Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Confederation Park: The "kids own it" says one of the park's founders

Fifty years ago, Amelia (Millie) Smith, was recruited by close friend, and future Alderman, Eric Musgreave to join the Centennial Ravine Parks Society and help convince The City of Calgary of the benefits of turning a local coulee into a park. This area is now Calgary’s beautiful, beloved Confederation Park and helps honour Canada’s Confederation in 1867.

Millie Smith: The trees were just eensy teensy.
Now 90 years-old, Smith moved to Calgary with her husband in 1954 and volunteered for a number of worthy causes including the Centennial Ravine Parks Society, Meals on Wheels, an anti-Vietnam war women’s group called Voice of Women, and teaching English to new Canadians.

She recently toured Confederation Park with The City to share stories about the society and the history of the park.

Why did you join the committee to form Confederation Park? Was there a specific task to achieve?

They were going to make this area into a nuisance ground, like a garbage collection place and Eric said, ‘no way, we need a park on the north hill. 1967 is coming pretty soon.’

Eric decided he’d get together several acquaintances and friends that he knew would be interested [in the Centennial Ravine Park society]. He wanted me to be on the committee.

What was your role in the society?

I had to see about getting speakers to go and speak at schools and community organizations to get the community and the people of the city interested. When City departments saw how interested people were in our park -- the idea of it -- The City was behind us 100 per cent.

What did the park look like when it first opened?

These trees were just eensy teensy. August 7, 1967, is the day we opened the park and my husband was running around putting signs on the trees saying ‘donated by...’ until the last minute. The trees were just little. Kids could buy them for $5 a piece and then they would come and plant them and that would be their tree. If a school had a day they would come and plant a whole bunch of trees together.

Would you encourage young people to volunteer their time on something like this?

Yes, you bet. I don’t think there’s ever been much mischief in this park because the kids own it. At least that’s how it started out. All the kids felt that this was their park because they had planted a tree.

Visiting the park now do you feel a sense of legacy?

Oh I do, I really do. I think, my gosh, I never even pictured it would look this beautiful. Just couldn’t picture it. I don’t remember so much green space, it looks so beautiful. It really is lovely the way they’ve done this.

As part of the opening ceremony on August 7, 1967, three time capsules were buried at various locations throughout the park. The capsules are set to be opened on August 7, 2017 and Smith plans to be in attendance.

To learn more about Confederation Park or other parks in the city visit calgary.ca/parks.

Submitted by: Lauren Greschner, Parks

2 comments:

  1. Great story! Wonderful that the whole community was involved in the creation of the park.

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  2. Thanks for sharing. Confederation Park is such a gem.

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