Dale Hodges Park is a transformative landscape along the Bow River in Calgary. The project was born of the need to restore the environmental health of the area while addressing stormwater treatment opportunities for runoff from over 1,700 hectares of adjacent urban area. Once a gravel quarry located within an existing 164 hectare river valley park, the site adds 40 hectares of integrated park land, stormwater treatment facilities, and one of the largest public artworks in North America. The park concept follows the journey of stormwater through a series of curated experiences, collaboratively designed with The City’s Parks, Water Resources and Public Art departments, emphasizing the flow of water through the landscape.
A team comprised of O2 Planning & Design (landscape architecture and park design), AECOM with Source 2 Source (stormwater engineering, environmental design, and hydraulics), and Sans façon for Watershed+ (public artists) worked collaboratively to transform the site. The multidisciplinary approach allowed each team to build upon the team’s collective knowledge and creativity to achieve the outcomes demanded by The City for this incredibly valuable and strategic park.
This project is unique in that the team embraced the requirement for stormwater treatment as an opportunity to explore and create new experiences for park users and a diverse range of upland, riparian and aquatic habitats. The focus was to express the movement of stormwater through the site and make its journey apparent at each treatment stage. This is accomplished through the formal design of the system and through interventions that allow for a visceral experience of the water’s movement. The story begins as water enters the park into the Nautilus Pond , an innovative circular clarifying pond. From there, water cascades through built structures and streams into a series of polishing marshes, wet meadows, riparian areas, and a 900m long restored stream. In a typical year, this system removes 85,000 kg of TSS that would otherwise be discharged to the Bow River.
Riparian morphological forms inspired the design and fabric of the park, creating opportunities for water treatment and interpretation of the landscape patterns. The polishing marshes follow sweeping curves reminiscent of anabranches and river scrolls that evolve when a channel diverges and rejoins a river. A pathway along a scroll provides access to the water while elevated, crisscrossing boardwalks contrast the elegance of the natural patterns. The emergent vegetation zones throughout the marshes provide additional filtration and critical waterfowl habitat. The outlet stream is a restored seasonal creek that mimics alluvial side channel formations and discharges to an important trout rearing habitat in the Bow River, serving as refuge during river flood conditions.
Implementation of the project has resulted in numerous positive impacts. The project’s robust public and stakeholder engagement process has led to widespread public praise of the finished park. Ecological systems in the park are now rich and diverse, visible in the prevalence of native vegetation and wildlife. As a new type of high-performance public space, the park achieves multiple infrastructure requirements through a beautiful open space, providing ecosystem services and enhancing the quality of everyday life.
Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: Source 2 Source
Architecture offices involved in the design: AECOM (Engineering), Sans Facon for Watershed+ (Public Artists)
Project location: Varsity, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Design year: 2015
Year Built: 2019