Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein and Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier pet an owl at the opening of a park named after Klein. ((CBC))

Ralph Klein is the first former Calgary mayor to have a park named after him in his lifetime after the city unveiled the wetlands space on Monday.

The 30-hectare Ralph Klein Park is south of Glenmore Trail S.E. at 84th Street S.E., part of a larger, 200-hectare constructed wetland.

"The name Ralph Klein is synonymous with Calgary — the two are inseparable. As mayor he led our city through good times and bad and spearheaded initiatives like the northeast LRT construction, building the new city hall and hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics," said Mayor Dave Bronconnier, who unveiled a plaque dedicating the park to Klein.

"As an avid outdoorsman, this park is a very fitting tribute to a man who gave much to serving Calgarians."


American artist Beverly Pepper created this sculpture as part of a new park named after Ralph Klein. ((CBC))

The $32-million greenspace — funded by ENMAX Corporation — includes an environmental education centre and a towering sculpture by American artist Beverly Pepper on a hill overlooking the park. 

She said a distinctive — and unintentional — feature of her sculpture is the sound it makes.

"What wasn't planned but what I'm so grateful for is that it sings. Did you know that? Well, I didn't know it either. When I came here yesterday and the wind was blowing, it has the most wonderful tone."

"This park will serve as a legacy for young and old. This is the first wetlands park in Alberta and I'm deeply honoured to have it named after me," said Klein, who served as Calgary's mayor from 1980 to 1989 and as Alberta premier from 1992 to 2006.

The park's wetlands use natural vegetation to treat storm water before it is discharged into the Bow River. The facility will officially open this fall.

"Not bad for the treatment of a storm sewage pond," Klein joked.