Residents in the Calgary community of Eau Claire will soon have a new greenspace to explore but what many don’t realize is that the beautiful area also holds a practical purpose.

The West Eau Claire Park Public Realm Plan is a new public area that will stretch from the edge of Prince’s Island Park to the 10 Street Bridge.

The $10M project was funded by the city and the province and it includes a wide pathway, benches and a number of places where Calgarians can access the Bow River.

However, planners have also included a number of different features that will be vital in case the waters of that same river end up rising again like they did back in 2013.

“What we have here is flood mitigation work and it’s designed to also provide resiliency for the downtown, for adjacent residents and commercial zones in the area,” said Joyce Tang, program manager at Urban Strategy, with the City of Calgary.

Using a special set of earthworks, barriers and walls, they have managed to create a beautiful stretch of pathway for Calgary at the same time as providing flood mitigation. What makes it truly special is that all those preventative measures aren’t out in the open, blocking the view.

It’s designed to protect against a 200 year flood plus 0.5 m freeboard, parameters that exceed the limits reached back in 2013. That means that it will contain an event that is 35 percent larger than that disaster, with an allowance for even higher flow.

Tang says that the project isn’t all business.

“One of the things we did was we made a wider pedestrian pathway system and we improved the surfacing so we now have an even paver system for pedestrians on the Bow River side. So when you’re walking along the pathway system there is a lot of room to look at the ducks in the water or to even sit. We also added a separated bicycle system so it will be easier for cyclists as well.”

Georgie Stone, who has lived in Sunnyside since before 2013, says the redevelopment is beautiful.

“I really like the changes. These benches are really nice. It just makes you want to think that you’re at a lake. It’s a little bit of country in the city,” she says. “It’s nice that it’s wider and safer. That’s always been a concern mixing pedestrians with cyclists and dog walkers. It’s great. We love this part of the river.”

Taylen Gillis was also surprised to hear about how the flood mitigation work has been incorporated into the landscape. She recalls the chaos that ensued back in 2013.

“It was crazy. People were helping out wherever they could but it just seemed that there was a need for better infrastructure so I am glad they’re putting more attention into that.”

Tang says that residents and business owners in Calgary will also be able to appreciate the protection that the Eau Claire project provides.

“With the addition of all the flood mitigation work here, it certainly provides resiliency to their developments or to their homes and to their businesses. It not only provides the reassurance and safety [but also] that there is investment that the city has provided to the area, the space in the park itself also provides an amenity for them to use as well.”

The project is expected to be completed before the end of the year. You can find more information about it on the city’s website.

(With files from Alesia Fieldberg)