Calgary to reconnect Inglewood Bird Sanctuary with Bow River

In(let) the mud: The site of the new Bow River channel inlet in Calgary, on Saturday, April 16, 2022. The excavation of the inlet began in late March, and the city hopes to have it connected to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary by September of this year. (Photo by Pat Lemoine/The Press)

The city of Calgary is spending $6.7 million on the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (IBS) reconnection project, citing the need to replace outdated infrastructure and to improve water quality within the lagoon.

The IBS, initially founded in 1929 by Selby Walker, is an abode for both city-dwelling and migratory birds — as well as other assorted wildlife. Since its inception, 270 species of birds and 21 species of mammals have been recorded in the urban park, according to the city.

The project will have three stages; stage one having begun in late March of this year. This first stage consists of digging out an inlet from the Bow River into the sanctuary, as well as reshaping gravel bars affected by the 2013 floods.

The city also plans to use bioengineering techniques to combat the erosion of the sanctuary’s river banks, using natural materials to create a self-sufficient system once properly established.

“[Bioengineering is] a technique that we’ve been using in the last nine years since the flood, in terms of including willows and plants and vegetation mixed in with rock and other material to stabilize the slopes,” says René Letourneau, a senior project engineer for the city of Calgary’s Water Resources and Infrastructure Delivery team.

“Over time the plants, the roots, [they] literally bind to either the rock or whatever material and actually get stronger over time.”

Stage one is currently on track to be completed in September, but as the construction is being done within a bird sanctuary, it will ultimately depend on the behaviour of the incumbent wildlife.

“Once the nesting season is over, which we expect to be late August, we will . . . resume some of that work where we can,” said Letourneau, “September is probably a good estimate that the IBS channel is complete or near complete”.

Stage two will see the installation of an art piece that doubles as a bridge over the newly constructed channel, the so-called “log jam” display designed by artist Tim Knowles.

Stage three will involve the replacement of the sanctuary’s hydraulic outlets, which were built over 100 years ago. These outlets will facilitate travel through the pond and eliminate fish traps and will also be used to control water levels within the lagoon.

“The project will also reduce the risk of the Bow river diverting to the sanctuary,” said Letourneau, “which if that were to happen it could harm the park; it could damage the Colonel Walker house and the lagoon itself.”

The full project is slated to be completed by September 2024, after which it will undergo a five-year monitoring period. The city expects the IBS to be fully operational during that time, although parts will remain fenced off to promote the establishment of vegetation and to protect the nesting sites of birds.

Lagoon life: A pair of wood ducks float past a construction site at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (IBS) in Calgary, on Saturday, April 16, 2022. Parts of the IBS are currently fenced off as the city works to reconnect the sanctuary’s lagoon to the Bow River. (Photo by Pat Lemoine/The Press)
About Pat Lemoine 8 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Pat Lemoine worked as a writer for The Press in 2022.