The Chestermere Historical Foundation aims to preserve and tell the lakeside city’s history for future generations, and they are planning a virtual presentation on the origins of Ralph Klein Park and Environmental Education Centre on Nov. 19.
According to Jen Peddlesden, president of the foundation, the group tries to regularly present programming to community members on different aspects of the history around Chestermere and the surrounding wetland communities.
She said the idea for the upcoming presentation stemmed from her own curiosity about how Ralph Klein Park works to keep Chestermere Lake clean.
“If you ask people in Chestermere where the water in Chestermere comes from, it’s amazing how few people have any idea where it comes from,” she said.
“We’ve got 20,000 people here, and lots of them have only just moved here and they see the lake and they might drive over one of the canals, but they don’t know [about it].”
Ralph Klein Park, a 30-hectare wetland park in east Calgary, is named after the former premier of Alberta and mayor of Calgary, Ralph Klein. According to the City of Calgary website, the man-made wetland was constructed for the sole purpose of improving stormwater quality before it enters the Bow River system.
Construction on the park began in 2009, and a private dedication ceremony was held in 2010 prior to the park’s official opening in June 2011.
Peddlesden said the Chestermere Historical Foundation, which was incorporated in 2011 and is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year, hopes to educate Chestermerians about where their water comes from, and how it is made as clean as possible.
“We always think, the more people know about the care of the wetlands and how important they are, the better we are,” she said.
She added she is also seeking additional information from anyone who may have been affected by the building of Ralph Klein Park, and hopes to cover all perspectives of the situation.
“I’ve had great difficulty finding any information [about] the quality of the water that was running into the canal that runs into Chestermere and then on to the rest of the Irrigation District,” she said.
The storm sewers in the east part of Calgary drain into a canal that begins at the Harvey Passage, and runs along the east side of the Bow River toward Chestermere.
When the canal was built in the early 1900s, City officials agreed the storm sewers would drain into the canal at a time when there were only tiny settlements outside of Calgary, according to Peddlesden.
“Come now to the 2000s, there’s a huge number of people on the east side of Calgary and the storm stewers are still running into that. Even with amelioration in the storm sewers, it was still really contaminating the canal water that was running into Chestermere Lake,” she explained.
She added the City of Chestermere, the Town of Strathmore, and the Western Irrigation District sued the City of Calgary over the quality of the water that was draining into the canal. The lawsuit was settled outside of court, and Ralph Klein Park was built to resolve concerns over water contamination.
“What happens now is they test the water coming down the canal from Harvey Passage down to the end of Calgary,” she said. “If there’s a big rainstorm, instead of letting the water run to Chestermere, it’s diverted to [Ralph Klein Park] and allowed to settle and clean there, and eventually runs back into the Bow River.
“The water is very much cleaner and I’m sure people who get the water that runs out to Chestermere to as far away as Cluny are all much happier.”
She added she is hoping to delve deeper into the history of Ralph Klein Park in preparation for the upcoming info session and would like to speak to anyone with more information regarding the creation of the park, or anyone who attended its private opening ceremony in 2010.
“Some of those citizens [in attendance] were ones, I believe, on whose land the park sits, and I would like to speak to any of them who might share their stories about the building of this project,” she said.
She added the Zoom presentation will be approximately one hour in length and anyone who is interested in learning more about the topic is eligible to attend.
While not yet advertised, further information will be available on the foundation’s website at chestermerehistoricalfoundation.org
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