Don't be too quick to judge....

“Never judge a suburb community until the trees are taller than the houses,” is one of my mantras.  Recently, I was visiting a friend’s parents in Lakeview (perhaps best known as the home of Calgary's illustrious former Mayor and Premier, Ralph Klein) and couldn’t help but be in awe of the Lakeview’s urban forest, especially the majestic coniferous trees.  It felt like I was in a mountain village, yet I was only 10 minutes from Downtown. 

Lakeview was first annexed by the City of Calgary in 1956 and development began in 1962.  At that time it was at the edge of the city and was mostly treeless (like all prairie new housing developments), but after 50 years it is now an established suburb and one of Calgary’s most desirable neighbourhoods.  The name originates from its proximity to the Glenmore reservoir, which only in the prairies would they, call a “lake” and I am told no one actually has a view of the “lake.”

Amy Lonsberry, Community Association President likes to point out that there are many examples of multi-generational families living in Lakeview i.e. grandparent, parents and children all living in Lakeview.  “We have a tremendous sense of community pride and loyalty” she exclaims.  Lonsberry recently attended a presentation by Dr. Katherine Loflin, of the Knights Foundation whose research on communities shows that while schools, grocery stores and safety are important to making a community an attractive place to live, the three most important elements are: social offerings, aesthetics and places to meet. 

Lonsberry points out Lakeview has a wonderful array of social programs for people of all ages and backgrounds.  A quick check of the community newsletter and you find Halloween Dance, Christmas Party and Moonlight Skate, as well as regular Wine Appreciation and a Blarney Stone Pub nights.  There is also a strong tennis and soccer programs.  Lonsberry is quick to add, “our community benefits from a strong volunteer group that even includes teens and young adults.  Recently, I sent out a call for a number of volunteers for different projects and all but one position has been filled.”

The Community Hall and the surrounding field house, park, playground, soccer fields, community garden and outdoor rink are the heart and soul of the community.   Lakeview is also home to an amazing array of wildlife from bears to bobcats to skunks and raccoons, even the occasional cougar.  They even have their own resident bird watcher, Terry Waters who reports monthly on what birds have visited or taken up residence in the community.  I noted that 12 robins visited one bird feeder on January 3, 2013 and that they may or may not have a resident Great Horned Owl.  This is not surprising as the community borders on two larger parks North Glenmore Park and Weaslehead Flats.

The community offers everything from  modest 1960 bungalows to brand spanking new mansions.  After 50 years, many of the homes are undergoing major make-overs. Lakeview village the estate area is currently home to many multi-million dollar new home developments, both in modern and traditional architectural styles. While taking our friend’s parent’s dog for a walk, I was impressed by the many little pathways between the houses leading to hidden pocket parks with retro playground equipment.  These little pathways and parks further added to the mountain village charm of the community.

Lakeview Plaza built in the ‘60s sits almost in the middle of the community and is the only shopping destination. It fell on hard times in the ‘90s and they almost lost their grocery store. However, today the plaza has had a face-lift and now is a very attractive shopping centre with Sobey’s as its anchor.  It is also home to a bank, a pharmacy, new tenants like Bella Roma Pizza, Meez, Caffe Perfectto and established ones like Lakeview Bakery.  In many ways, Lakeview Plaza is the model for the ‘80s Glenmore Landing and the new Aspen Woods shopping centres.

However, not everything is rosy in Lakeview, as the community is struggling to understand what will be the impact of the Calgary Ring Road on their community.  However Lonsberry says the upside is that it has made the community strong and gotten people to talk about how important community is in Lakeview. 

Lonsberry is a testament to the Lakeview’s strong sense of volunteerism as she moved into the community only four years ago and is already President.  Perhaps it is fitting to give her the last word.  In the a recent newsletter she wrote,  “Lakeview is a special community. I have felt a connection with this community and my neighbours since moving here four years ago. I was drawn in by Lakeview’s mature trees (although at the time I had no idea just how many leaves could fall from a huge elm), the parks, the pathways, the schools, the ease of walking to the grocery store, and since the first neighbour knocked on our door I have come to get to know and love many of our neighbours.”

Lakeview a '60s community is blessed with numerous pathways to hidden pocket parks and playgrounds. After 40 years, the trees have matured to create wonderful canopies.

Example of the wonderful secret parks/playgrounds that are completely removed from the street. 

Example of retro playground equipment from the '60s. I am lucky enough to have 3 of these in my garden at home. Love that our 2 year old neighbour child has discovered them and wanders over to play on them.  

Sample of original homes in Lakeview estate area.

Sample of new infill homes, where old home has been knocked down and new modern home constructed. While not all in favour of this, it is healthy to have the next generation invest in established communities. It is part of a healthy evolution of a community.