News from the Friends of Nose Hill by Anne Burke

November 2022

The Nose Hill Park Household Survey reported that informal recreation and the natural environment should be supported by natural, gravel or asphalt pathways, for use by seniors, bicycles, and mobility-impaired visitors. The Nose Hill Plan asked how to explain park management, public stewardship, natural history, geology and human history related to the Park. Information on habitat is about controlled burns, mowing, restoration, rehabilitation, weed and erosion control, dog use zones, and bike use zones. Natural history of fire and bison grazing and endangered habitats are Fescue Grasslands, Aspen Forests for wildlife breeding and escape areas, Ponds or wetlands. The geology offers sandstone/shale bedrock, gravels deposited by one million-year-old rivers, Glacial Lake Calgary, and beach lines at the SW part of the Hill. Much to be learned from archaeology. Aboriginal use of Nose Hill was as a quarrying site for making tools; a regional lookout for games, enemies, traders; as campsites with fire-shattered rock, and stone circles.

There could be an interpretive trail with displays at the main entrance points and signs for the glacial erratic and beach line. Trail guides (signs along the trail) or at the main trail heads will require maintenance, servicing, and replacement costs due to vandalism. The Friends of Nose Hill may recruit volunteers to maintain/change the signs on a seasonal basis. Wheelchair accessible signs will be angled to permit reading by walking visitors. However, the visual impact of signs on the nature of open grassland was a concern. Other ideas were hiring a full-time seasonal Park naturalist; information packages for elementary school teachers, containing selected walk themes, a list of materials, and a mini field guide with maps; and brochures at the Park, despite the ongoing expense of pamphlet production and distribution.

October 2022

Although bison once thrived on the prairies, their large herds roamed widely and might not return to locations for long periods of time; their grazing patterns were intense but, as the City grew, surprisingly less concentrated than sustained use of the natural area by daily visitors to Nose Hill Park. The principal threat to prairie vegetation is trampling from hikers, mountain bikes, and other users. Although damage may be gradual, once it becomes noticeable it can be irreversible, without active restoration. For example, small footpaths on dirt trails can lead to more heavy use, especially on exposed steep slopes and in seasonally wet areas. Such erosion mars the visual impact and results in weed invasion and loss of habitat.

Trail management can be challenging. There are three main options: managing trails which will protect the natural environment, while providing access opportunities to all users; limiting visitor numbers (which is not appropriate in an urban park); or no management. The last-mentioned will allow trail degradation and habitat loss to continue and even increase. The choice is clear. Trails which have not been upgraded to withstand the desired level of usage should be closed.

The Nose Hill Park Natural Area Management Plan noted that appropriate trail use will depend on an individual’s sense of responsibility, since Calgarians typically demonstrate a high degree of responsible use when they are made aware of the need to do so. The outcome will be positive if information is shared with the average Nose Hill Park user at each of the formal and informal access points to the Park. This will not stop determined irresponsible use. However, it will likely be sufficient to reduce damage to a level which allows the terrain to recover.

September 2022

ZONES The Nose Hill Park Natural Area Management Plan provides that mountain and street bikes will be restricted to non-dirt formalized areas on all sloped areas to minimize erosion hazard and disturbance of wildlife in Nose Hill Park. Most of the top of Nose Hill will be a bike zone, with no restrictions on travel. Surprise encounters should be easily avoided since both bikers and hikers will have a longer line of vision. Street bikes will be encouraged not to leave non-dirt formalized trails, to ensure user safety and prevent damage resulting in trail degradation. Bike use will occasionally be restricted on the top of Nose Hill, in areas of restoration or experimentation. The gravel pit will be restriction-free, but damage by mountain bikes should be closely monitored by the Natural Areas Management Coordinator.

EDUCATION AND ENFORCEMENT Bike zones are enforced primarily through signage. Zone signs will be placed at major trailheads into the Park. In keeping with the Master Plan, public education through interpretive materials and presentations are used to emphasize bicycle users’ responsibility to adhere to zoning rules and avoid conflicts with wildlife and other users.

The Nose Hill Trail and Pathway Plan requires all users to stay on designated pathways and trails when outside of the multi-use zone. This approach balances the protection of the natural environment, while providing compatible, quality leisure opportunities. Unrestricted bike use can damage the Park. Both the Urban Conservation and Pathways & Trails teams in Parks are aware of the issues. While bike trails can be a great amenity for one group, the Parks Department does recognize it can lead to conflict with other users and, at times, unfortunately have an adverse impact on the flora (plants) and fauna (wildlife) in the area.

August 2022

Nose Hill is now an island habitat, surrounded by residential housing with no natural corridors leading in or out. It is also an urban park and must be managed to support high levels of visitor use. It is more difficult to prevent or slow the spread of non-native species (weeds) into and within the Park, as well as to control wildlife diversity.

Native grassland is in various stages of disturbance, recovery, and maturity. Management strategies may be expensive or experimental but ought to be based on the response of vegetation and wildlife overtime. The Natural Area Plan says that Nose Hill should be treated as a prairie reserve, with the remaining portions of native grassland regarded as a living museum of flora (plants) and fauna (animals); as a field laboratory where scientific observations and experiments are done so as not to injure the area.

The goal of Nose Hill Park is to perpetuate the natural character of Nose Hill landscape, its environmental features and cultural resources, while providing compatible, quality recreational opportunities. The management plan will not remain static (the same) but the entire area will be conserved now for future use by all Calgarians

The management objectives are to preserve and enhance by encouraging conservation; providing educational and interpretive opportunities; and accommodating compatible recreational activities. Such contact having limited effect on the natural environment should protect the visual amenities of prairie, its unique features and resource values, as open space.

The Park will continue to be where people can relax; escape from the pressures of city life and commune with nature; pursue outdoor recreation and leisure activities. Any changes should have minimum impact while providing environmental protection and reasonable levels of access and safety for all Calgarians.

July 2022

On Nose Hill there was a recent Medicine Wheel Walk, with Drum and Sharing Circle, led by Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, who is a proud Nehiyaw Iskwao (Cree Woman). A member of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, Treaty Six, her ceremonial gifted Cree name translates to “Healing Woman Who Walks Far”. Mother of two and “Kokum” (grandmother), she is a member of Storytelling Alberta and Storytellers of Canada. She worked with CBC English Radio and Television, the National Film Board of Canada, National Aboriginal Health Organization, Awo Taan Native Women’s Shelter, and the City of Calgary.

The Nose Hill Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel was built by Blood Tribe members in 2015. It forms the Siksikaitsitapi logo, a representation of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and exists on traditional Blackfoot territory. The buffalo rubbing stone on Nose Hill has spiritual significance. A former City Council approved the Native Heritage Site. These are only a few of the sacred places in the Park. Sage is important in all Blackfoot, Stoney, and Cree ceremonies. There are several varieties, such as wormwood sage, buffalo sage for the Blackfoot and horse sage for the Cree. “Look-like-A Plume” (in English) is a wind flower, burned on a hot coal to relieve headaches. Wild bergamot and the root of fireweed are for healing. Many of the herbs in the coulees were for the use of sweat ceremonies, vision questing, and fasting. The purpose of the Sun Dance for the Plains Culture was to reunite and reconnect with the earth and the spirits, which usually involves the community gathering to pray for healing. It was an occasion when otherwise independent bands reaffirmed their basic beliefs about the universe and the supernatural through rituals of personal and community sacrifice.

June 2022

Calgary Captured is a citywide citizen science program with remote motion-activated cameras to monitor wildlife in city parks. The project documents dogs and off-leash activity across natural environment parks. Although there were off-leash dogs in on-leash zones in all natural areas, Nose Hill was identified as a Park where education or enforcement should be considered.

Based on images of off-leash dogs, 89% of them were in on-leash zones. Although the number of leashed dogs varied, about the same proportion of dogs were leashed in designated off-leash parks as in on-leash parks, suggesting that dog owners behave similarly with respect to dog leashing regardless of leash rules.

The peak of human use in parks was spring-summer, with the highest in June, July, and November. Human and pet use was during the day in all seasons. Wildlife became more active at night when there was greater human use during the day. Some species visit Calgary Parks almost entirely at night time when humans and dogs are not there. Others, such as coyote and less so deer, occupy the same space with human park users during morning and evening. Wildlife overlapped more with humans (without or without dogs) than with off-leash or solo domestic dogs.

Wildlife at Nose Hill appeared to avoid humans, being most active during night hours when human use was lowest. However, there was much lower wildlife activity in winter than in other seasons. Their activity peaked around dusk in summer. Ranging from the highest to the lowest, the images of species in Nose Hill Park were of human, domestic dog, white-tailed deer, human with dog, coyote, deer, mule deer, porcupine, striped skunk, and domestic cat. Wildlife corridors and safe movement near ring roads remain concerns. https://www.rockies.ca/files/reports/Calgary%20Captured_3%20Year%20Technical%20Report_Final.pdf

May 2022

Nose Hill Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America and has its unique geological, ecological, and anthropological history, with an abundance of remarkable plants and wildlife. There is a project which aims to record observations made by Park users but please avoid those of humans and pets. www.inaturalist.org/projects/nose-hill-park-bioinventory.

A “BioBlitz” is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. The 2022 City Nature YYC Challenge happens April 29 -May 2, first taking pictures of wild plants and animals, and then May 3 -May 8, identifying what was found. Cities around the world compete to see which can make the most observations, document the most species, and engage the most people. This is the fourth annual effort by Calgary, joined by Edmonton, Lethbridge, and Red Deer/Lacombe County. This event is free and open to all ages. Please use only the designated pathways and trails on Nose Hill and in other public parks. Groups of citizen scientists, naturalists, and volunteers will conduct another intensive field study. Document yours by taking photos and then uploading them to the iNaturalist app or iNaturalist.ca. Check out: www.citynatureyyc.ca for more information.

The Alberta May Plant Count is an annual event sponsored by Nature Alberta volunteers. As count weekend dates vary from year to year, all data collected during the official Count Week (May 23 -31) are valid. Anyone who is interested in‒ and familiar with‒ Alberta wildflowers can participate. The object is to record all species of flowering plants and the stage of each in bloom. To sign up and receive the information package, please contact: mayplantcount@outlook.com.

April 2022

We read about and see firefighters and grass fire units respond to fires on Nose Hill, especially during dry and windy conditions. The causes may be investigated but the follow-up story of the positive impact on vegetation will not be documented, unless by researchers. Indeed, a burning program for Nose Hill Park should be examined periodically, based on monitoring information and new scientific knowledge. These are only a few of the recommendations from The Nose Hill Park Natural Area Management Plan.

Grassland ecosystems adapted in response to climate and disturbance. Bison helped to remove dead plant material, when their vast herds grazed, primarily during the fall and winter. Cultural burns were sacred Indigenous practices. Fire was a natural process on the prairies that helped shape the evolution of prairie plants and animals. There is a case to be made that it should be reintroduced in a controlled manner, when experts manage the process.

Prescribed burning could be used to manage vegetation on native and non-native grasslands. Smooth brome is the domestic species of most concern in the Park. Another is Canada thistle. Burning should occur every five to ten years on native grassland but may be planned more frequently on brome to control the density of grass cover. Burning will benefit most grassland wildlife species including rare species.

There are protocols or burning prescriptions in Natural Parkland zones, such as when (in the early spring to avoid damage to growing plants and before excessive litter builds up), and how (supervised by the Natural Areas Management Coordinator and the Parks Superintendent). By managing the natural process of fire on the landscape, instead of preventing it, we can improve habitats for native plants and animals and reduce the risk of out-of-control wildfires.

February 2022

Dogs must be on-leash in all public spaces in Calgary unless a sign is posted for an off-leash area. The Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw limits an off-leash dog walker to six dogs.  Natural environment parks, including asphalt pathways, are on-leash, unless otherwise signed. All parking lots are on-leash, including those for designated off-leash areas.

A larger numbers of dogs not being controlled in off-leash parks can lead to safety concerns, such as dogs inadvertently cutting off cyclists or runners, dogs jumping on park patrons, or negative interactions with other dogs and wildlife. There is no limit to the number of dogs that can be walked on-leash but an adequate number of leashes, or other means to restrain all dogs is required in an off-leash park. Any handler must respond to nuisance behaviours, maintain voice and sight command with each dog, and clean up.

Changes to the Bylaw coming into effect by 30 September 2022 will permit qualified professional dog walkers to walk more than six dogs off-leash at a time. (Otherwise, a limit would mean fewer customers, lost income, increased user costs). Applicants with adequate skills and knowledge will be able to continue walking more dogs safely, if they review and comply with the Bylaw, ensuring that each dog is licensed and has good recall.

The City will develop specific criteria by which a Dogwalker Permit would be granted in consultation with business owners through the Business Advisory Committee. Community peace officers will work with dog walkers to achieve bylaw and permit compliance through education rather than to deny or revoke a permit, unless as a last resort. The decision can be challenged through the Licence and Community Standards Appeal Board.

January 2022

There are upgrades to the parking lot at 14th Street NW across from North Haven community. A Natural Areas Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Technician at the City, who was a student in agriculture at Olds College and has held various positions, was in charge of the project. The site features 17 parking stalls in the high/top parking area which offers a panoramic view of the City. Check out the plan for parking off the lower access road too, with wider turning angles, as well as the new post and cable fence.

Closed since August 2021, the reopening of the lot was delayed from mid-October to late November. To ensure Nose Hill Park is accessible for everyone to enjoy, improvements were made by work crews to increase parking capacity, by re-grading of the lower access road, with paving of a gravel road, as well as a dirt path, and other amenities. www.calgary.ca/csps/parks/construction/ Nose-Hill-Park-14-Street-parking-improvements.html

The City was certified as a Bird Friendly City by Nature Canada and will designate an official bird representative. Bird Friendly Calgary initiated a contest. Treaty 7 First Nations and local environmental groups, such as ours, were asked to nominate birds species. The deadline for submissions was 6 December. Each nominator could send up to 3 bird species. The 5 to receive the most nominations will make up the short list and Calgarians will vote on them. This will take place in the spring of 2022. The bird species which receives the most votes will then be presented to City Council for official approval. Calgary (like Toronto, Vancouver, and London) holds World Migratory Bird Day events on the 2nd Saturday in May and in October, has a Bird Team, and does promotion on the Municipal website. www.naturecanada.ca/news/press-releases/first-canadian-bird-friendly-cities/.

December 2021

There was a talk on the native plants of Nose Hill to celebrate the opening of a new mural with a tour of the artwork. The site is a heavily-used pedestrian tunnel near the 64th Ave. NW entrance to Nose Hill Park. The project was limited to the retaining walls at each end of the underpass, which runs under 14th Street, so its interior was not part of the project. The tunnel connects Nose Hill with a series of parks in North Haven and Thorncliffe, as well as to several NW neighbourhoods.

The purpose of the project is to illuminate aspects of Nose Hill’s importance to local Indigenous people and highlight the area’s long history of use. The glacial erratic known as the “Buffalo Rubbing Stone” references the history of the Iinnii (buffalo) on Nose Hill. The artwork, as a landmark for the surrounding communities and visitors to Nose Hill Park, will create more awareness of the important Indigenous history of the site.

Although this was a community-initiated project, the site is owned and managed by the City of Calgary’s Roads Department, as well as being located adjacent to areas managed by Calgary Parks. Therefore the Public Art was first approved by the Roads Department, the Parks Department, and Calgary Arts Development.

Engagement was an important consideration for this project. Prior to installation, an artist must be available for some form of meaningful interaction with the public. This could be an introductory meeting with the surrounding community associations, a prepared statement about the work, or other form of engagement.

Vanessa Gillard

Programming and Community Engagement Coordinator at the TGCA, v.gillard@tgcacalgary.com

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