How my first visit back to the recently flooded oasis has me escaping Calgary’s concrete jungle
After the Calgary flood of 2013, Bowness Park was forced to close and faced many lifeless days. Since half of the pre-existing structures needed to be repaired, the park was closed to the public until deemed safe.
The park was donated to the City of Calgary by John Hextall in 1911 to ensure the developing streetcar service in Calgary would extend to the town of Bowness. Hextall first bought the 2481.65 acres of land in 1908. He quickly realized the profit of his riverside land and soon began developing, turning his land into a town. Although the streetcar service stopped in the ’50s many Calgarians still visit the park today.
Bowness Park is only five minutes away from my current residence and yet I have only gone skating there prior to the flood a total of three times. I never noticed the miniature train track that used to curve through the park. Nor did I remember the vibrant colours of the mini theme park rides that are now closed, locked up behind towering blue fences.
Photo by Hannah WillingerMy steering wheel acts against my will as the tires plow through the brown slush. The digital clock clicks 3:30 p.m. on a Monday afternoon. The sound of drilling from construction workers echo between the old pine trees and newly planted ones.
A slight breeze brushes against my cheeks, enough to redden them. The Canadian flag gracefully flows in the wind. The smell of gas fires and moisture sifts through my body; clouds blanket the sky.
My inappropriate shoe choice contributes to my slipping and sliding as I hustle my way through the newly constructed parking lot. Once I finally land on the rubber surface surrounding the new building I usher a sigh of relief. Fairy lights are strategically placed on the newly planted trees, reminding me of Christmas. I now wish silently that I could skate.
The main oval rink is the heart of the park. Its veins lead the pathways away in different directions, and retraces the skater back if they feel lost.
“Are you good, Dad?” a daughter questions as she skates breathlessly ahead, her grey scarf flowing behind her. Her father bundled up and struggled to keep up as his skates slice through the uneven ice.
Children desperately cling to their mother as they embark on their journey down the rubber steps to the ice. Some stick to railings refusing to take the plunge.
“The main oval rink is the heart of the park. Its veins lead the pathways away in different directions, and retraces the skater back if they feel lost.”
-Hannah Willinger Children gaze up at their parents in awe, and are then greeted by their love-filled smiles in return. Lone skaters glide in circles around the park, staying clear of clumsy beginners. Laughter bounces and echoes off the buildings and the ice.
For a moment I forget I am in Calgary. Rather, I feel as though I am in the small town that once was separated from here. Maybe the people who once passed through here felt the same.
Photo by Hannah Willinger Why aren’t there more people, more groups, more couples and more children here? How is a beautiful place forgotten in the middle of a vast concrete jungle?
Surely the flood can’t be put to blame. Many of us like myself, take these places for granted. With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, people can forget to make time for tangible realities that create a sense of happiness.
Scheduled to reopen fall of 2015, many of you should consider Bowness Park instead of the mall as an activity. Why? No one looks good under those fluorescent mall lights anyways.