What happened 50 years ago to preserve Nose Hill? Calgary Council of Women wanted a legacy. In 1973, the City created the Park after a lengthy debate. Council rejected a development application when Communities favoured a major natural environment park. “Citizens for Nose Hill” presented a “Citizens’ Brief”. Then a steering committee produced the “Nose Hill Design Brief”. A rezoning challenge was only one of the obstacles, because much of the land was privately owned. It was urgent to preserve it because some was already sold to developers, with a parcel to a homebuilder. Community leaders and concerned citizens collected over 5,000 signatures on a petition opposing the rezoning. They organized a march along John Laurie Boulevard in defence of Nose Hill. There was even a children’s petition and their voices were heard. City Council voted against any rezoning. However, the City still needed more time to buy up the land. The Supreme Court of Canada gave Calgary the right to purchase land on Nose Hill at its own pace. The Provincial government agreed and declared that the “Nose Hill lands” be retained as a public open space in perpetuity.
The Open Space Plan says that our City’s greatest asset is the natural environment and wildlife, so we should foster stewardship with nature education programs. Calgary Parks are linked by pathways and green belts. We must protect and conserve the river valley system, unique prairie, urban forest and foothill ecosystems.
The Plan conforms with Provincial Land Use Policies and the Municipal Government Act. There are some general principles. We will preserve Natural Environment Parks and Environmentally Significant Areas, enhanced by restoration to prevent loss. Site-specific plans recommend we record biophysical inventories and historical resources, for cultural landscapes such as Nose Hill.
The Open Space Plan is under review. One of the aims is learning how to improve Natural Environment Parks through decision-making that puts the environment first. Natural habitats offer places for wildlife food, water, cover, and to raise their young. We can reconnect, rest, and mentally recharge. Nose Hill offers sacred indigenous spaces of culture—past, present, and future.
“Connect: Calgary’s Parks Plan”, Phase 1 engagement ran 17 April – 19 May. A “What We Heard Report” will be published online this summer. Phase 2 starts in October 2023.
A guided plant and herb walk on Nose Hill taught local landscape and ecology (about living things and habitat). The group identified plants, whether edible or poisonous ones, as well as invasive plants (weeds) and native species. There is much interest in traditional medicine and modern uses. Agrology deals with the natural, economic, and social sciences related to environmental protection. The walk leader, as a member of the Alberta Institute of Agrologists, has studied the application of science to agriculture. It is important to understand that Calgary’s Parks & Pathways Bylaw prohibits foraging as part of these events.
Here are the results for City Nature Challenge 2023! Across Canada, 43 cities were in this year’s challenge. Calgary was 1st with 9185 observers who reported 775 species; then came 4th for 347 observations. Globally, there were 482 cities, with 66,394 participants who reported 57, 227 species, including 2570 rare, endangered or threatened ones.
Light pollution remains a threat to migrating birds. To raise awareness, in Canada, World Migratory Bird Day was on the second Saturday in May and, in South America, will be on the second Saturday in October.
Spring brought renewal and awakening of Mother Earth in April. There was a 3-hour interpretive walk to connect with cultural landscapes through the ages in Nose Hill Park where you can be closer to the stars. The group at the John Laurie Blvd. parking lot began the 2.2 kms. route on pathway and gravel trail. The leaders were: Crystal Many Fingers, a Blackfoot member of the Kainai First Nation of Treaty 7, and Laureen Bryant, a professional archaeologist who focused on human occupation. Legends and sharing stories are an integral part of an oral culture. The importance of Nose Hill to pre-contact indigenous people is highlighted by sites such as the buffalo rubbing stone for ceremonies, vision questing, and fasting.
A natural area is a City-owned park with a natural/native plant community. The primary role is to preserve the natural significance. Conservation protects these (relatively) undisturbed parcels of land. Damage can be repaired while loss could be restored. Public engagement and feedback from tourists will contribute to Calgary’s 20-year Park Plan. After a draft proposal, there comes a final version by spring 2024, before presentation to City Council. https://engage.calgary.ca/parksplan.
The annual May Plant Count is an event when volunteers survey their favourite natural areas to collect data on the distribution and blooming of flowering plants in Alberta. Collection of plant specimens is not allowed in any protected or restricted areas, such as Nose Hill Park. The survey, which takes place between May 25—31, encourages stewardship and is based on appreciation of nature. Expertise in identification is valuable, but not mandatory. It is open to anyone with an interest in plants and flowering. As a citizen scientist, your photos submitted during the count period will contribute to the databases. To join the project, go to: https://inaturalist.ca/ projects/alberta-may-plant-count. In order to submit observations, you will need to log in and create an account (which is free).
The May Plant Count is part of the May Species Count. It began in 1976 to track bird species across Alberta and, in 2011, over 300,000 birds were counted. In 2022, over 400 people participated in the bird count. To learn more about how to download your results onto the eBird app and to contact your local organizer, go to https://naturealberta.ca/may-species-count/.
There is an annual global community science competition to doucument urban diversity. Public bioblitzes will be held across Calgary with local stewardship groups. The challenge engages citizen scientists in finding and documenting plants, animals, and other living organism in urban areas. The 2023 City Nature Challenge involves taking pictures April 28-May 1 and then identifying them. Results will be announced on May 8. This will be the fifth year for Calgary Region participation and there are awards for the top Cities. For more information just go to inaturalist.ca/projects/city-nature-challenge-2023-calgary-metropolitan-region.
Although the City introduced two new program, Green Leader and and Water Steward, its decision to temporarily discontinue its Adopt-a-Park program was unpopular. Now you can join the Parks Environmental Education team on a Green Initiative project to restore habitat with tree and shrub planting, tree wiring, weed pulling, or painting projects. These group projects are seasonal (May – October) and typically require a 3-4 hour commitment. A screening policy is in place, which may include checks by police. Once accepted, volunteers receive orientation, training, and other support. For more information and to register, please call 3-1-1.
Calgary’s Pathway and River Cleanup will be on 5 – 7 May 2023. Volunteers will receive safety information and training prior to event day.
During the annual cleanup event, they help remove litter in Calgary’s parks, greenspaces; along pathways and river banks. Registration for returning volunteers is on 15 February – 8 March 2023 and, for new volunteers, on 13 March – 31 March 2023. They may register in groups of at least 10, identifying a leader and a designated cleanup area. Anyone without a group is assigned to a City team at one of 3 designated parks.
Last year, there were 4 areas assigned for cleanup in Nose Hill Park:
Nose Hill west – Shaganappi Trail/Edgemont Blvd. parking lot, to head south along pathway beside Shaganappi Trail, stay to right at trail junctions, south to John Laurie/Brisebois Drive parking lot.
Nose Hill east – parking lot at 64th Ave. NW and 14 St. NW – to clean trails south to 14th St. NW parking lot.
Nose Hill north – Shagapnappi Trail/Edgemont Blvd. parking lot east to 14th St Berkley Gate parking lot (and stay left at paved trail junctions).
Nose Hill – 64th Ave. – Nose Hill, 64th Ave. Parking lot.
During the cleanup, volunteers remove the litter in their assigned locations and collect it in bags, which are placed beside pathways or in City garbage bins. City staff pick up and transport them to a designated dump site where they are properly disposed of by City Waste & Recycling Services. If you have any questions about volunteering for the 2023 Pathway and River Cleanup, or garbage bags have not been picked up, please contact 3-1-1. Join the conversation on cleanup day and see photos from the events by searching #yyccleans.
The Calgary Naturalists’ Club was started in the late 1940s. Its activities included plant, bird and star study groups. After the Calgary Bird Club was formed, the Calgary Naturalists’ Club was discontinued, due to lack of support, since so many of its members had transferred their membership. The Calgary Bird Club evolved and became the Calgary Field Naturalists’ Society, an advocate for the ongoing protection of parks and other natural areas, by letters and through engagement with city officials. https://nature calgary.com /about/history/.
According to the Provincial Archives of Alberta, when the first meeting of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists was held, it was attended by representatives from 6 regional naturalist clubs: the Calgary Field Naturalists’ Society (now known as Nature Calgary), the Edmonton Bird Club, the Edmonton Natural History Club, the Lethbridge Natural History Society, the Alberta Natural History Society (of Red Deer), and the Bow Valley Naturalists. Membership in the Federation has since grown to include over 40 clubs, representing 1000s of individuals.
The Federation (now known as Nature Alberta) was registered under the Societies Act to increase knowledge of natural history and understanding of ecological processes; to promote the exchange of information and views among natural history clubs and societies; to foster and assist in the formation of additional natural history clubs and societies in Alberta. The aims are to promote new natural areas and nature reserves; to conserve and protect species, communities or other features of interest; as well as to organize or coordinate conferences, field meetings, nature camps, research, and other activities. The group offers naturalists a forum in which questions relating to the conservation of the natural environment may be discussed, united positions are developed, and the means of translating these positions into actions. https://naturealberta.ca
PROJECT Since 2016, the City has had great success in using goats to help manage invasive weeds like Canada thistle. A herd of 260 goats grazed in the 40-hectare Rubbing Stone Hill Natural Parkland Zone of Nose Hill for 30 days, beginning when most vegetation was dormant. The bison normally used this area during the fall and winter so plants were not grazed during the season of active growth. Therefore, the primary influence of grazing would be to remove dead plant material. This will allow for the greatest plant diversity while providing habitat for all wildlife species currently using the Park.
GOAL The primary purpose of the project was to initiate a multi-year grazing program primarily for the protection of natural grassland and shrub-dominated habitat. The area is currently very heavily used. Management priorities are to minimize damage to the natural habitat by rehabilitating trails, controlling weed species, and maintaining natural vegetation. The use of livestock to manage grass and weeds (targeted grazing) is different than traditional grazing for livestock production and had to be exempted from requiring a development permit when done by or for the City, by changes to both the Land Use and Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaws
CONSULTATION & PUBLIC FEEDBACK During the pilot project, 95% of the 40 service request 311 calls were positive. The City also held open houses inviting stakeholders to provide input: 44 of 57 written comments on urban grazing supported the use of livestock for land management on City-owned land. Some comments gave support conditional on it saving money when compared with the alternatives, such as mechanical (hand pulling) and spraying. Goat grazing is a chemical-free way to control weeds, with project costs close to that of conventional herbicide application.
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.
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.
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.