The city of Calgary has added a new park to its repertoire, one with a special focus on teens and youth mental health.
On Saturday, Parks Foundation celebrated the official opening of the Brawn Family Foundation Rotary Park — a park dedicated to enhancing mental health that the foundation said was the first of its kind in the province.
Located next to the Summit, a mental health services centre for children and youth, the park is geared particularly toward teens and includes a bouldering wall, swinging hammocks and a walking labyrinth.
Sheila Taylor, CEO at Parks Foundation, said the consideration of what teens would be interested in guided the design of the park.
"We looked at a lot of mental health research in youth, and [thought about] what could we create in an outdoor space that would help mental health recovery," she said.
"Then we matched that with research into what teens are looking for."
Taylor said this led to the creation of a space that includes both meditative elements, like swinging benches that allow users to reconnect with the nature around them, as well as recreational zones like a basketball court.
"We all know physical activity is really important to youth mental health recovery," she said,
"So there's a lot of everything here, but it is about appealing to teens and getting them outside."
Sheila Taylor, CEO at Parks Foundation, said the special hammocks installed at the park were inspired by similar ones in Halifax that line that city's boardwalk. (Terri Trembath/CBC)
Taylor said the Parks Foundation received about $1.5 million to build the park from several donors, including the Brawn Family foundation, the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation and the Flames Foundation.
There was an additional $150,000 from the City of Calgary.
The result is a project that ended up being much larger in scope than they originally anticipated, said Taylor.
Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong, whose jurisdiction encapsulates the park, said he's focused on making sure that the park remains accessible to families in the neighbourhood and that those who use it feel safe to do so.
The park is close to Lions Park CTrain station, where a violent altercation earlier this year led to a woman being hospitalized with life-threatening injuries and renewed calls for increased patrols in the surrounding area by Calgary Police and community peace officers.
"One of the concerns that we had was the people who are coming to use the facilities may be accompanied by parents, but sometimes could be by themselves," said Wong.
"Walking from the Lions Park LRT station here, you know, is a bit of a risk."
Wong said one of the measures the city is considering is cutting low-hanging tree branches to ensure a clear line of sight in the surrounding areas.
He added that the opening of parks like this in inner city neighbourhoods helps revitalize spaces and make older communities attractive to young families again.
Taylor thinks that many of the design features implemented in the park could be repeatable in other city parks.
"We would love to see other spaces designed and built with mental health in mind and also places that are built for teenagers," she said.
"So much of what we have learned and done in this park can be done elsewhere."