St Patrick’s Island Park
There are certain public gems in every city that, when you discover them for yourself, you become a little double-minded: on the one hand you secretly hope that nobody else ever finds it so you can selfishly enjoy it all to yourself. On the other hand you can only wonder why nobody else has discovered it and an alert should be broadcast for everyone to also make it their new favourite flavour-of-the-month. That’s been our sentiment towards St Patrick’s Island Park.
This 31 hectare green-belt-beauty stands as a defiant wedge in the face of the flow of the beautiful Bow River. Sandwiched between Memorial Drive off it’s north shore and the East Village to its south, the Park has been restored by the City to a prized public space. Following its near decimation during the devastating Calgary flood of 2013, this Downtown jewel really has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes of destruction to become a model of a diverse City-centre shared space.
If there was one public space where we could open our own coffee shoppe it would likely be here! The only problem with that is, because our coffee shoppe would become so extremely popular the Park would soon become overrun by visitors. This would likely cause the City to restrict public access to the Park causing both the Park and coffee shoppe to lose their popularity and charm 😜. So we’ll respectfully reserve our coffee shoppe for another location instead and leave St. Patrick’s Island to bask in her glory alone, as it should.
I really hadn’t paid any attention to the history or development of this Park prior to the 2013 flood. I became more aware of the space during my Downtown cycling commute to work as I monitored her 2 year reconstructive surgery following that event. It was with eager anticipation, as I saw heavy earthmoving equipment pushing, digging and repositioning earth, rock and sod, that I watched for the day of her reopening. This happened in the summer of 2015. It wasn’t too long after that that we visited the Island Park and were captivated by its artistic yet functional design.
The alluring optical illusion of the paving draws you into the Park [DD]
From the lines of the paving that seem to create an optical illusion and draw you into the inner sanctum of the green space, to the galvanized iron bridges and walkways. From the appealing curvaceous lines and angles of the numerous wooden benches dotted alongside the walkways, to the Lookout Plaza equipped with a scattering of brightly coloured bistro sets. This is just a perfect place for families, lovers, photographers, artists, musicians, joggers, cyclists, exercise junkies or even the solitary to enjoy some Rest & Relaxation … or Running & Resuscitation!
The Park layout is defined by several habitational locations.
The Lookout Plaza at the east end adjacent to a parking area at Zoo Road has amphitheater-type concrete seating beneath a slatted pergola structure overlooking a paved space dotted with concrete and wooden-slatted benches, bistro sets and nearby washroom facilities.
Lookout Plaza, The Lowland Channel and Picnic Grove [DD]
The Lowland Channel adjacent to the Plaza is a mini wildlife wetland busy with fauna and flora and accessed via galvanized iron bridges and a low-lying walking deck from where you can observe the preserved and protected marsh-like habitat.
Picnic Grove lies just to the west of the Plaza and Lowland Channel, offering several picnic tables and barbecue sites within view of a well-equipped playground.
The Fall sun begins to set behind the City Skyline seen from The Rise [DD]
A short walk further west brings you to The Rise, a manmade grassy knoll that can be climbed via rustic stairs at the east end. Once on top you are afforded some of the most rewarding city skyline views from anywhere near Downtown. A sizeable fire pit allows for the perfect spot to roast marshmallows or S’mores in winter and offers a harrowing toboggan launch pad down The Rise’s western slope.
The City skyline and “The Bloom” reflect in the rock pool at the Seasonal Breach [DD]
The Seasonal Breach lies a stone’s throw further to the west of The Rise and offers children and adults alike the opportunity to wade in the rock pool or walk over the causeway straddling the waterway that is constantly recharged by fresh water from the Bow River. Here Trout Beach has grassy embankments, benches and shade providing more space for families to find relaxation on a hot summer’s day.
The Tip is the headland that juts into the oncoming rushing waters of the Bow River. Here, too, one can enjoy unobstructed vistas of the City skyline or cast a fishing line into the water in hopes of landing a catch. Remember to obtain the appropriate permits before putting a rod in the water, though!
The Bloom is a captivating piece of larger-than-life artwork found at the Seasonal Breach. An amalgamation of 5 streetlight structures form a unique “floral” display of light from dusk till dawn.
The artistic curves of the George C. King Bridge straddling the Bow River linking Memorial Drive (left) to the Park (centre) and Riverwalk / The East Village (right) [DD]
The George C. King Bridge offers access to the Park’s west end, connecting the cycle and pedestrian pathways running along Memorial Drive on the River’s north shore to the pathways on the south shore that run through the East Village and along Riverfront Avenue. This beautiful architectural pedestrian bridge forms a very pleasing access portal to the City along with some beautiful Cityscape views. From dusk it is accentuated by a subtle, inventive lighting display built into the struts of the bridge. A unique tribute to some of Calgary’s most influential women is embedded in the paving on the southern side of the bridge. Be sure to check this unobtrusive memorial out when you’re accessing the bridge!
If you’re looking for a family-friendly Downtown location with a little bit for everyone to enjoy then heading to Prince’s Island Park would be well-worth your visit.
More information about the Park can be found on the City of Calgary’s website.
Overview information about St Patrick’s Island Park:
- Location: GPS: 51.048487, -114.046627 ; Google Maps
- Access: From the Zoo parking; from George C. King pedestrian Bridge; via the Bow River (canoe / raft)
- How to get there:
- LRT: Bridgeland Station;
- Bus transit: Bus stop located at eastbound 9th Av SE @ 6 St SE, use Bus 1 or 302 or 305 from Downtown;
- cycle / walkway from Zoo Road or George C. King Bridge;
- paid car parking at the Zoo Road entrance (east end of the Park) or on 6th St SE in the East Village
- Fees: no access fees required
- Open: 5am to 11pm
- Amenities: washrooms at The Lookout Plaza (seasonal)
- Nearby attractions: East Village; Fort Calgary; Calgary Zoo; Bow River; Riverwalk city pathway network; Studio Bell National Music Centre