Map identifies Calgary fairy homes, telegraph poles and forgotten barns

You might know where the nearest corner store or dental office is in your community — but what about those quirky and hidden gems?

Crescent Heights interactive project brings community together by engaging residents

It could pass for an old shed or garage, but Richard Lee-Thai, left, and Kevin Jesuino are actually standing beside an old livery barn in Crescent Heights. (Helen Pike/CBC)

You might know where the nearest corner store or dental office is in your community — but what about those quirky elements and hidden gems?

The interactive community asset map started on plain old paper during a few place-making sessions that the Crescent Heights Community Association hosted this spring. Kevin Jesuino, the community engagement co-ordinator, said they began asking residents to plot their favourite spots in the community during three workshops.

Then, after more meetings and more plotting, residents had an analog map. This is where Richard Lee-Thai came in. He was put in charge of digitizing the project.

He said residents were integral to his work developing the map.

Quirky community facts

"I've met with one resident who I've been going on weekly walks with around the community, and she's very knowledgeable of all these secret spots since she's been a resident here for many years," he said.

The project has also enlisted the help of Alan Zakrison, a local historian who has shed light on the community's past — standing or not.

"Like this barn here that we're standing at … he pointed me to a link where we could find out more about what this is," Lee-Thai said. "A city employee used to work here and this barn housed the horses that used to plow the Centre Street Bridge."

While the map includes very practical community assets like coffee shops, restaurants and parks, it also gives you a sense of some of Crescent Heights' quirky elements.

An ode to the 'King of Pop'

One, submitted by Zakrison, is a Michael Jackson memorial plaque. He wrote that it appeared three years after the "King of Pop" passed away. Passersby might notice a rose on the plaque — that's because two women go to the site weekly to pay respects, according to the historian.

The community's historic trees and homes also dot the map along with a flowering crabapple tree, a wintertime snow mountain, a big birdhouse and a random old-time telegraph post.

This Crescent Heights residence has a telegraph pole in the front yard. (Supplied/Richard Lee-Thai)

Something you might miss when walking by a house: the map includes a fairy door hidden in plain sight.

"A few of our residents established a fairy door project," Jesuino said. "They are scattered through the whole neighbourhood, they actually keep moving … there are all these little things."

Jesuino said the map is getting people out of their own homes and into the neighbourhood. And people are actually learning about their community.

"You're able to like engage online, you're able to see it all online," he said. "And then it's encouraging you, hopefully, to get outside your house. And while you're doing that, hopefully, talk to some strangers and talk to people."

This isn't just a little free library. It has seating, too, for readers to perch and peruse. (Supplied/Richard Lee-Thai)

Rebecca Dakin, communications specialist with the Federation of Calgary Communities, said these initiatives are a great way to bolster localized economies — and showcase why residents love their neighbourhoods.

"Communities in Calgary sometimes feel like little small towns in a big urban city," Dakin said. "Looking at this map, Crescent Heights really exemplifies that because it is built by residents for residents. So it's not your typical map."

Other communities interested

She said community associations have opportunities to become the hubs of community life, and Crescent Heights is doing a great job of engaging and inspiring residents.

Coun. Druh Farrell said these sorts of projects are really exciting and she thinks it helps to highlight what kind of things are available in the community to people who don't live there.

"What I'm hearing is a lot of neighbourhoods are thinking of doing something similar," said Farrell.