While many community parks are filled with interactive and playful elements, one park allows its users to play as they please by staying true to its untouched simplicity.
Growing up across the street from Nose Hill Park granted my young imagination to run wild with adventure – something that remains true over 20 years later.
Situated in northwestern suburbia, the 11 square-kilometre park is the fourth largest urban park in Canada and one of the largest in North America, but it is also my happy place.
We all have them. Places in the city that bring us joy, big and small. In an era of chaos, Calgary Journal editors are taking time this year to reflect on the public spots that bring us happiness and peace.
You can read the whole series here.
With such urban wilderness at our doorstep, school field trips were spent studying the biodiversity that thrives in the park. Summer days were filled with running through fields of prairie grasses with my dog Quixo. Early morning sunrises were spent parked up top the entrance just off 14th Street and teenage freedom was granted through late night stargazing – on what felt like the top of the world.
The president of the Edgemont Community Association, Pamela Wilson, discusses the luxury of wilderness in the city that can be experienced through this untouched space.
“You walk in Nose Hill Park and you go over the hill and you don’t see the city. There’s no buildings encroaching on your experience, it’s relatively liberating,” she said.
Though it might be missing the bright colour blocked pathways and murals, playgrounds and basketball courts that fill many other parks throughout the city – Nose Hill provides 360-degree views from the far sprawling prairies to the mountains, city skyline lookouts, various trails, off-leash dog zones, and a hidden lake allowing for any experience to be had by its visitors.
“You can go to a place in the park, [where] you don’t see people and you feel like you’re the first person who’s ever been there,” said Wilson.
In recent years I lost touch with how important this land was to me. I found freedom through the exploration of foreign lands instead of the “big hill” across the street, honestly, it lost its intrigue to me.
However, in 2020 I found my happy place again. Providing a safe space of refuge and gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic, I learned how to explore a familiar land again – in new ways.
Sitting in the middle of its untrimmed prairie grasses with my childhood best friend, painting abstract dissolutions of a utopia, my happy place transported me out of reality and allowed me to unlock those same feelings of adventure and freedom I had once discovered here.