Water for Riley’s celebration and farewell

RIP: June 19, 2012 – October 25, 2020

Its purpose complete, Water for Riley is no more

The drinking fountain is installed and dedicated to The City of Calgary, which was Water for Riley’s sole mission and it’s accomplished. You have a last chance to win awesome prizes still, read down for details.

We always said the last task was to party at the drinking fountain. Alas, it could not be in Riley Park because of COVID 19, so we pivoted. On Sunday, October 25, 2020, we held a much scaled down celebration of that success. Water for Riley partnered with the Kensington Business Redevelopment Zone (BRZ) in a public market.

Scaled down and still local

Water for Riley was always hyper local. Our talented team and all the money was raised spent and locally. Water for Riley was founded on the idea of building community and building relationships by building a drinking fountain. Whereas we’d hoped the party for the drinking fountain could be city-wide, complying with health rules meant even the party was local.

As well as vendors the BRZ arranged, Water for Riley hosted its team. Displaying and selling their art were local artists, Framed on Fifth gallery owner and sculpture Hannah White, Artsploration painter, Mary-Leigh Doyle, woodcrafts by Jeff Melnyk and handmade glass bead jewelry maker Karyn Williams.

NorthWest Healthcare Properties, the developer of the Grace Hospital site north of Riley Park, donated a gorgeous, huge gift basket to give away. NorthWest Healthcare Properties employee Rachelle Donaldson volunteered at the market for the day.

Bloco Vivo, the Samba & Maracatu band that practices in Riley Park, brought energy and warmth on a cold day with its performance.

Water for Riley’s biggest hit of the day was the give aways to people who stopped to chat about the drinking fountain in Riley Park and membership in the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association (HSCA). Water for Riley offered gifts to entice people to join HSCA, and the HSCA offered discounts on memberships. Important to note is that Water for Riley bought all the gifts to give away, the final way it supported local community and business as thanks for all the support the project received.

You still have a chance to win awesome prizes, keep reading for details.

COVID 19 changed what could have been

The event had been scheduled for 13 June, 2020, and we’d booked a full and active day of local celebrities, fun and performances in Riley Park. Then, COVID 19 shut down the parks and public realm. We cancelled and hoped restrictions would be brief. That, obviously, didn’t work out and we had hard decisions to make.

We decided to not wait until 2021, because there’s no guarantee it would be any better or safer. We scaled down the event and accepted that we could not meet Alberta Health Services rules to hold the event in Riley Park.

Last chance for free gifts

Remaining are some coupons Water for Riley bought for free drinks at local shops. In the nice weather predicted for this weekend, we’ll hand those out in Riley Park near the drinking fountain.

In the coming weeks, still in partnership with the BRZ, the final purchased gifts will be given away. The grand prize is a night stay and breakfast at the boutique Hotel Arts Kensington Inn. Purchase your HSCA membership for a chance to win.

Water for Riley has now reported to its donors and presented its final accounting to its HSCA oversight Board, which is the Hillhurst Sunnyside Planning Committee.

It’s done. Thanks for the memories and for the drinking fountain in Riley Park.

Graphic of the Reflecting Blooms drinking fountain by Maddie Wong Selby

See you in Riley Park,

Deborah Sword
Volunteer Project Manager
Water for Riley

Water for Riley’s thank you

Just as the project to build a drinking fountain in Riley Park was delayed, modified and downsized, so too was celebrating the project delayed, modified and downsized. But, in the end, we did it. We held a party that complied with COVID rules.

There are so many people to thank. Let’s start with the three donors that made the celebration possible:

The City of Calgary Ward Community Event Fund,
TD Park People, and Mirza Amiri, Manager of TD Bank and his team in the Kensington Branch.

Outstanding volunteers planned and worked at the event: Lisa Chong, Maddie Wong Selby, Rachelle Donaldson, and Yameen Huq.

Water for Riley had many, many volunteers over its five+ years, especially: Jocelyn Kabatoff, Michelle Vincent, Natalie Bach, and Sally Truss.  We also had many donations from local community members, residents and folks from all over the City who supported what Water for Riley was achieving. We are so grateful.

NorthWest Healthcare Properties, the largest donor to the drinking fountain, supplied employee and star volunteer, Rachelle Donaldson, plus a fabulous gift basket to give away.

Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association and Water for Riley especially thank:

  • Alberta University of the Arts and Kerry Harmer
  • Southern Alberta Institute for Technology
  • The Calgary Foundation and Julie Black
  • Framed on Fifth, Hannah White and Patricia Gustafson
  • Sunnyside Natural Market
  • City of Calgary Water Services and Parks Departments, Michelle Reid and Ron Buchan,
  • Nulli Identity Management and Barb Gosling
  • Hillhurst School
  • Place2give Foundation and Gena Rotstein
  • Parks Foundation Calgary
  • IBI Group

We know the drinking fountain works and Water for Riley saved the first water out of it to douse it instead of champagne. Once we can drink from the fountain, the effort and wait will be worth it.

As written in a prior post, the drinking fountain was 100% over budget and years behind schedule, installed just in time to be unusable because of a global pandemic. Who says irony is dead?

Stay safe, friends, with warm regards and thanks from

Celebration of the completion

The drinking fountain is installed and it works. Or, it will work when COVID 19 goes away.

Please come to our downsized, local, distanced, masked, safe celebration.

Support local business and hear the music. Bloco Vivo plays at 1 PM.

The final touch

The drinking fountain is done. Fabricated. Installed. Hooked up to The City of Calgary water line. Ready for thirsty people and pets in Riley Park to use.

Except for that darn COVID-19.

Five years of planning and work, fundraising and effort, community building and labour and we can’t turn it on until the virus is gone.

But, we can still add a flourish to the drinking fountain and we did. Tyler, at Can West Legacy Inc., added this embellishment to Reflecting Blooms.

The text reads: Reflecting Blooms
A gift of drinking water to The City of Calgary, from the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association and Water for Riley. June 2020

The Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association supports community and Water for Riley hopes you will support the HSCA. Please join the HSCA as a member and receive its benefits.

The final phase: celebration delayed not done for

Save the date: 24 October, 2020 on Kensington Road

Water for Riley raised money dedicated to celebrating the successful completion of the drinking fountain in Riley Park. Enter COVID-19 and brilliant plans to celebrate big in the park got cancelled.

The three donors supporting the celebration with generous grants kindly allowed us to keep the money until we can again gather in small groups. We thank them so much for believing in Water for Riley and in community that needs a morale boost.

Maddie Wong Selby, Water for Riley volunteer, accepts the cheque from MIrza Amiri, Manager of TD Bank, Kensington Branch.

We adapted to hold smaller events, like yoga in the park. Coming up, Water for Riley collaborates with Kensington Village, the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association, and NorthWest Healthcare Properties at a street market on Kensington Road, just south of Riley Park. We can’t confirm the date until the last minute because COVID-19 changes and we might have to adapt yet again.

Maddie Wong Selby designed this invitation and
drew the wonderful graphic of Reflecting Blooms, the drinking fountain in Riley Park

As soon as we know if it can go ahead, we’ll let you know.

The Water for Riley volunteer team sends Thanksgiving and good health wishes.

Mini celebration: yoga in Riley Park

Yoga in Riley Park is a teaser before the grand opening celebration,
now delayed until this fall, when life reopens without restrictions (we hope)

Thanks to the TD Bank, #TDparkpeople and The City of Calgary, Ward Community Events Fund

Be part of Calgary’s public art legacy;
for Riley Park, for you, and for the future.

We invite everyone to participate as a volunteer, fundraiser, donor, sponsor, or any other role. Call 403 862 1923 and leave your contact information.See our story in a video


Four years over schedule, 100% over budget and we can’t drink from it until the COVID 19 pandemic is over.

Who says irony is dead?

On this blog site, Water for Riley documented every step, every meeting, every success, every partner and donor, every ‘I wish I’d never started this project’ moment.

Here is the last step of the fabrication stage, and, many times, I thought we’d never reach a point where that sentence is true:

Duncan from Landform started with mud in the rain
The construction site needed levelling
Landform scheduled the sod laying to take advantage of the rain
By afternoon, the sod was down and Trail had done the inspection.
The fence will stay for two weeks to give the sod time to connect with the site
The dog bowl is a little tall for a Westie, so he’ll need human help to drink.
Trail also inspected the paw pedal that will allow dogs to help themselves, if they are tall enough
When it is again safe to touch a surface that others touched, thirsty park visitors will approach the drinking fountain to enjoy clean delicious mountain water.

Water for Riley will post news of the drinking fountain water turning on whenever The City of Calgary deems it safe. We dream …

Until then, Team Water for Riley is alive and planning the celebration.

There are so many people to thank, a whole community of effort, a collection of industry experts, generous donors, and a City of helpful public employees who made this possible. I am so grateful to these donors and partners:

Everyone in these companies was invaluable in this project’s success.
In difficult economic times, please support those who support our community.

Over the five years of the project, many people volunteered time. As well as HSCA staff, especially Lisa Chong, and the members of the HSCA Planning Committee to whom Water for Riley reported, these community members volunteered their time on the planning committee:

Gena Rotstein, Natalie Bach, Jocelyn Kabatoff, Michelle Vincent, Sally Truss, Fong Ku, Lorna Cordeiro, and Diana Macdonald. I hope anyone I’ve forgotten will forgive me.

Three people kept me inspired when I almost gave up: Ron Buchan and Michelle Reid, The City of Calgary Parks Department, and Decker Butzner. And, of course, the inspiration for the project, Trail the opinionated Westie.

Now, over to Maddie Wong Selby and the events committee, it is your time to party like it’s 2019.

Gratefully, signing off for now,

Deborah Sword

Be part of Calgary’s public art legacy;

for Riley Park, for you, and for the future.

See our story in a video

Penultimate step

Water for Riley’s multi-year saga has always had two completion dates.

  1. Installation of the fabricated design.
  2. The celebration of the project, which would officially open the drinking fountain and end Water for Riley.
In March, 2019, we presented this high level schedule to donors

The first milestone is almost behind us.

A yellow outline marks the shape of the rubber surface for the installers to follow.
GPI, masters of play at work
Preparing the material to apply on site
The rubber got a short ride from the truck to the site
The surface is the same as under the playground.
And then it was done.
Someday soon, the playground and drinking fountain will be open.
Well, that opening might be soonish.

The last step of the installation milestone is to remediate the site.

The first step of the celebration milestone will be announced soon.

Be part of Calgary’s public art legacy;
for Riley Park, for you, and for the future.

We invite everyone to participate as a volunteer, fundraiser, donor, sponsor, or any other role. Call 403 862 1923 and leave your contact information.

See our story in a video

Preparing the ground

Landform Inc., has been on site in Riley Park as Project Manager and Prime Contractor for the drinking fountain’s installation.

Duncan ran Landform’s equipment on site in Riley Park

This week, the Landform crew laying the foundation encountered an unexpected need for a geotechnical opinion. This was a last minute surprise for the Water for Riley team.

Apparently, the engineering assumption was that the site had approximately 6-12 inches of topsoil. Landform found 45-50 inches of topsoil/unsuitable material and called the engineering consultants, who determined that a geotechnical opinion was needed.

The geotechnical engineer recommended a bridging structure of geotextile/gravel to provide a support structure for the rubber surfacing. The unsuitable soil was described as:

a silty sand fill soil overlying a native sand.  The silty sand fill was approximately 500mm thick and was dilatant, loose, and medium brown with some black organics throughout.  The native sand was moist, compact, and medium brown in colour. 

Water for Riley thanks McIntosh Lalani Engineering Ltd., a division of Englobe, for swift action in getting the site specifics that Landform needed. It prevented both delay in completing the work and the risk of installing an inadequate foundation. 

The geotechnical engineer recommended a non woven geotextile fabric overlaid with a biaxial geogrid reinforcement for compaction of approximately 300mmm of base gravels to bring the subgrade up to design elevation. 

It’s easiest to let the photographs translate that into plain language.

Kai laid the non woven geotextile fabric
The gravel arrived in the afternoon to cover the fabric, and Kai and Duncan levelled it before compacting it
This is the view when approaching from the north, the playground as backdrop

The next, almost last, step is to lay a rubber surface that is the same as the mat under the playground.

the site is ready for the final surface work, likely on May 14, 2020, and then – IT’S DONE except for the celebration

Water test – passed

On May 5, 2020, the Water for Riley installation team gathered to test the new drinking fountain in Riley Park.

The foundation will be laid next week and will cover the three stems to the level of the white water pipes. Then the drinking water won’t be so far out of reach.

Successful water tests
Dwayne from Rainmaker and Peter from Landform collected the first water
Peter demonstrates the accessible drinking fountain passes the test
Dwayne demonstrates the middle drinking fountain works
Trail eyes the dog drinking fountain, waiting for the time the park will be open post-COVID-19
The drinking fountains all passed the water test
the dog drinking fountain works with a paw pedal
Water for Riley saved the first water, to pour when the drinking fountain opens, post-COVID-19

Be part of Calgary’s public art legacy;
for Riley Park, for you, and for the future.

Donate to make this vision become reality. At the instructions to seller page, specify that your support is for The Water for Riley Project. The Parks Foundation issues tax receipts for donations greater than $10.00.

We invite everyone to participate as a volunteer, fundraiser, donor, sponsor, or any other role. Call 403 862 1923 and leave your contact information.

See our story in a video