News from the Friends of Nose Hill by Anne Burke

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.

November 2021

There have always been snakes on Nose Hill. A shelter called a “hibernaculum” is occupied during the winter by a dormant animal.

Since they are cold blooded, they move to hibernation when it turns chilly.

The Nose Hill Park Bio-Inventory is a project which aims to record observations made by park users. Please avoid observations of humans and pets. So far, 371 observers have contributed 4,369 observations of 585 species (so far 577 were identified). Some of the most monitored species have been: the prairie crocus (107), great blanket-flower (92), white-tailed deer (73), sticky purple geranium (70), western stoneseed or lemonweed (64), and false lupine (60). There is a satellite map of sightings, full- colour photos throughout, and the relevant information is kept up to date. Visit: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/nose-hill-park-bioinventory.

In Calgary, there were 267 individuals who shared their viewings on iNaturalist April 30-May 10, 2021. Together over 660 species were reported and many still to be identified at a species level. You could make observations without a photo, but no one can help ID or confirm a finding without a photo. Users all volunteered their time to identify reports. Those which you know are not wild were marked as “captive/cultivated”. Children and their families can engage in nature and share discoveries with the digital community.

With 6,689 observations to date, Calgary holds the Canadian record for the most City Nature Challenge observations ever made during the event! It was not only the best year ever for participation, species, and studies but there was tremendous growth in the distribution of observations across the city. The provincial iNaturalist community continued to grow. Edmonton, Lethbridge, Camrose, and Red Deer participated. Across Alberta, 10,000 observations (925 species by 468 observers) were contributed. Visit: https://citynaturechallenge.org/collective-results-2021/.

October 2021

by Anne Burke

Under Alberta’s Wildlife Act, species at risk are the most vulnerable of Alberta’s biodiversity and require special attention to maintain and recover population and habitat. Wildlife “eco users” are subject to loss, change, and recreational disturbance. Their low numbers or secretive habits present challenges, especially if they are rare, vulnerable, or endangered. See more at COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada).


A list of species in Nose Hill Park was based on critical or specific wildlife habitat suitability. The study included a “point” counting of all birds seen or heard during a set period of time. Between sunrise and 8 a.m., there were 23 locations for songbirds, from early June to early July. Whether summer residents or migratory, their breeding behaviours, such as singing, courtship, nest building, and defence, were noted. Identification relied on visual and auditory cues. Ground searches of potential nesting habitat for nearby sharp-tailed grouse were conducted during the summer. In addition, all known nest locations of raptors (hawk, owl, falcon) for 1987 to 1993 were complied, with further field observations.


Fieldwork was done by volunteers. All 48 of the live traps were set up for 10 days, a total of 480 trap-nights per habitat type. The number was calculated for each species of small mammals (mice, voles, and shrews). Such animals were marked, recorded, and released. For pocket gophers/ground squirrels, the area of their mounds and burrows was intensively searched. However, a cost effective method was to select from the wide range of wildlife species known to occur on Nose Hill. For natural area management planning, it was necessary to carefully monitor a smaller group of “indicator” or representative wildlife species, for evaluation purposes.

September 2021

 

by Anne Burke

Here are some guidelines from the Off-leash Area Management Plan 2010.

The City Parks Department, as a steward of public parklands and pathways, is responsible for maintenance and management. This includes agreements with other stakeholders, as appropriate, and developing educational strategies for environmental protection. Natural habitat goals are considered for Natural Areas, in or near Special Protection Natural Environment Parks, Major Natural Environment Parks, and Environmentally Significant Areas. Dogs must be on-leash in parking areas and on pathways. Where necessary, eliminate the impact of dog off-leash use on native plants and wildlife and/or the fragmentation of natural habitats. Where a biophysical evaluation shows that the natural habitats or wildlife are being negatively impacted, implement strategies to protect the natural area (or the Off-Leash Area may be eliminated). These decisions are made at the discretion of the Director of City Parks. There are other duties, such as creating a signage plan to clearly mark boundaries. Posting “entering/leaving off-Leash Area” signs, even back to back where required. “No Dog” signs in playgrounds. “Paved Pathways Are Always On-Leash”. Consulting with Animal and Bylaw Services, if the City or Parks users have identified sites where the ability to enforce bylaws is questionable.

The City’s decision, in 2016, was to cancel the Adopt-a-Park program and replace it with two new programs called Green Leader and Water Steward.

Since this is seasonal (May – October) the Adopt-a-Park program was re-launched, in 2021, helping to take care of parks, green spaces, playgrounds, pathways, trees, and natural areas. Volunteers received orientation, training, and other supports, after possible police information checks. If working near a pathway, they were told to be careful of cyclists, runners, and walkers, as well as to leave natural materials behind (leaves, deadwood, bones, etc).

July 2021

by Anne Burke

Nose Hill provides spectacular viewpoints to interpret the geological history of the Bow River valley and its tributaries, as well as the uplands across the valley to the south. There is a glacial erratic in a small coulee. About 45 archaeological sites represent 10,000 years of human occupation. The Park is bounded by present-day Beddington and Nose Creeks. Big Hill Springs Coulee represents what remains of the earlier glacial spillway.

Major and shallow ravines in the Porcupine and Many Owl valleys are at risk because they support a closed canopy of tall willow shrubs, aspen and balsam poplar forests. This is wildlife habitat, like rough fescue grassland.

Observers in a 1993 benchmark study recorded that weekday recreational users were three times as more likely to use the plateau and slopes, while weekend users more often used the ravines. Now only the plateau is off leash and paved pathways are a route to the top.

A total of 151 wildlife species were found, including 127 bird, 22 mammal, and 2 amphibian species. No organized trails near a breeding ground (lek) of the Sharp-tailed Grouse, options for deer movement into Nose Hill, limited human and dog use to protect the mule and white-tailed deer, as well as the American badger. Analysis of trail condition and use was done by 27 volunteers from late July to late September. Trained volunteers collected wildlife field data. A sample of birds was conducted at 23 sites during the breeding period in early June to early July. Small mammal study was completed of mice, voles, and shrews. A review of past and current land uses revealed areas damaged by vehicles, grazing, and gravel extraction but slowly recovering. Since regeneration on its own may take decades, remediation was warranted.

June 2021

by Anne Burke

As I write, the City is reconsidering the proposal to permit open liquor in municipal parks. Alberta began allowing alcohol in day-use picnic areas in select parks across the province. Alcohol could be consumed in these areas along with food. That is what was proposed in Calgary’s original pilot project, in early 2019, but now also involves consideration of the issues of social disorder, community health, and enforcement.

The North Calgary Water Servicing Project is construction of a new 10 km feeder-main to provide drinking water to new and existing communities. The detailed design stage will be completed in fall 2021. Construction begins in 2022 and ends in late 2025. In late January-early February 2021, the site investigative work of drilling a borehole to identify soil properties in the NE corner of Nose Hill Park (near MacEwan Glen Drive NW) impacted one pathway, so there were appropriate signs and barriers to notify pathways users.

Part of the proposed route crosses under Nose Hill Park (from the SW to the NE) involves tunneling technology up to 90 metres below the surface. This trenchless method of installing pipe (by two shafts at either side) uses a machine to install the pipe underground and minimizes impact to the natural area of the park. The two shaft locations will be restored to their original state, following construction.

 

As published in our Spring 2018 newsletter, a City Waterworks Report (12 Feb. 2018) said the detailed design phase began in 2018. At the time, no further field work was anticipated in the upper plateau of the park, since the geotechnical investigation was done in March 2017. The earliest construction phase was anticipated to be 2020. The date changed, based on budgeting and prioritisation. https://www.calgary.ca/uep/water/construction-projects/construction-projects-and-upgrades/north-calgary-water-servicing-project.html

May 2021

by Anne Burke

Connect with The May Count of Plants in Bloom (May 25 – 29) which is an initiative by Nature Alberta annually hosted by the Alberta Native Plant Council to record plants in bloom. You choose a natural area and record the plants you see blooming. It is no problem at all if you find a flower that you don’t recognize. It can be ignored in your count. (Or you can take a photo for later identification). Collection of plant specimens is not allowed in any protected or restricted area, like Nose Hill. Contributors are asked to visit (www.anpc.ab.ca) for guidelines.

 

This is an example of growing citizen science in the province. The purpose is to provide information on the distribution of flowering plants. However, any species information is valuable to the selected natural area. The project monitors the spread of non-native species and provides insights into the response of plants to variations in climate. Anyone who is familiar with Alberta wildflowers can participate. Email: mayplantcount@outlook.com. Facebook: May Plant Count Nature Alberta. Instagram: mayplantcount.

A proposed Environmental Strategy and Action Plan on improving Calgary’s environment over the next ten years will be shared with the City Executive Leadership Team before being presented to the City Council Committee on Utilities and Corporate Services, followed by Council. https://engage.calgary.ca/environment.

How to grow difficult native species, create an organic lunchbox, and restore peat wetlands. These were only a few of the topics covered at a 2021 spring workshop “Northern Native Plants and Ecosystems”. The virtual event featured several presentations, such as the Yukon as a miniature Jurassic Park, how to discover past landscapes in Jasper National Park and to protect biodiversity in the Peace Region.

April 2021

by Anne Burke

A bioinventory documents plants, habitat, aquatic and wildlife species, sensitive ecosystems and rare species. Help science by being mindful of local plants, birds, insects, mammals; reptiles, frogs, amphibians, spiders; lichens, fungi, and algae. Citizen scientists can now pay attention to plants and animals in Nose Hill Park, a well-defined natural area, with an abundance of remarkable flora and fauna. As an online project which aims to record and map observations made by park users, the Nose Hill Park Bioinventory contains: 268 observers, 453 identifiers, 517 species, and 3118 observations. www.inaturalist.org/projects/nose-hill-park-bioinventory. Some familiar sights are white tailed deer, the N.A. porcupine, white tailed jackrabbits, and coyotes. Less so are the boreal chorus frog, dawson’s spur-throat grasshopper, northern pocket gopher, and even the single-celled-protozoan in storm water. Another sample yields “wandering” and “western terrestrial” garter snakes. Look up at the horned grebe, swainson’s hawk, American goldfinch, northern shrike.

The City Nature Challenge returns in Calgary and surrounding municipalities (Airdrie, Chestermere, Cochrane, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, and Okotoks). Taking pictures of wild plants and animals, April 30– May 3; Identifying the images, May 4—9. The results will be announced May 10. Our City will be under a total “bioblitz” and compete with 250+ other cities around the world. It is a free event. Take photos and make audio recordings using your phone, tablet, and camera. Post your observations, using the app on your phone or online. Join the challenge to see how Calgary’s urban biodiversity compares. In 2020, our results put us in the top 50 cities. Of all Canadian cities, YYC achieved more observations, documented the most species, and engaged the most observers. More than 755 species were reported. www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2021-calgary-metropolitan-region.

March 2021

by Anne Burke

In 1984, the “Save the Nose Hill Archives” was deposited at the Glenbow Museum by the Secretary/Archivist of the Nose Hill Park Communities Board. The collection consists of materials including bylaws and regulations, minutes of meetings of various interest groups, correspondence, legal, and financial records; historical outlines, newspaper clippings, a videotape, scrapbooks and photos; library material including maps, publications and city design briefs, as well as an “I’m for Nose Hill Park” t-shirt.

The Board made recommendations for the Nose Hill Park Master Plan Review. Thorough environmental impact studies are required before making major decisions or changing the resource management plan. Visual impact to be minimized. User wants must not overpower natural environmental principles. No general municipal uses allowed except those directly relating to Nose Hill Park and its objectives. This policy should be clearly stated by City Council and exceptions, if any, made by Council.

Archaeology is an immediate resource. Emphasis on preservation and natural resource values, not development and recreation. Do not install water, fire pits, shelters, or playgrounds. Fences and gates a high priority to prevent night-time access beyond the parking lots near the edge. Access for handicapped to gravel pit area with links to paved paths. Wildlife recognized as an essential component of resources and, for conservation, the Board endorsed the concept of a wildlife corridor in a northern direction (with the city-wide bike path). Restrict maintenance vehicle access. Integrate any emergency access with the pathway system. The impact of planned bicycle paths will be too great and these should be “scaled down”. Dogs are on-leash in the park except for some areas identified in the Master Plan, where dogs would be allowed to run off-leash (under their owners’ control).

Vanessa Gillard

Programming and community engagement coordinator at the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Association. Spouse Adam Grayton

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