Bridgeland residents fight vandals and crime with art and acts of kindness

Over the last few months, the neighbourhood of Bridgeland has seen a spike in vandalism and petty crime. Residents, however, are taking matters into their own hands, fighting back with art and acts of kindness.

Arsons, graffiti have plagued inner-city neighbourhood in recent months

Kids from Langevin school decorate the 4th Avenue flyover abutment in Bridgeland as part of a community drive to combat vandalism and petty crime. (Elaine Hordo)

Over the last few months, some residents in the neighbourhood of Bridgeland has noted a spike in vandalism and petty crime, but they're taking matters into their own hands and fighting back with art and acts of kindness.

"We've been focused on a few creative projects that we can do as local community members, to basically show ownership over our community," Ali McMillan, the planning and development director for the Bridgeland Community Association, told the Calgary Eyeopener.

In February, two fires occurred at a home along McDougall Road N.E. The home had recently been declared unfit for human habitation for a host of reasons, including unsafe sleeping conditions, clogged plumbing, and holes in the walls, ceiling and windows.

Two other homes along the same street were also declared derelict.

Some in the neighbourhood noted an increase in vandalism and graffiti.

This house and garage in the community of Bridgeland/Riverside was targeted twice last week by arsonists. (Mark Vasquez-Mackay)

"That got the attention of people in the neighbourhood, thinking 'this is not normal for our neighbourhood,'" McMillan said.

Now, residents are working together on a number of initiatives, including a pop-up market, chalk drawings and also cleaning up existing graffiti.

"Bridgeland is a redeveloping community, so we have a lot of empty lots that are boarded up, waiting for condos to be built, and so areas that don't have a lot of traffic or eyes on the street have become areas where people are doing undesirable things," McMillan said.

"We've been trying to think of strategies to activate those areas, get people out there and show our presence," she added.

Young Bridgeland residents gather to show their support for their community. The neighbourhood is using art and community events to combat vandalism in the area. (Ali McMillan)

Underneath the 4th Avenue flyover, one resident wrote, "Why do you love Bridgeland" in chalk on the often-vandalised abutments. 

"People have now been adding to it and saying all the things they love about our community and it's actually spread all the way up the abutment in a form of removable public art," McMillan said. 

A group of kids have also "adopted" one of the parks in the neighbourhood. It's located in an alleyway and is rarely used, McMillan said. 

"Some kids have adopted it in the name of a pipe cleaner tree. They've made creative flowers and insects and all these interesting things out of pipe cleaners and hung them in the tree," she said. Other residents are encouraged to do the same. 

Pipe cleaner art, like this flower, is displayed at a park in Bridgeland (Elaine Hordo)

Groups of people are walking their dogs together through the neighbourhood, and others are working to set up pop-up style games on street corners.

"The neighbours are getting involved with each other, and we're feeling a real sense of pride in our community," McMillan said.

"You never know what's going to come in Bridgeland," she added. "Keep your eye out."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener