Monday, April 27, 2015

Announcing the winners of The City of Calgary Hackathon

After three days of intense brainstorming, programming and pitching, three teams have come out on top at The City of Calgary Hackathon.

The event, which kicked off on Friday with enthusiastic opening remarks by Mayor Nenshi and his first ever "selfie-stick selfie", wrapped up on Sunday with even greater excitement. Over the weekend, fourteen teams used their expertise in programming, business modeling and research to create technology-based solutions to make the lives of Calgarians better. The groups then pitched their ideas to the panel of judges for the chance to win $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place, and $500 for third place.

The winners of the 2015 City of Calgary Hackathon are:
1. Calgary Alerts
A notification website and app that will alert users of City events, traffic and transit updates, voting reminders, emergency alerts, and parking restrictions based on their interests and location.
Team members: Anthony Lukach, Edward Keeble, Lewis Sobotiewicz, Peter McCaffrey, Jeromy Farkas, and Justin Bumstead

2. My Lamp Post
A website that provides all community-related information in one place.
Team members: Guy Obrecht, Scott Blenkhorne, Ardalan Naghshineh, Matthew Koepp, Brian Halsey, and Nathan Lau

3. Open Data Analytics
A website that provides open spatial data to inform important public policy decisions.
Team members: Jeremie Blais and Barend Dronkers

“It has been an incredible weekend with amazing amounts of talent and creativity shown by all participants,” said Walter Simbirski, Open Data Strategist with The City of Calgary. “The goal of this hackathon was to engage citizens and provide incentives to use The City’s Open Data for solving problems at the grass-root level. I think we have definitely achieved that!”

The Hackathon was an opportunity to promote the use of open data and encourage citizens to create innovative solutions to deliver City services in a more efficient and effective manner. Open data refers to data that is available to the public at no cost, and can be used for any purpose including commercial use.

“This is about facilitating conversations, supporting the tech community and encouraging people to think collaboratively,” said Simbirski. “Our hope is that the participants have had a chance to network during this event and potentially leverage those relationships to further develop their ideas and concepts so they can be implemented.”

For more information on The City of Calgary’s Open Data Catalogue, visit

Friday, April 24, 2015

Do your trees need mulching? Find out here!

With spring here, you might be out working in your yard but something that is often overlooked is mulching trees. All trees can benefit from mulch. It provides numerous benefits, including improving overall tree health by providing needed nutrients and reducing moisture loss.

What is mulch?
Mulch is a layer of organic material, such as compost, shredded wood or bark, or inorganic material such as pea gravel, that is spread on top of soil. It creates a healthy, attractive yard that requires less water and weeding. Mulch also suppresses the growth of weeds and helps protect your tree’s roots from extreme temperature changes through insulation.

Proper mulch depth is between 5-10 cm.
Mulching a tree for the first time? 
Put a five to 10 centimetre layer of mulch around the base of the tree leaving space to expose the trunk. When mulch is piled against the trunk it may negatively impact the health of the tree. In order to get the full benefits of mulching, you want to a depth of five to 10 cm. Too much mulch can lead to excessive moisture at the roots, nutrient deficiencies, fluctuating moisture, girdling roots and encourage pests and rodents. Often this happens over time, so be sure to check the mulch depth each time. 

What do I do if I am re-mulching? 
If mulch is present around your tree, be sure to check the depth. If it is already five to 10 centimetres deep, work on improving the mulch that is there by breaking up any larges pieces with a shovel. This is also a great time to make sure the trunk is exposed and the mulch hasn’t piled against it. If this is the case, clear the mulch back approximately 10 centimetres from the base.

Are there alternatives to buying mulch? 
You can use what you have in your own yard with a little bit of preparation! If you have wood chips, tree bark and/or leaves around your yard already, you can put them in your composter for two to three months. After this period of time you will have usable mulch that you can place around established trees and shrubs.

Free mulch!
Come to a Community Tree Resource Fair this spring and receive free mulch for your trees. We will be at the following locations:
·        Saturday, May 9 – Disaster Alley at McMahon Stadium
·        Sunday, May 17 – South Glenmore Park 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
·        Sunday, June 14 – Prairie Winds Park 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
·        Sunday, June 28 – Bowness Park 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information on caring for your trees, tree events, and tree planting opportunities in Calgary, visit

Thursday, April 23, 2015

P.U.P.P.Y. program - Help make our parks #1 by picking up #2!

With over 100,000 dogs in Calgary, pet waste in our parks can quickly add up. We invite you to join experts in City parks across Calgary to learn more about the need to pick up after your pets.

Volunteers and City staff at a PUPPY event last year.
The P.U.P.P.Y. (Pick Up Pooch’s Poo Yourself) program will be on hand at several City parks this spring and summer, beginning April 25 at Sue Higgins Park.

Learn about a variety of pet-related topics and participate in interpretive programs led by City volunteers. Supplies will also be on hand for anyone wanting to help clean up the park. A complete list of locations and dates is available on The City’s P.U.P.P.Y. page.

Picking up your dog’s waste is not just about responsible pet ownership - it’s about keeping our parks and off-leash areas safe. Dog waste is not only an attractive snack for coyotes, it often contains parasites like E. Coli and other bacteria, which can cause serious illness in humans. Dog waste doesn’t wash away or disappear, so the risk of spreading its harmful effects can linger for years!

Thankfully, there is a simple solution. Always carry pet waste baggies with you when walking your dog, and pick up and dispose of your pet’s waste as soon as possible.

Check out The City’s website for more information on responsible pet ownership and where to find the nearest off-leash park for you and your pooch.

Submitted by Heather Hastie, Parks

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Seven actions you can take to help the environment

Spring is here and it is a great time to help protect our precious land, air and water. Together we can make a difference. Here are seven actions that can make a big difference.

1. Attend a community tree fair

This spring, we will be hosting tree fairs at community parks all around Calgary, with free resources and demonstrations showing you how to care for your trees and plant new trees. There will also be lots of fun activities for kids, entertainment and food options. Together we can recover our trees that were damaged in the September 2014 snowstorm and help our trees grow to what they once were. For locations and dates, visit the "Events" tab of

2. Reduce idling

When vehicles are left running while parked, they continue to produce emissions that contribute to air pollution and climate change. Turning off the engine is a great way to reduce emissions and save money. Ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than turning your engine off and restarting it. If you want to start an idle free zone at your school or workplace visit for idle free posters that can be downloaded and printed.

3. Plant some smarty plants

This summer enjoy a beautiful yard that is easy to maintain. Smarty plants are part of The City of Calgary’s YardSmart program and are plants that don’t require a lot of water and still thrive in Calgary’s unique climate. Since summer water usage can increase by 50 per cent, becoming water and YardSmart can reduce your summer watering bill and this means more savings for you. Visit to find a list of smarty plants and other YardSmart actions.

4. Use a rain barrel

A good rain shower can quickly fill a rain barrel and provide a free source of water for your yard. Your plants will love the rain water and will flourish. Green Calgary is hosting a number of rain barrel sales this spring and summer, to see the dates and locations of the sales go to

5. Reduce/Reuse/Recycle

Reducing the amount of material that gets sent to the landfill is important to everyone. Thanks to the efforts of all Calgarians, we’ve recycled more than 350,000,000 kilograms of material in the last five years. By reducing, reusing and recycling, we are doing more with less – and that is great for the environment. The City of Calgary has created a searchable online tool called What Goes Where and it has helped thousands of Calgarians find out how to give a second life to materials. Check it out at the next time you are wondering where something goes.

6. Just compost it

At this time of year, nearly a third of our residential garbage is yard waste. Rather than putting your old leaves, branches, and plants in the garbage, give these materials a second life by turning them into compost. Bring your yard waste for composting to any City landfill for free until the end of May. Visit for more information on the program and landfill hours.

7. Eat local

Local food is miles better. The average meal travels 2500 kilometres to reach your plate – that’s a lot of fuel, energy and carbon emissions. Growing your own food or eating food that is produced locally is a great way to save energy and help protect the environment. The added bonus is that local food is fresher and taste great! If you're looking for more information on local food or are interested in joining a community garden, visit

Please visit to find out more information on spring in Calgary.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A foot-in-the-door for hundreds of Calgary youth

In the first half hour, over 600 kids entered this year’s Youth Hiring Fair and another 2,000 were waiting to enter. Today’s hiring fair gives youth ages 15 to 24 a chance at one of the over 5,000 opportunities available through participating employers. 

Jessica was first through the doors this morning.
A chance to get needed skills

This event provides opportunities for youth to find a job and get the experience they need to build confidence and skills in the job market. 

We’ve all been there – just starting out without any experience. Getting the right opportunity to get you off on the right foot can make all the difference.

Among the first people through the doors today was Jessica Mcgaughey, 22 years old, who was excited for the chance to meet so many employers in one location. The Youth Hiring Fair provides that foot-in-the-door, making job hunting more comfortable.

Employers benefit too

Employers were equally happy to see so many qualified young people with the potential to fill needed roles within their organizations. McDonald’s has been a supporting employer for several years now and keeps coming back because of the opportunity to meet so many potential hires.

Laura from McDonald's.
“Last year alone we hired for 200 positions from 600 applications,” said Laura Schaufele. “This really helps us staff up for summer when over 50 per cent of our staff are youth.”

The Youth Employment Centre provides a variety of free year-round career planning and employment services to people between the ages of 15 and 24 such as hiring fairs, one-on-one career counselling, resume support and job search assistance.

For more information on today’s Youth Hiring Fair, opportunities to participate next year, or ongoing employment services for youth, visit

Submitted by Stacey Scott, Community and Neighbourhood Services