Life in the Slopes, a Calgary neighbourhood
In Calgary’s far west, on the southern side, lies the community of the Slopes.
A barred, brown metal gate blocks the private road at the entrance to it. A simple painted wooden street sign proclaims that the lands and the road are private property, owned and managed by the Slopes Community Association Ltd.
You cannot enter…But I can.
I am an owner of one of about 80 houses in the community. A remote
Photo by Katherine Camarta control device enables me to open the gate. If you come to visit me, you must find my name on an electronic board at the gate and dial a number. You have to wait for me to decide if I will let you in.
The gate has successfully stopped an ambulance called to the scene, Canada Post delivery drivers, flowers from my brother at Christmas, and even family members.
Despite this, I harbour no illusions that such a permeable gate can effectively bar criminals or tax collectors.
Calm and nearly desolate
Segregating the community behind this gate ensures that few children come to my door at Halloween. Fundraisers or salespeople rarely — if ever — visit. No children knock on my door selling cookies or chocolate almonds to raise money for their schools or clubs.
This community is only several decades old.
The property owners elect directors to run the corporation that manages the roads, water system, streetlights and the community parklands. The corporation provides road-clearing services and weed control, all for a monthly fee. Bylaws prescribe, among other things, that no home may house more than one animal without permission.
This community is a remnant of days gone by, before annexation by the city. The developer supplied residents, at a cost, with water from a well, until city water was connected in 2010. The well proved so inadequate that each summer, water was trucked in daily to address complaints when morning showers became impossible.
The houses here are far apart, on one-quarter acre lots. The stately residences back on wooded aspen groves or prairie hillsides. There is no chance that you will chat with your neighbour over the back fence. In fact, fences are not permitted, yet invisible fences still separate neighbours.
I don’t know my neighbors well. I think I have new ones on one side. But I do know they don’t have a dog because I know the dogs in the neighbourhood. With no fences, dogs run free. They energetically scamper and bark greetings to my bylaw-approved cats and me.
Beyond the gate lies the feature that unites the residents in a compelling and mysterious way. Together we share a stunning and unobstructed vista of the Rocky Mountains to both the south and the west. Residents are treated to nature’s majesty daily. Chinooks blow in. We see the approaching thunderstorms and marvel at the isolated showers clearly visible in the distance. Mother Nature is compelling and seductive to watch.
So is the wildlife. We are regularly visited by deer, which, like the human residents, stubbornly resist the burgeoning city. We marvel at the coyotes that sun themselves on the hill when the winter temperatures rise. My newest neighbour is a weasel, white as the snow with only a brown-tipped tail to attest to his camouflage capabilities. He scampers among the sandstone rocks –mandated by the community’s design guidelines as appropriate landscape material.
Today Aspen Woods, with its ever-expanding tentacles, abuts the Slopes to the east. Row houses, city-supplied low-income housing, standard suburban fare and million-dollar estate homes have appeared as if by magic in the last five years. Aspen Woods is on the verge of engulfing the Slopes.
The gate will not stop the urban sprawl. Loss of habitat will doom my neighbours, the deer, weasels, rabbits and coyotes. I do not welcome that. When they are gone, the remnants of a dismantled gate will be all that remains of this special place.
Yet, the urban sprawl also means that more human connectivity from outside our gate will flow in. As a social being, I yearn for this connection and welcome this thought.