The crowd may have been a touch small for the grand opening of the Riverfront Park, Aug. 29, yet that doesn’t reflect the popularity of the Bow River green space. Chances are more people were utilizing the park’s amenities than attending the ceremony.
With most of the project finished on time and within its $3 million budget, Suzanne Gaida, Cochrane’s senior manager of community services , said she is excited to see folks enjoying the park, which has been in the works since 2012.
“I’m always happy to see people come out,” said Gaida. “Even though it was windy, the weather held and it wasn’t as smoky so I think people just wanted to get outside.”
The ceremonies opened with music from the Cochrane Pipe Band as people gathered around a stage decorated with branches from the park’s construction and artwork created by children from summer art camp.
Jack Tennant, recipient of the 2015 Order of Cochrane, was the master of ceremonies and opened with a speech about the connection between nature and humanity represented in the park.
“It is a symbol of human connectivity, peace and a place to pay homage to mother nature,” said Tennant.
To represent the themes of connectivity to nature, Irene Twoyoungmen from Morley delivered a Stoney traditional prayer to the Eagles to bless the park and give guidance to all the people who use it.
The prayer was followed with a talk from Walter McDonald White Bear, a native cultural ambassador and musician, about the medicine wheel, or the circle of life, which is a cosmic blueprint representing all of creation, the four nations of humanity and Mother Nature.
“To us, Mother Earth is a living, breathing human being,” said McDonald White Bear. “To us, she is alive.
Cam Westead, NDP MLA for Banff-Cochrane, spoke of the government’s election promise to protect the land, air and water.
“I’m incredibly proud to be here today to celebrate a local project that’s doing just that,” said Westhead.
The theme of nature’s university has been connected with Chief Walking Buffalo who was an emissary for peace, forgiveness and human understanding, said Westhead.
“This new park perfectly exemplifies this idea,” said Westhead. “By taking a few minutes to unplug and reconnect with nature, we are allowing ourselves an opportunity to grow and reflect.”
Mayor Ivan Brooker spoke of the original park design in 2012 and the flood of 2013, which caused a delay in building but changed the design that benefited the longevity of the park.
The town was able to see how the flood impacted the area and constructed a park better equipped to deal with a flood.
“Now we have a park that’s not just hugely beneficial to our residents and out visitor, but as well it will withstand Mother Nature if those disasters ever come again,” said Brooker.
Other members of town council in attendance were Morgan Nagel and Mary Lou Davis.
Bill McLean, the son of Chief Walking Buffalo, made an appearance at the event to discuss the relation with his father and Cochrane.
He recalls making the trip to the town on horseback with his father for the first time when he was a boy of six or seven years old.
“After that, I’ve been coming to Cochrane every year,” said McLean. “I’ve always felt that Cochrane has been a hometown as well.”
The events continued on with traditional native dancers from Morley, pond discoveries and guided nature walks.
With a few minor elements like signs and structures like the Griffin Rd. underpass and the Wetland Walks, which was held up by nesting birds and heavy weather, the park is very near completion.
“They didn’t want to damage stuff more than they needed to,” said Gaida. “Hopefully within the next couple weeks [the Wetland Walks] will be able to get finished.”
The drive for the creation of Riverfront Park originated with the council of Mayor Truper McBride. It was part of his 2010 election platform and it was his council that approved the project and originally allocated $2 million in funding in December 2012.
He believed in the need to showcase Cochrane’s significant connection the Bow River and to allow for continued accessibility by public.
In April 2012, he wrote, “By planning ahead, council will be able to create natural protected areas within new river front park space in conjunction with opportunities for active recreation. These spaces will provide habitat and green open areas as well as numerous social, economic and environmental goods and services for the people of Cochrane.”
Read the Cochrane Times article here.