Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A history of Calgary's trees

Over 100 years ago Calgary’s early landscape was completely void of trees. In fact, our current urban forest is a remarkable achievement, given the city is located in an arid prairie climate that doesn’t naturally grow many trees.

So how did we become the “City of Trees” we are today?

William Pearce Estate, c 1890s 
Glenbow Archives NA-3898-5
Early Years

Starting in the 1880s, during the European settlement of North America, trees in Calgary were planted for practicality, especially as wind breaks against our strong gusty weather.

Civic leaders at the time dreamed that the Calgary landscape could be transformed into a “City of Trees.” Once the Town of Calgary was incorporated in May 1884 it started to distribute spruce trees to taxpayers for a small fee – you could call it the original ReTree YYC.

William Pearce 

Calgary owes much of the early beginnings of its urban forest to William Pearce. He envisioned Calgary as a city with grand boulevards connecting a series of park spaces. In 1884, Pearce used his position as an inspector for the Dominion Land Agencies in Ottawa to reserve land along the north side of the Bow River. Today it is the city’s landmark boulevard — Memorial Drive, and Pearce has his lasting patch of green in our city – at Pearce Estate Park near Inglewood.

William Reader

In 1913 William Reader became Calgary’s third Superintendant of Parks and Cemeteries. One of his first priorities was the development of the new civic nursery, located at the bottom of Union Cemetery hill.

From 1932 – 1942, Reader planted trees in all areas of the city, including Bowness, Mount Royal, Centre Street and Memorial Drive. Many of these trees today are on the “Heritage Tree Foundation of Canada” list –over 73 in Calgary!

Reader noted: “I very much doubt if any other public improvement will tend to create and foster a civic pride in Calgary to the same extent as the making of boulevards, and planting of trees on our streets.”

Olympic Plaza trees
Olympic Plaza

Today the urban forest consists of over 1.5 million trees in manicured parks, green spaces, natural areas, boulevards, and private trees.

Do your part to help ReTree YYC: Autumn is one of the best times to plant a tree, as the tree puts energy into establishing roots, rather than leaves. Plus, we’re offering free mulch at landfills from September 1 – 30 to help insulate your trees over winter. 

For more information on how you can contribute to Calgary’s legacy of planting and caring for trees, visit calgary.ca/trees.

Submitted by Erin Smith, Parks

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

17 Avenue SW gets a facelift

After 30 years, we’re rebuilding 17 Avenue SW so it can continue to serve businesses and citizens for decades to come. What started out as a routine road maintenance project, turned into one of the more complex projects on The City’s docket. The biggest factor? It’s location.

Macleod Trail S.E. to 2 Street S.W.
Logan Tolsma, Project Manager
In the heart of one of Calgary’s most popular places to shop, dine, and do business, one does not simply dig up the 2.5km road between Macleod Trail and 14 Street SW, replace 3m deep utilities and then rebuild the road. In addition to this work, the project includes new sidewalks east of 2 Street SW, improved sidewalk space and pedestrian crossings at all intersections, new LED lighting and a new road design.

How is The City planning this project so the 17 Avenue SW area can continue to be a great place to visit during construction? Project manager Logan Tolsma explains, “We’re approaching this project differently because of its unique surroundings. We’ve been meeting with businesses and learning about their priorities for the past year. That includes regular meetings with BRZs and a questionnaire for businesses. It allowed us to learn about their busy times, deliveries, access, patio locations- all the things that combined, results in their success”. Tolsma adds, “In the end, this information feeds directly into the construction planning.”
Volunteer Way (Centre Street S.) Gateway

That intimate approach applies to how construction is now unfolding. “We actually changed the schedule once we heard that businesses wanted more predictability and lead time before construction started,” Tolsma continues. That means starting the less impactful shallow utilities this year, followed by the major work in 2017 and 2018. This two-phase approach also provides less risk to the project overall. Furthermore, a contractor will be hired seven month before the major work begins. The extra time means a better approach to planning and staging the construction in this busy entertainment district.

5 Street S.W. Gateway
“When it comes down to it, we want to make sure people can still get to the area safely while we’re doing this work,” Tolsma confirms. “While we can’t make the construction invisible, we can certainly do our best to make sure it respects the people and businesses that make the area a great place to be.”

14 Street S.W. Gateway

You can read more about the 17 avenue SW reconstruction project at calgary.ca/17avenue

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cycle Track Pilot Project set to reach one million bike trips (and other highlights)

Since the cycle track network opened last June, The City has been counting bicycle trips, using automated counters embedded in the pavement at 10 different locations along the network. Based on the data collected at the three middle count locations, one along each route of the network, we are set to reach one million trips this week.

We are holding an on-street event to commemorate this milestone and to continue to educate and connect with Calgarians as they walk, drive, take transit or bike along the network. Stop by, grab a cookie and chat with our team about some of the new bike data being released and general cycle track information.

When: Wednesday, August 17 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: 5 Street and 9 Avenue S.W. by the CPR underpass

June 2016 was the busiest month on record with 116,621 trips, and although July 2016 was the rainiest in 90 years, it was still busier than July 2015 with over 100,000 trips last month.

Cycling census data shows a doubling of bike commuters
The one million cycle track trips milestone comes on the heels of the release of other cycling-related data. The City of Calgary Civic Census collected information from one working adult in the household about their mode of transportation to work in 2011, 2014 and 2016. Since 2011, 58 km of new bikeways (including the cycle track network pilot) have been constructed or improved around the city. Many communities adjacent to new or improved bikeways saw an increase in cycling as a way to commute. The percentage of Calgarians that reported travelling to work by bicycle doubled from 0.87% in 2011 to 1.75% in 2016.

According to the census data, in 2011 there were six communities which reported more than 4% of respondents commuting by bike. In 2016 there are 43. Communities like Rosedale and Wildwood have seen some of the fastest growth with more than 9% ridership, thanks in part to improvements such as the 10 Street N.W. and Spruce Drive S.W. bike lanes that were installed in 2011.

Cordon count data shows 40% increase in bike trips since cycle tracks installed
Every year in May, the Transportation Department conducts the Central Business District (CBD) cordon count. The cordon count is performed at 31 locations around the CBD over a three week period by counting every single person entering or exiting downtown and how they were travelling; whether on foot, by bicycle, on a C-Train or bus, as a passenger in a car, or as the driver of car.

The 2016 data showed that during the morning peak hour traffic, travelling into downtown, cycling increased from 1.9% in 2010 to 3% in 2016. During a 16-hour period, the number of cycling trips into and out of downtown almost doubled from 9,400 in 2010 to 17,200 trips in 2016. In 1996, 61% of morning peak period trips into downtown were by automobile; in 2016, 59% of morning peak period trips into downtown are now made by sustainable or active modes.

Friday, August 12, 2016

3804 businesses open in the first half of 2016; numbers holding strong

Business in Calgary may not be booming, but it’s not busting either, according to City licensing data.

Calgary’s seen an increase of 293 more new business licenses taken out in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period last year. This could be attributed to a boost in home-based and consulting businesses, says City of Calgary Business Registry Coordinator Sherry Bourque.

“Anecdotally, we’ve seen more people come in for these types of businesses, perhaps to make some extra cash on the side in a fluctuating economy and use their expertise in a different way,” says Bourque. “But for both businesses licenses opened and closed overall, the numbers we’re seeing are pretty status quo.”

New business licenses taken out by quarter, from 2013 to 2016

Closed, moved or changed address business licenses by quarter, from 2013 to 2016

If you’re thinking about operating a business in Calgary, The City’s online registration system can help you determine what approvals, permits and licenses you may need. Visit bis.calgary.ca for more.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Fall Recreation Program Guide helps you stay active and save money

Registration for our fall programming starts today, with nearly 3,500 options to get you and your family up, out and active.

In the Fall 2016 Program guide, you’ll find a wide variety of wallet-friendly programs in art, fitness, sports, sailing, nature, and much more. Our goal is to make sure that everyone can get active, regardless of their financial situation.

All programs are priced to be affordable, and the program guide also lists several programs you can try for a toonie -  so you can see if you like the class before registering.

Our Fair Entry program is also available to qualified individuals and provides fee assistance to recreation programs and services throughout Calgary.

Programs are suitable for all ages from prenatal to active aging; and all levels of ability ranging from adapted fitness to marathon training. Some of the fun and affordable programs you’ll find this season:

  • YYC Barre fitness class – try the new fitness technique that’s gaining recognition across the country
  • Snorkelling – to get you ready for that next trip to the beach 
  • Ballet classes for kids – or adults
  • Programs just for the winter holidays – for when the kids aren’t in school
  • Rock climbing – did you know there’s a 40 ft outdoor climbing wall at Beltline Aquatic & Fitness Centre?
  • Learn how to make your own teapot
  • Introduction to sailing – life can be a breeze 
  • Free family events throughout the city
  • Parent & baby fitness
  • “Real Men Do Yoga”

So get planning, and give us a call at 403-268-3800. Or visit us online to find more programs and to register today.

Submitted by Joshua Hesslein, Calgary Recreation