GREEN SPACES & PATHWAYS IN OKOTOKS
The Town of Okotoks has a large amount of green space, including municipal parks, playgrounds, natural areas, urban forests and the river valley, and an extensive network of pathways. This is just one more way that Okotoks earns it’s reputation for being family-oriented, providing many opportunities for healthy lifestyles through outdoor recreation.
Residents consistently report that open spaces are important on their list of priorities to develop the kind of community they want to live in.
Okotoks demonstrates it’s commitment in many unique ways. It does not just have a Parks Department – it has an Open Spaces team that provides professional care for parks, pathways, playgrounds, outdoor recreation facilities, natural spaces, and trees.
Residents of Cimarron in Okotoks are fortunate that the northeast border of the community butts against the Sheep River and the river valley, providing a link to the major arteries of the Town’s pathway system. Within this community there are several parks, including Grisdale, Thompson, Tillotson, Hayes, and Cimarron Park.
Cimarron is also bordered on the west, north and east boundaries with pathways. There are multiple pathway connections within the community as well, including the Cimarron Parkway which runs north-south through the middle of the community.
The Okotoks Open Spaces team actively encourages dialogue with residents on parks and natural areas stewardship, vegetation management and urban forests. They also share their expertise for the greater benefit of the community by making themselves available through a blog and a hotline to consult with residents on questions related to water conservation, care for new sod and new trees, horticulture, eco-friendly pest management for lawn and gardens, and sustainability.
Open Spaces manicures over 300 acres including grass cutting, irrigation, fertilization, and weed control (using sound Integrated Pest Management strategies). Not at all bad for a community of just 24,962 residents (as of May 2012).
Included in that 300 acres are 92 parks, 46 playgrounds, 13 ball diamonds, 21 soccer fields, and 5 football fields. Park amenities include 13 ball diamonds, 3 tennis courts, 3 multi-sport courts, 1 running track, 1 BMX track, 1 skateboard park and 5 outdoor skating rinks.
When you have an opportunity, check out the Town’s xeriscaping demonstration sites at the Okotoks Recreation Centre, Recycling Centre and Seaman Stadium. Xeriscaping is the science of landscaping for water conservation. These non-irrigated sites are planted with drought-resistant turf mixes, ornamental grasses, and other drought-resistant plants.
On a sunny day you will also enjoy a visit to the heritage garden at the Heritage House, the Voluntree Grove at Kinsmen Park and the water features at Suntree Park.
The Healthy Okotoks Coalition Community Garden was developed and is currently operated by the Healthy Okotoks Coalition (HOC), a non-profit society that was formed as a “healthier communities” partnership between the Town of Okotoks and Headwaters Health Authority. Membership is open to anyone interested in community wellness initiatives.
The Community Garden is located at the east end of McRae Street. Raised garden beds are available for residents to grow organic produce. A small fee is charged to cover the cost of water, for more information on the Community Garden please contact the FCSS Assistant at 403-995-2773.
Another initiative of the Healthy Okotoks Coalition is the GO2 Program, launched in 2007 to promote the health benefits of daily physical activity. With the support of the Community Services Group, programs like this one encourage residents to be aware of the importance of physical fitness and activity, plus healthy lifestyles for all ages!
The Okotoks Active Transportation Committee play a role to increase awareness with initiatives such as handing out brochures to users of parks and pathways and asking for feedback on active transportation opportunities in the community, (pathways, sidewalks, etc).
The 49km pathway system is designed to accommodate many modes of active transportation, such as walking, cycling, wheeling, in-line skating, and skateboarding, and connects virtually every corner of Okotoks. The map for the pathway system includes sample walking/running/cycling routes, important landmarks and buildings, as well as a km legend to give approximate distances between various points throughout town. It also contains great information about local wildlife, dogs in parks, safety information and tips for sharing the path.
Copies of the trail map can be found at the Okotoks Recreation Centre, the Municipal Centre or the Visitor Centre.
For dog owners, you’ll be interested to know that Okotoks has 38 acres of space designated for exercise and activity for you and your pet, open from sunrise to sunset.
The Off Leash Dog Park is located south of the Drake Landing Storm Pond. Check out the Off Leash Dog Park webpage online for a map on how to get to the park. Dogs are not permitted off leash in natural areas or the River Valley.
In 2010, the Town of Okotoks began an annual installion of Birth Place Forests to represent the newest citizens of Okotoks for that year. These will grow into groves that can be enjoyed by people for many years to come.
The first Birth Place Forest is located at the south end of Cimarron Parkway accessible from Cimarron Park Green. It is a mixture of aspen, spruce, Douglas Fir and limber pine.
Along with the rapid growth and development of Okotoks in recent years, the urban forest is also increasing rapidly. The Town’s Urban Forest Management Plan identifies species selection and planting specifications, and sets long-term goals for conserving water, minimizing run-off, diminishing pest and disease loss, and reducing maintenance costs while growing a beautiful, healthy, strong forest asset.
This is just one example of the long-term view and careful planning that the Town of Okotoks invests in it’s green assets.