Cities are much more than buildings, people, and infrastructure - there’s a great deal of nature in cities, too! In Calgary, we are lucky enough to have a number of excellent natural parks right on our doorstep waiting to be explored.
Here are some things to bear in mind when exploring Calgary’s parks:
1. Not all parks are created equal. There is a plethora of parks within the city that offer space to enjoy a number of different activities like dog walking, BBQing, biking, or soaking up sunshine. Some of the City parks also boast space for activities like wildlife viewing, swimming, or even fishing! Some City parks are also stroller-friendly with free parking and playgrounds nearby. You can read up on what the different Calgary parks offer on The City of Calgary Parks website, calgary.ca/csps/parks/pages/locations/all-city-parks.aspx, to find the park that best suits your family’s needs.
Trails with interpretive signs. Take a minute to read informative signs in parks. They often have great information about the area that can spark nature-based learning for young ones - and you, too!
2. Birdwatching. Birdwatching is a wonderful way to engage little ones with nature, and Fall is the perfect time to catch a glimpse of different types of birds as they migrate south. Some of the best areas to see birds are wetlands. Wetlands are some of the most species-rich places not just in the city, but in the world, and Calgary has a selection of both man-made and natural wetlands. It’s estimated that over 30 percent of all of Canada’s birds use wetlands, making them ideal spots for birdwatching. You can also spot different birds in forests and grassland parks throughout the city.
3. A glimpse of animals great and small. Many children are fascinated by animals and bugs; they just can’t get enough! Making animals and insects the focal point of your visit to a park is a great way to engage your child with nature. In Calgary, we are lucky enough to host a wide range of animals and insects and identifying them can be both enjoyable and educational for you and your kids. Pick up a local identification guide before you head out to a local park and see how many plants, animals, and insects you can spot! Remember, sometimes the most awesome discoveries are right under your nose. Take a closer look on leaves, under rocks, and between branches to discover a whole new micro world.
4. Take a dip. Wildlife in Calgary’s parks doesn’t just live on land - there is a whole new world waiting to be discovered just beneath the surface of your local pond or wetland. Take a net down to the water to see what you can find! Children are especially fascinated with the little critters that make up the bottom of the food chain. There are plenty of online resources that can help you identify the creatures you may uncover. Remember to thoroughly clean, drain, dry your gear between each use of pond dipping to reduce the spread of aquatic invasives, and make sure that where you’re dipping is safe to do so!
5. Plant providers. Plants and trees often get overlooked when exploring wildlife. Our leaf-y friends are actually the star of Mother Nature’s show and without them, there wouldn’t be much life at all! They provide homes, food, and oxygen for all the animals around. Talk about a one stop shop! While exploring the fauna in local parks, don’t forget to explore the flora.
If you want to learn more about what your local park has to offer, consider joining a guided walk through a park. There are some superb and affordable tours throughout Calgary that will educate the family on the natural beauty of a local area.
Bow Habitat Station is an Alberta Environment and Parks facility located in the heart of Calgary. Investigate, explore, and discover Alberta’s fish, wildlife, water and aquatic ecosystems through hands-on exhibits in the Discovery Centre, meet Alberta’s native fish in the aquariums, catch a whopper in the Trout Pond, or spot urban wildlife while strolling through the Interpretive Wetland. For more information, visit bowhabitat.alberta.ca.
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