Water for Riley: because living things thrive with water

Reflecting Blooms, designed by ACAD student Michelle Lazo, was the jury’s choice for the drinking fountain in Riley Park. This graphic design of Reflecting Blooms drawn by Maddie Wong Selby.

Riley Park: historic treasure in Calgary’s green spaces

The land now known as Riley Park has been sacred through the ages. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity and truth, we walk the park as a gathering place and opportunity to engage in reconciliation. We honour and acknowledge Moh’kinsstis, and the Treaty 7 territory and oral practices of the Blackfoot confederacy: Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations. We acknowledge this territory as home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the Northwest Métis homeland. We, settlers and Indigenous alike, live, work and play on this land and celebrate this territory.

In 1910, Riley Park was a gift to the City of Calgary for everyone’s future enjoyment. For over 100 years it’s been an urban oasis in the inner city. Riley Park serves all demographics, and attracts users city-wide and locally.

Calgary’s densification policy brought about 1700 new residents in four years, with an anticipated additional 17% population growth within walking distance of Riley Park. Visitors are professionals in condos, youth and students from the three nearby schools, families in single and multi-family dwellings, seniors of Grace Hospital, nearby women’s shelter, and accessible housing for formerly homeless Calgarians.

Riley Park users need services
As the community densifies and park use increases, the demand for facilities also grows. Yet, Riley Park lacks facilities to serve its growing and diverse population of visitors, and services were an unfunded City priority unless we raised the money. 

There’s so much to do in Riley Park
Children love the new playground. In the summer the wading pool is full of fun-seeking families. Youths practice slack line and music under the trees. A new bandstand features concerts for music lovers sitting on the grass. Calgary’s oldest leagues play on the cricket pitch. There’s picnic tables, paths to walk through the gardens of glorious summer flowers, and special event photography. People run, walk, cross-country ski, dog walk, and play all manner of games in the open areas.

We believe success is built on community
Once this close-knit community saw a need and opportunity we mobilized around a vision of a unique, functional, public art fountain. The City agreed to install, own and maintain it if we got it fully funded and fabricated. We envisioned the effort as an exciting multi-institution collaboration with collective beneficial impacts.

We instituted a student challenge to design a drinking fountain that reflects the heritage values of one of Calgary’s oldest districts, and aesthetic values of Riley Park’s gorgeous flowerbeds, and athletic values of the cricket pitch, playground and pool. Participating SAIT, ACAD and Hillhurst Elementary School students took ‘ownership’ of their park and their fountain.

We did it!
The posts on this blog document every step of our journey to improve a beloved natural public space. From an observation of the need for drinking water, to a vision of the process for achieving the goal, to a plan for making it happen, to a drinking fountain in Riley Park, took thousands of volunteer hours. The Hillhurst Sunnyside Community made it happen.

“Technology alone is not enough – it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.” Steve Jobs 2011

Visit Riley Park soon, and see the drinking fountain

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