Woodbine is wonderful!

By: Richard White / November 2, 2013

Calgary is blessed with a wonderful array of communities from estate enclaves to urban villages.  City building is not just about attracting the “young and restless” i.e. “creative class” to your city, it is also about attracting and retaining executives and their families who might want a big house and yes a three-car garage. Estate living is every bit a part of city building as is urban villages in the city centre or at transit stations. 

This estate home in Woodbine backs onto Fish Creek Park offering sweeping views of the valley from the back deck.   

Calgary communities built from the ’60 to the ‘90s (established communities) with their big homes, large lots and front car garages are currently not in favour with City Council and planners, yet they are very popular with citizens of Calgary.  

Did you know Calgary boasts 14 million dollar communities i.e. communities with an average selling price of over one million dollars and five are over two million.  Almost all of the million dollar communities were built in the ‘60s to the ‘80s. What does that tell us?

While current urban gurus are touting the importance of walkable communities using community “walkscores” (a rating system that determines how close you are to things like grocery stores, cafes and shopping, transit service, schools, recreation centers and professional services) as a means of measuring a communities desirability. What they are missing is that these amenities are not as important to everyone. 

Estate homes along the Fish Creek north bluff offer homeowners a tranquility that is very desirable for many executive families or young retirees.  For many retirees there is no longer a need to go downtown everyday or functions in the evening.  More and more time is spent at home.

For many, the access to a dog park is the most important amenity; especially given people are now walking their dog two and three times a day. For others, a quiet place to walk in nature several times a week is just as important as a grocery store. Did you know that bird watching is one of the fastest growing recreational activities? Where better to bird watch than near a major park or natural reserve?

Who needs a café when you can create a crema at home better than most baristas in the city? Who needs a street patio with noisy traffic, smelly fumes and hard chairs when you have a quiet deck with sweeping views and soft seating? 

Imagine having these trails in your backyard for walking, hiking, snow shoeing or cross-country skiing.  Who needs a recreation centre when you have this just minutes away.  

One hidden gem for estate living in Calgary is the southwest community of Woodbine. While Woodbine is not anywhere near the being a million-dollar community, there are numerous homes along the northern bluff of Fish Creek Park that definitely qualify as a “millionaires row” with spectacular backyard views of the park and mountains. 

In particular, Woodpath Estates in the extreme southwest corner of Woodbine is a county oasis in the city.  I am told rarely do these large three-car garage homes each with million dollar backyard views of Fish Creek Park come up for sale.  Why? Because they are very desirable to Calgarians who want a country-like home in the city.   

Not only do the Woodbine estate home owners have access to Fish Creek but they will also have the 131 km Calgary Greenway at their backdoor. 

While urban gurus would look at Woobine’s walkscore of 27 (best score is 100) and rank its desirability very low.  Woodpath Estates with no sidewalks and further from Woodbine’s great amenities -schools, parks, playing fields, a local shopping centre with a Safeway and a pub – would rank even lower.  However, for some it is the ideal place to live.

City building is about building a diversity of homes and communities that reflects the different values and desires of its citizens.   We need to embrace the development of “estate living” like Woodpath Village, as much as we do East Village. 

Estate living.....

Grassi Lakes Trail Treasure Hunting

By Richard White, September 2, 2013

Today we did something we don't do very often - we hiked in the mountains. For us hiking is almost always in the city, the closest we get to nature normally is walking along the Bow River near our house or maybe we might venture to Glenmore Reservoir for a walk with friends.  

However, an invite from friends to come out to Canmore for our regular first Sunday dinner and hike the next day was something we couldn't refuse. 

After a hearty breakfast, a couple of cups of coffee, water bottle filled and sandwiches made we headed out and were on the trail by 10 am.  Lucky for us as who knew how busy the trail would get by noon hour.  


No we didn't climb this mountain but we found people who were climbing up rock faces like this one.  It was a beautiful day in Rockies. 

Grassi Lakes was designated as one of Alberta's Special Places in 2000.  It is named after Lawrence Grassi who emigrated to Canmore in 1912.  While he worked in the coal minds his real love was mountain climbing.  He is said to have been the first person to climb Mount Assiniboine in 1925.  He was an avid trail builder, moving huge stones single-handley to construct steps, bridges or simple stepping stones.  Grassi Lake trail is his signature mountain trail and evidence of his work can be found in several places along the trail. 

A view of the trail and one of the rustic benches along the way.  It is hard to imagine how Lawrence Grassi could have envision a trail up to the lakes through the virgin forrest a 100 years ago. Let alone build it! 

Grassi Lakes trail is a moderate walk with a 250 meter elevation gain and a round trip of 3.8 km.  Along the route you get to enjoy spectacular views of the Bow River valley at Canmore and the Canadian Rockies.  At the top are two colourful crystal clear lakes which make a great place for a picnic.  

The rock cliffs surrounding the upper lake is a very popular spot for rock climbing which is fun and amazing to watch. A short scramble above the upper lake takes you to a short canyon hike and  a very close look at two genuine petroglyphs on a large boulder.   

I have to admit you don't get this kind of scenery or animation walking along the Bow River.    



A view of the lower lake takes your breath away. It is magical, surreal and enchanting all at the same time. You can see why this was named an Alberta Special Place in 2000.  What took them so long? 

A postcard view of the upper Grassi Lake with its crystal clear aquamarine colour water.  Yes it looks surreal. 

A group of rock climbers at the upper Grassi Lake.  This was just one of about five or six groups showing off their death defying skills. 

The start of the trail up the canyon to the top. 

This is the better of the two petroglyph images.  There was lots of speculation about how it got there and who did it by the people looking at it.  To me it looks like a drum dancer. 

We were lucky we got to top before the lunch crowd as the trail was extremely busy as we descended.  People and dogs of all shapes and sizes where heading up as we headed down. On the way up I had identified a piece of weathered wood that I thought would make a great addition for the garden back home.  I don't think my hiking companions thought I would carry it out - wrong. I knew where it was and I knew how to carry it out.  I got lots of funny looks and comments as I headed down with the wood wrapped around my head, but it was worth it.  I have to have a great souvenir of the day.  I love to get a souvenir from each and every trip we take. I am addicted to the "thrill of the hunt."  

Yes this is me carrying my piece of wood down the trail to take home for our garden.  Who could pass up a treasure like this one?

As part of the climb we got very close to this waterfall and there are several places where you have to cross small streams / waterfalls.  For a moderate walk, easy climb Grassi Lakes has a lot to offer.   

This photo gives you a sense of the wonderful vistas you get of the town of Canmore, the  mountains and the valley along the trail.  

If you like this blog you might like: 

Discouver Calgary's Secret Heritage Trail 

Forensic Walks In Calgary  

Calgary: City of Parks & Pathways  

George Webber: Prairie Gothic Images

Being an everyday tourist