think about safety and children’s independence in our cities.


Want to Learn More?

UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative –

The Canadian Institute of Planner’s Kids Guide to Building Great Communities

Parachute’s Child Pedestrian injuries report

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How to Make Calgary a More Pedestrian-Friendly Winter City – Part 2 of 3


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winter walkers of Calgary – check out more here.

In our last blog post, we mentioned 5 key concerns in our neighbourhoods in regards to walking in the winter;

  1. Lighting
  2. Snow Removal
  3. Benches
  4. Signage
  5. Doors on the Streets

Here are some of our ideas that we think will improve walking in the colder winter months.


Designated Winter Walking Routes

The City of Calgary has designated Snow Routes for cars and transit – specific streets that the city focuses snow-clearing efforts for car and transit use. We think that our city also needs designated Winter Walking Routes. We think that the city should designate heavily-used pathways or sidewalks as winter walking routes, make clearing these routes of ice and snow a top priority and mark these routes with pedestrian-friendly signs.

We recognize that the City has limited capacity for removing snow and clearing ice from pathways, however we think designated winter walking routes will ensure that pedestrians have safe, well-marked routes, while acknowledging current capacity limitations for snow removal.  These streets should have well cleared sidewalks and crosswalks, be well lit, safe and attractive and be well marked.

school route

here’s a similar idea in which municipalities have designated safe routes for children walking to and from school.

Heat Sources Along Popular Walkways

In our last post, we mentioned that there were few areas to for walkers to warm up along the popular walking route we audited in Bridgeland. We think that Calgary needs more heat sources along popular walkways that will allow people who are walking to take a rest and briefly warm up.

A number of cities have started installing heat sources in popular public spaces in order to offer passersby a brief solace from the cold weather – including several LRT stations in Calgary. We think public heat sources along well-used sidewalks could be a great solution to help encourage winter walking in Calgary.  For seniors specifically, this has the potential to increase mobility and decrease winter isolation, specific problems that have been identified by seniors in Bridgeland.

heat source

heat source2


Do you have any ideas on how to make our city better for winter walking? Comment below or send us an email at

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Talking about Winter Walking: Winter Retrospective 1 of 3

During our work in the Bridgeland community over the last few months, we have heard a lot about difficulties residents face when walking in the neighbourhood during the winter, specifically difficulties seniors living in the neighbourhood face.

This past January we followed the same route a local group of seniors “walk-audited” last autumn in order to better understand some of the barriers to winter walking.

Conditions: sunny, -16C

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1) Lighting 

As we walked along 9th Street by the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Centre, we noticed that there were only a few street lights in the area, all of which were directed at the street rather that at the sidewalks and pathways. We also noticed that the one crosswalk in the area was very dimly lit. During the darker winter months, it is critical that our sidewalks and crosswalks are better lit in order to make people feel safer and more comfortable walking in our neighbourhoods during all times of the day, even when it gets dark at 4 in the afternoon.


2) Snow removal 

The sidewalks adjacent to seniors’ complexes were generally well-maintained, however the sidewalks leading to the Bridgeland’s main streets had major mobility barriers, including snow piled at intersection corners and unshoveled sections of the sidewalk. Snow removal is repeatedly mentioned by seniors as a key issue limiting their mobility in the winter, and from what we saw, it would be very difficult for those with walkers or in scooters to navigate these sidewalks.

crosswalk Jan25walkway jan25


3) Benches

While working in Bridgeland, we have repeatedly been told that the neighbourhood’s streets need more benches. We think this is a great request because it means that people actually want to spend time on sidewalks and streets rather than just quickly passing through. During our walk, we noticed that there were very few benches for walkers to pause and catch their breathes at, specifically around the neighbourhood’s retirement communities where there are more older walkers who may be more willing to walk if there are a few spots to rest along the way 


4) Signage

Throughout our walk, we noticed that crosswalks, sidewalks and pathways were not well marked for pedestrians or vehicles. Signs marking out crosswalks and sidewalks are often marked on the pavement, meaning that they are often covered in snow or ice during the winter. We noticed that there were some vertical signs marking crosswalks, however these signs were directed to the road and were not at eye level, meaning that they were designed to be seen by cars rather than pedestrians. We think Calgary’s sidewalks, crosswalks and pathways need more vertical markers that are walker-friendly.


5) Doors on the Streets

Many urban planners and community experts argue that the number of doors on the street affects the walkability of a neighbourhood in warmer months, and in the winter, these doors on the street act as warm places for walkers to warm up before continuing their walk through the neighbourhood, assuming that some of those doors lead to businesses, organizations or acquaintances.  Along our route, we noticed that there were many businesses with doors on the street in which walkers could spend sometime in along the neighbourhood’s main street (9th Ave), however along other streets there were absolutely no warm places pedestrians would be able to spend time in (McDougall Road, and 12th Street). 

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Next up: our ideas, how you can suit up for the weather, and a survey of practices in other winter cities.  Check out this link for a preview.




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Cyclists of Calgary – Winter 2014/2015

For years, the majority of people in our city have assumed that once the temperatures drop below 0 C and the snow drifts begin to build up, we put away our walking shoes, tuck our bikes into the garage and bundle into our cars for 8 months until the walking and cycling weather returns.

But this winter, the Active Neighbourhoods team spent a lot of time thinking about walking and biking in our winter city, and we started to realize just how many people walk and bike in Calgary, even through those -20 C conditions.

We decided to start talking with these people we were seeing, firstly to figure out exactly why they were walking and biking in the winter, and secondly to make sure these people are getting recognized, to give the winter pedestrians and cyclists of Calgary a voice.

Simon and Kristina, -20 C



“The best part about biking in the winter is being able to eat more desserts afterwards.”

Graham, -12 C


“Our city’s bike lanes are great in the winter, the city has them ploughed by 5 in the morning! And my tip for biking in the winter is that cyclists should stay off the roads. As a biker, I should have equal access to roads but drivers still don’t really know how to treat cyclists and with all this snow and ice it can be really dangerous.”



Warren, -18 C

warren“my favourite thing about cycling in the winter is that it’s warmer than waiting at a bus stop”



Kate2-150x150Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who’s passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She spent the summer helping to connect Active Neighbourhoods with the Bridgeland community. She has recently finished a degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver.


Posted in Active Neighbourhoods, Active Transportation, Community, Projects, Research, State of Our City, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment