Central Memorial Park revamp award


Calgary parks director Anne Charlton and CMP project manager Michelle Reid accept the ARPA parks excellence award from CFO Seve Allan.  [photo by Beltline]









Calgary excellence recognizedMore than 500 recreation and parks professionals from around Alberta saw Calgary parks director Anne Charlton accept the prestigious Parks excellence award at an Alberta Parks and Recreation Association dinner event at Chateau Lake Louise last Saturday.

The award went to the City of Calgary's remake of the historic Central Memorial Park in Beltline.

Park project manager Michelle Reid who oversaw the design and construction of the park restoration was also on stage.





Construction of the original park was completed in 1912 along with the well known Carnegie library on the site. Over the years, the park went through several redevelopments. At one time, there was a grandstand at the west end of the park and private areas for socializing dotted the south side. Notable monuments including the Cenotaph, the South African war memorial, and Calgary's eternal flame are located on the site.

Improvements to Central Memorial Park were a long time coming. By the early years of the millennium, the park was 'tired' and badly in need of help. "There were police cars driving on the lawn and drug dealing, prostitution and homeless people sleeping in park," says Beltline Communities president Rob Taylor.

Having identified Central Memorial as a key revitalization project for the Beltline district some years earlier, Beltline Communities and the (then) Victoria Crossing BRZ organized a steering committee to make a plan that would reawaken the park. [see Rediscovering the Centre and Safe Streets Safe City]

Then library trustee chair Bruce Green had seen New York's Bryant park, an area improved by introducing a lawn, events stage and restaurant behind New York public library's main branch. He and then Alderman Madeleine King suggested that this was a place to start.

The CMP steering committee brought in landscape architects, Provincial and City heritage expertise, veterans groups, the library, City parks officials, Beltline residents and business owners to conceive a plan for the future of CMP. A series of meeting and several public open houses were held.

       A packed Mount Temple dining room for the ARPA awards dinner.


The CMP steering committee's work was completed in 2004. [see CMP: A conceptual proposal for redevelopment]

City Council then approved the steering committee report and got project implementation rolling. The Calgary parks business unit included CMP in their work plan. Enmax legacy fund and later Beltline community investment fund financing supported the project's budget.

Michelle Reid's design & build team was headed by heritage architect Lorne Simpson, landscape architect Len Novak and horticulturalist Donna Balzer. The team coordinated the many design professionals, construction contractors and trades people necessary to complete the project.

From the beginning, everyone involved agreed that restoring as much of the character the original landscape design for the park, especially in the central oval, was essential. The fountains originally imagined for the park were included in the design. The overall landscape plan reflects the 100 year plus old thinking of the Town of Calgary public works committee formed by 19th century Northwest Territories Superintendant William Pierce and improves on the twentieth century enhancements later added to the park.

Twenty-first century ideas are also part of the new park's plan.  A shallow memorial walk and fountain that double as a children's water play area was added. So were a full service restaurant, computer controls for the three fountains, and lighting as well as infrastructure to support stage and market events in the park.

As with any major project, there were some 'bumps in the road' The peak of 2007 economic activity escalated construction costs and contractors were sometimes difficult to find. Nevertheless, Michelle and her team persevered to complete a masterful mix of heritage preservation and contemporary appeal.

Central Memorial Park project manager Michelle Reid





The Central Memorial Park plan includes substantial heritage elements of the original landscape design and preservation of the park's seven monuments including the Cenotaph.

There is also a restaurant building -- currently the hugely successful Boxwood Cafe -- a Parks service building, extensive lighting, three computer controlled fountains, and infrastructure to support events.




HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands with her husband Pieter van Vollenhoven and Mayor Dave Bronconnier.[photo by Beltline Buzz]

Central Memorial Park reopened on May 14, 2010 with Canadian born Dutch royalty in attendance.


          Ceremonies and speeches at the opening. [photo by Beltline Buzz]


The impetus to redevelop Central Memorial Park came from the community.  Ongoing engagement and collaboration between community and excellent implementation work by City Parks made a project a huge success.



Parks director Anne Charleton and Belline president Rob Taylor celebrate the award. [photo by Michelle Reid]

Parks director Anne Charlton and Beltline president Rob Taylor celebrate the award.


Central Memorial remains a ceremonial and commemorative park today. But it is also a year-round respite for Beltline residents and workers, an enjoyable place for lunch or dinner, and a venue for events and markets.

The park's revamp has returned it to its historical role as Calgary's preeminent urban park space.








The eternal flame near the Cenotaph at CMP

More on beltline.ca about Central Memorial Park - CMP revitalization

- CMP heritage

- the Cenotaph

- the eternal flame

- South African War Memorial ['the horse']

- Louis Philippe Hebert  [the sculptor of 'the horse']

- who is the horseman?

- the ANZAC Memorial

- the Burma Star

- the 50th Battalion fountain

- the Legion medallion

- Memorial Park Library