Citizen survey asks if scenic Calgary road should stay closed

Citizens are gauging interest in keeping Crescent Road N.W. closed or continuing to limit vehicle access after COVID-19 physical distancing concerns subside.

After crowding concerns emerged in April, the Calgary Emergency Management Agency restricted access to the popular lookout point, also known as McHugh Bluff.

Barriers went up to prevent vehicle access, keeping the area wide open for people to walk, bike and enjoy the extra space while physically distancing without car traffic. 

In an April video shared by the Calgary Eyeopener on Twitter, at least a dozen vehicles are seen parked on the scenic road, while other cars get stuck in a traffic jam to get through the area. Music is blasting and people are gathering on the metal railings that line the street. 

But residents said bad behaviour on the bluff has been an issue for years. 

Rick Prestegard lives on the road. He described the nightly scene before the shutdown went into effect. He said trucks would drive up and down the road with their tailgates down, obscuring licence plates. 

"After 10, 20 years living like this with all these people screaming at night, coming out here partying — they never talk quietly, never ever talk quietly," he said. "It's always mother ducking this, what are you up to and everything else." 

Helen Pike/CBC

He hopes the city can work with residents for a permanent solution. After COVID-19 measures shut down the stretch, he sees people flocking to the area in a friendly manner. There are kids riding bikes, joggers, walkers and a lot of positive activity keeping drug activity and other disorder away. He'd like to keep the road this way.  

A group of citizens are circulating an online survey. Questions surround whether or not the barriers put up because of physical distancing concerns should stay, or if other options could help give residents in the area some reprieve. 

Suggestions include turning Crescent Road into a one-way street, limiting parking on the stretch and exploring a full or partial closure to vehicles. 

Community Association supports closure option

The Crescent Heights Community Association shared the survey on its Facebook page, underlining it was created by a separate group of residents without ties to the association. 

"We do support exploring the possibility of making the temporary closure of Crescent Road permanent," says the post.

Miriam Roberts moved to the area a few months ago. She sees no negatives to shutting down the street permanently.

"I think it would be absolutely wonderful for the tourism of Calgary because it's showcasing this spectacular view," Roberts said. "Our family has definitely utilized it." 

It's a pleasant walk she takes every day, sometimes twice a day, and the extra space was where her daughter learned how to ride her bike. 

Councillor says some COVID measures could stick

Coun. Druh Farrell has heard positive reviews from residents in Crescent Heights and surrounding areas like Sunnyside. She said that over the years the road has seen more and more traffic and disorder. 

Farrell said the city will monitor Crescent Road closure impacts over the summer — to see what happens with traffic and parking in the area. 

"What we're learning through COVID is how to adapt quickly," Farrell said. "Some measures may remain, the community is exploring this and it will be interesting to observe the pilot over the summer."