Calgary

Bridgeland's 4th Avenue Flyover Park opens after years of planning

That space between Bridgeland-Riverside and the downtown core, underneath the Fourth Avenue flyover, has been reclaimed as a community playground and gathering space.

Area reclaimed as a community playground and gathering space

Bridgeland's 4th Avenue flyover playground is open and ready for kids. (Helen Pike/CBC)

What was a dirt patch under an overpass on the edge of Bridgeland-Riverside is now a playground with unique structures built for kids of all ages — and it even has a surprise or two in store for adults, too.

The Fourth Avenue Flyover Park, between Memorial Drive and McDougall Road N.E., was adopted by community members, who saw the dirt and concrete as an opportune place.

Before any funding or grant support, residents breathed some life into the forgotten space. They added small things, like paint and sculptures — then a ping-pong table.

Now, after years of dreaming, scheming, planning and waiting, the long-awaited playground is ready to use. 

"What I've been waiting for this whole time is to see people experience the park for the first time and to see people's excitement," said Ali McMillan, planning director with the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association.

The new playground has obstacles for little kids, areas for teenagers and even games for adults. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The first night the structures were accessible to the public, some kids who had watched construction daily stopped by to try out all of the different play areas.

"Kids were coming home from school with their backpacks on and they saw other kids in the park and they would just like drop their backpacks and run," McMillan said. "It was so heartwarming to see everybody really, really love the park."

Jennifer D'Amour came to the park on a chilly December morning with her two-year-old. The playground is near her family, and as a bonus there are coffee shops nearby. While her daughter is still too little for some parts of the playground, it's a great option for her as she grows, D'Amour said.

"I think it's important for the kids to have an option and to have something more dynamic, a more spread-out playground, especially now with what we're all sort of struggling with," D'Amour said.

"It looks like it's geared toward climbing, and kids get to be quite tactile, pulling up their own body weight. It looks like it encourages balance and agility. So we're really excited about it."

The project was built from the ground up, injected with ideas from students attending nearby Langevin School, working with University of Calgary's landscape architecture students. The City of Calgary helped with engagement on the idea in 2017. 

Once the concepts were put to paper, the community needed cash to make it happen. And so several grants and fundraisers, including help from the Calgary Parks Foundation, helped push the project into the construction phase.

Grade 6 students contributed to the project, along with the local community association and the University of Calgary. (University of Calgary)

McMillan said this isn't the grand opening the community had planned — with food trucks and music — but they hope to celebrate in style by next summer. 

And while the play structures are complete, there are more plans for the flyover, including murals and other ways for people to enjoy the space. 

"You'll notice there's games like shuffleboard, there's ladder toss, there's a tetherball, ping pong table. So all things that all ages can use," McMillan said. "The dream for the future is to have events in this space."

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