Inglewood Wildlands has been a controversial work in progress since the early beginnings of Calgary's development.
To say the ≈32 hectares (78 acres) of land comprising Inglewood Wildlands have a controversial history might be an understatement. The controversy has continued for decades but Calgary's eternal optimism refuses to discard the possibility of turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. My money is on eventual success.
The unassuming plot of land lies west of the railroad spur, Sanctuary Road, SE and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. There is a bit of old paved parking and a signboard above the chain link fence which surrounds what began as part of the Colonel James Walker estate and became a polluting oil refinery and bitumen plant between 1939 and 1979. The complex saga is long with many twists and turns. Beneath the map is comprehensive text which provides overview history and an understanding of features created in the transformation of the land from oil refinery to public park.
The sign provides a map which identifies the location of revised features. The property image and quality has declined with substantially less forest than indicated by the map but the opportunity remains to enjoy a fascinating inner-city walk through history. Time is well taken to study the map and to plot a course from the high point on Lookout Hill created by earth removed to create the Pond.
Clear path from the main gate near the sign leads directly up the hill on shallow ascent to the obvious shelter and cairn. Initial time spent here at the lookout provides the opportunity to inventory the layout of the land and plot a hiking course. There is a reasonably civilized dirt road around the property's periphery.
One choice begins a clockwise-like route around the whole property by hiking from the top of Lookout Hill towards the tree-surrounded hydrocarbon recovery tanks clearly visible in the south-east..
Continuing along the east and south periphery passes the Separator Ditch and the Thornbush Thickets. On the corner sweep north, grassland has replaced most of former field groves and there is little to no evidence of old trails throughout the grassland. From the west border, an off-trail jaunt across knee-height grass field arrives at the pond and wetland area. There is no water evident but far more prolific tree and shrubbery growth indicates moisture collects in the area.
An old, overgrown viewing platform is weathered and sagging from neglect but a rock-mounted brass plaque near the entrance reminds of the important contribution made by Karin Geringswald of the Calgary Field Naturalists' Society.
Glimpses into the wetland area on the clockwise sweep around the periphery of the feature reveal a wide variety of plants and shrubs in undulating terrain on the off-trail route towards the derelict electrical structure. On the approach to the old, chain-link fenced, brick and metal electrical structure, a hawk circles above and issues loud warning calls. The approach may be threatening a nest with young but proximity which might motivate an attack does not occur.
From the electrical structure, off trail through level grassland leads across the Plain and past interesting plants to good path toward the forest thicket at the northwest corner. Evidence of old tank circles seems to be gone but lingering evidence of the Wild Berry Orchard and the Cottonwood Grove create a colorful wandering experience near the periphery where residential development peeks through beyond the surrounding fence.
All that remains is the return hike on decent path along the north border of Inglewood Wildlands to the parking area exit.
For an extensive and well-written history of the development of this important historical area, excellent information has been assembled on the developing website for Inglewood Wildlands in a section under the 'History' tab. Ongoing and new initiatives are underway to combine and develop a number of local natural resources into a major new and revised City of Calgary Park.
The expanded park is slated to be called Bend in the Bow and will include the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Inglewood Wildlands, Pearce Estate Park and River Passage Park plus open spaces between these areas to create a large and impressive recreational green space along the Bow River.
Photographs for this post about Inglewood Wildlands were captured on Sunday, July 24, 2016.