Why was the SW ring road planned through a First Nation’s reserve? How did the Weaselhead come to be owned by the City of Calgary? Why are Unexploded Ordnance being found in the Elbow river valley?
Join me on this year’s Jane’s Walk through a beautiful and historic part of Calgary.
This is the fourth year that I will be leading the walk, and it will be a chance to talk about everything I cover on this blog; to look at the history of the SW Ring Road and to explore the past, present, and future of the Weaselhead area, one of the most historically rich parts of Calgary.
We’ll travel along the first Provincial highway that was built through the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve over 115 years ago (with origins dating back even before the signing of Treaty 7) and through land that was purchased in the 1930s for the Glenmore Reservoir. We’ll see where the Canadian Military operated the largest WWI training camp in Western Canada, and explore the legacy of disputed land ownership and unexploded ordnance that years of military use has left behind. We’ll experience one of the quietest corners of the city, now adjacent to where the SW Ring Road is being built, and see where previous plans would have located the road through the valley. We’ll look at the role that the Tsuut’ina Nation’s economic development plans have played in getting the road approved, and how Calgary and the Nation can come together as development progresses.
Date: Sunday May 6, 2018 Time: 1:00 pm Duration: about 2.5 hours Meeting Place: North Weaselhead Parking Lot (at the corner of 37th street SW and 66th avenue SW in Lakeview)
I have recently had the opportunity to work with the Tsuut’ina Nation-Canderel Development Partnership on some design and communications work, including the website for their upcoming Taza development. I’m pleased to see the launch of the ExperienceTaza.com website this week, which provides information on this transformative First Nations project, located right on the edge of Calgary.
Taza is a series of three commercial development areas, or ‘villages’, that are located on the eastern edge of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve. From north to south, Taza Park, Taza Crossing and Taza Exchange are connected along a 9km portion of Calgary’s Southwest Ring Road, known as Tsuut’ina Trail where it crosses the reserve. The name ‘Taza’ is a Tsuut’ina word for an expression of amazement, and the development has adopted the tagline ‘Together at Tsuut’ina’.
The Taza development is a joint-venture between the Tsuut’ina Nation and the development company Canderel, and represents the culmination of nearly 50 years of economic development and planning by the Nation. For the story on the early years of the Nation’s economic planning, click here.
Click on the maps in the following sections for a larger version of each.
Taza Park is a 530-acre parcel of land located on Glenmore Trail that was previously home to the Harvey Barracks Military base. The ring road bisects Taza Park into two parcels, and the development area extends from the community of Lakeview on the east to Discovery Ridge on the west.
Access to the site is provided by three primary interchanges at 37th street SW and Glenmore Trail, at Tsuut’ina Parkway at Tsuut’ina Trail and at the new Westhills Way. Secondary access is also planned at several existing roads along 37th street SW that were originally built to provide access to the former military base.
The area is touted as a “dynamic recreation and entertainment destination” and consists of a mix of retail, dining, residential, recreational and cultural amenities. Taza Park interfaces with the existing community of Lakeview with a new lower-density residential area on the west side of 37 street SW.
The plans also feature a ‘pedestrian-friendly Market Street’, and includes a network of cycle paths, parks and artificial lakes and ponds, much of which is located overlooking the Elbow river valley and the Weaselhead area. Continue reading “Taza Revealed”
What follows is a short historical overview of the history and use of 37 Street SW in the community of Lakeview in Calgary. The road has a surprisingly long and interesting history, with a long tradition of First Nations, Military and Community use of the corridor since it was first set aside as a road.
In 1883 the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve was first surveyed and reserved for the Nation, shown below.
The same year the adjacent township was surveyed, dividing up what is now SW Calgary. This survey laid out the 66-foot-wide 37 Street SW road allowance for the first time. The arrow on the survey below indicates the road.
When the reserve was first created, the Tsuut’ina Nation established a trail through the reserve to access Calgary at what is now 37 Street SW and Glenmore Trail. This route was part of a trail known as the Priddis Trail. The map below from 1897 shows this trail.
In 1900 the government formalized that trail into a highway through the reserve, and moved the reserve entrance to what is now the Weaselhead parking lot at 37 Street SW and 66 Avenue SW. Accessing the reserve meant traversing one mile of 37 Street. Below is a map from 1926 showing route of the Priddis Trail.
That dirt road served the Nation and Calgarians for 58 years, until the bridge over the Elbow collapsed in 1958 (pictured below). The Nation had previously begun using the Military’s bridge and entrance to reserve at Glenmore Trail from about 1950, returning to the Nation’s original road access point.
The Military built several roads in 1957-58 that connected to 37 Street SW to allow access to Military housing and a school on the west side of the road. At this point in time, access to the Military base, the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve and a cattle ranch are the primary uses of 37 Street SW. Construction of Lakeview had not yet been started. The map shown below is from 1960.
When planning for the new community of Lakeview began in 1959, the City of Calgary designated 37 Street SW as a ‘Major Thoroughfare’ and added 34 feet to the width of the road’s original corridor.
In 1960, construction began on the neighbourhood. The first houses were built on the east side of the community, near Crowchild Trail. Over the next decade construction moved west, closer to the newly-paved 37 Street SW, and the final phase of Lakeview’s original single-family homes were built in 1968-69. Below is a picture of Lakeview from the 1970s, looking west along 66th Avenue SW.
In 1970, after much of Lakeview is largely completed, traffic maps for the first time show traffic on 37 Street SW. About 5,000 cars per day are shown on the road near Glenmore Trail, with the numbers dwindling lower towards the south end of the road. The change of the road from rural right-of-way into suburban thoroughfare marks the most significant change in the use of 37 St SW in the history of the road. Traffic on 37 Street SW was at its peak in the 1970s, when Military use, Lakeview access, and users of North Glenmore Park constituted the majority of traffic. In the 1990s the Military base was closed, and traffic has declined overall since that time. The City of Calgary’s traffic map from 1970 is shown below.
In 1967 the City of Calgary had already planned for the 37 Street SW – Glenmore trail interchange to be a ‘diamond’ style interchange when conditions warranted it. The plan from the City of Calgary’s 1967 CALTS report is shown below.
In 2010 a new temporary interchange was built at 37 Street SW and Glenmore Trail. The interchange was designed so that the bridge over Glenmore Trail was located away from where a permanent interchange would eventually be built. This would allow the interchange to remain open while a new interchange was being constructed. The current interchange is shown below, looking towards the Southwest.
In 2013 the Province of Alberta and the Tsuut’ina Nation entered into an agreement to sell land for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road. This agreement guaranteed access to the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve at 37 Street SW and Glenmore Trail as part of the ring road project. If this access is not provided, the ownership of the entire ring road corridor through the reserve will revert back to the Nation. The design of the new permanent interchange is shown below.
The contract for construction of the ring road project including the new interchange at 37 Street SW and Glenmore Trail was awarded in 2016, and some initial earthworks has already begun. The interchange is set to open by 2021.
Next year, a new development located on the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve is set to be officially unveiled. The project, the result of a partnership between the Tsuut’ina Nation and the developer Canderel, is located along a 10km portion of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, and is being touted as a transformative combination of retail, commercial, entertainment, health, residential and tourism amenities on Calgary’s doorstep.
Given that the development relies on access from the ring road, known as Tsuut’ina Trail as it crosses the reserve, it would be easy to see the project as a direct result of the construction of this road. However, it’s more accurate to say that the construction of the road is a direct result of the Nation’s desire to develop reserve land on Calgary’s border.
Although the proposed development is certainly a new undertaking for the Nation, the idea of developing land on the reserve’s eastern edge is one that’s been nearly 50 years in the making. The planning for both the road and the developments were initially done independently of each other, with each involved party willing, or even preferring, to proceed without the other. As time went on it became increasingly clear that neither could be completed without the other, and the two projects eventually became inseparable.
PURSUIT OF SELF-DETERMINATION
The Nation has derived economic benefit from reserve land in different ways over the years, including royalties from oil and gas extraction, land leases, and the sale of surface resources such as timber and gravel. Though important, these sources of income alone have not always provided the growing community with the resources it needed to be prosperous. In the early 1970s the Tsuut’ina Nation sought to create more ambitious economic enterprises, and looked to take advantage of the proximity of the City of Calgary to help make that happen. In recent years those plans have revolved around the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, though this was not always the case.
In 1970, Tsuut’ina citizens Reg One Spot and Arnold Crowchild were appointed to head up a newly-formed economic committee by the Nation’s Chief and Council.1 The committee’s mandate was to explore development opportunities on reserve lands, and to assess the benefits and drawbacks of any such initiatives.
For many years, portions of the Tsuut’ina reserve had generated rent under long-term leases to the Canadian Military. The Nation, however, was now looking beyond land leases. The new committee was not seeking to simply lease empty land to third-party developers, but instead were looking at ways for the Nation itself to become a developer in order to reap rewards larger than rent alone would provide. Arnold Crowchild explained their position in November of 1970; “What the tribe could get from leasing this land out may seem like considerable money, but it is only a drop in the bucket compared to what we could get if we developed it ourselves”.2
Beyond the financial benefits for the Nation as a whole, the ability to develop the land was seen as critical in improving the employment opportunities of Nation members. The Nation’s employment rate was far below that of neighbouring Calgary in the 1970s, with a reported 50-70% of the Nation unemployed, depending on the season3. “The most important thing for us right now is to create jobs for our people. We can only do this by setting up our own enterprises” the economic development team is quoted as saying.4
The east side of the Nation’s reserve, being directly adjacent to Calgary, was seen as an ideal place to explore development opportunities. This portion of the reserve benefits from its close proximity to the city, including access to potential customers and the City’s transportation network, and was viewed as some of the most viable land for commercial development. The relationship between the Nation and local city residents was noted as an important consideration for any potential development, and this relationship was to be maintained by sensitive developments. “[Our developments] would have to be clean industries so we won’t develop bad relations with our City neighbours close-by” said Mr. Crowchild and Mr. One Spot5, a position which would be reiterated by a soon-to-be-released consultant’s report.
AN INITIAL PLAN
In 1971 a $75,000 study was written by Stanley Associates Engineering Ltd.6 in order to help assess the development potential of the reserve. From this report a five-project development plan was created that was intended to unlock the commercial value of the land. This plan called for the development of:
189 acres in the Southeast corner of the reserve along Fish Creek/Wolf Creek for a tent and RV campground, with a golf course and swimming facilities,
16 acres south of Anderson Road/Bull Head Road for a sports and recreation complex, including a hockey arena, tennis courts, football field and swimming pool,
160 acres adjacent to Oakridge and Cedarbrae for a mobile home park,
10 acres for an industrial park, and
1,500 acres near Bragg Creek on the reserve’s west end for a residential ‘cottage community’
The study also recommended the creation of a new legal body through which the Nation could carry out its development projects. In 1971 Sarcee Developments Ltd. was established, a company wholly-owned by the Nation, with Reg One Spot and Arnold Crowchild becoming its founding directors.7
The last proposal on the consultant’s list, the ‘cottage community’ near Bragg Creek, is arguably the most economically successful of the Nations early development plans. However Redwood Meadows, as this residential and golf-course development is known, is located on the reserve’s west side, and is therefore the development least impacted by the Southwest Calgary Ring Road story. Though Redwood Meadows is deserving of its own article delving into its history, I will not be covering that story here, and will instead focus on developments found on the east side of the reserve. Continue reading “The Road to Development, part 1”
Building the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project is a massive enterprise, and includes the construction of hundreds of kilometre-lanes of roads, 49 bridges and 14 interchanges, but the project involves more than just a freeway. One of the first projects to be undertaken in preparation for the construction of the ring road involves the relocation of an electrical transmission line; one that not only crosses the ring road corridor, but also bisects the Northeast corner of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve.
AltaLink, the company that owns the bulk of Alberta’s electrical transmission network, is currently in the process of installing a new underground transmission line within the right-of-ways for Glenmore Trail and 37th street SW. This work is being done in advance of the decommissioning and salvage of the portion of the existing line that crosses the reserve, and the story of how the existing line ended up on reserve land, and why it is now being removed, is an interesting one that dates back almost 100 years.
The Start of the Line
In 1924 the Calgary Power Company Ltd. planned an electric transmission line to connect their hydroelectric operations at horseshoe falls on the Bow river to south Calgary. Transmission Line No. 3 was to split off from an existing line at Jumping Pound, then head south and east for 35 kilometres to Macleod Trail at 50th avenue SW.1 Despite a few alterations over the years, this route remains largely intact and in service today.
The route for the new line was surveyed, and a corridor of between 30 and 100 feet in width was allocated to the utility, including a small section that ran through the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve (then known as the Sarcee reserve). A 3.7 km portion of the line was earmarked along the northern boundary of the Nation’s land, adjacent to what is now Glenmore Trail between about 69th street SW and 37th street SW. The 100-foot-wide corridor comprised 31.6 acres of reserve land, through an area known as Sarcee Camp or The 940.2
At the time of the survey, this part of the Tsuut’ina reserve was under lease to the Department of National Defence. Known as Sarcee Camp, the land had been turned into a training camp in 1915 in the midst of the First World War. When permission to cross this land was sought by the Calgary Power Company, the request was handled by the department of Indian Affairs, and no record of the involvement or approval of the members of the Tsuut’ina Nation are on file with the Federal Government.
The Federal Indian Commissioner valued a corridor agreement at $1000, which the Calgary Power Company paid in order to secure a perpetual easement for the power lines.3 On December 8 1924, the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs and representatives of the Calgary Power Company ratified the agreement, with the Department of National Defence signing off on a clause that would not hold the Military liable for “damage or injury done to the… transmission line… which may result from the use of the said Sarcee Camp for Military training…” and which would also compensate the Military for any damage caused by the operation of the line.4
With the survey in place and permissions acquired from other landowners along the entire route, the line was soon under construction. In 1926 the line was energized, and began to serve the increasing electricity needs of a growing modern city.
War and (Electrical) Power
Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s Transmission Line No. 3 operated unobtrusively side-by-side with Sarcee Camp. The camp was in regular use for peace-time training, but the outbreak of another war would change much on the Tsuut’ina reserve, including the transmission line.
In 1939 Canada became embroiled in World War 2, and military installations across Canada, including Sarcee Camp and the newer Currie Barracks to the north, were seeing increased use.
As part of the war effort, the Canadian Government earmarked Calgary as the site of a new air school. Service Flying Training School No. 3 was to be established on land directly northeast of Sarcee Camp as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan,5 a scheme that would see tens of thousands of airmen trained across Canada and the world during the war. The land selected for the new air school had already seen use as an airfield for a number of years as Currie Airfield, but formal runways hadn’t been constructed up to that point.
Transmission Line No. 3 crossed directly through the chosen location for the new triangular runway of the flight school, and this overlap meant that the power lines had to move. A slight relocation of the line would not suffice as the raised power lines posed a threat to taking-off and landing aircraft,6 so a more significant move was required.
In June of 1940 the Acting Deputy Minister (Air Service) of the Department of National Defence asked for permission to move the transmission line further south into the reserve, bisecting the Sarcee Camp lands. Within a few days, the Deputy Minister of the Indian Affairs Branch replied with an approval of the idea, in part because the cost of the relocation would not be charged to the Nation, and also because “…this proposed diversion will not in any way interfere with the activities of the Sarcee Indians…”.7
There is no record of any approval of the relocation by Tsuut’ina Nation members, nor of the Nation being notified of the potential move. Since the Department’s approval was granted less than a week after receiving the request, there would have been insufficient time for a formal surrender to have been granted by the Nation. As this was a case of one Federal department communicating directly with another, it appears unlikely that the request ever left Ottawa.
The same week that the Department granted permission for the transmission line move, the Tsuut’ina Nation’s Chief and Council made a related approval of their own. On June 19 1940, the Nation passed a Band Council Resolution approving the sale of gravel from the reserve to Dutton Brothers contractors, for use in constructing the new runways.8 Following a survey of the newly-altered power line corridor, the runways were under construction and nearly 5 km of the transmission line was shifted 1.6km south of its original corridor. The transmission line now diagonally crossed Sarcee Camp, and headed east through what would later become the community of Lakeview, only returning to its original route once it was clear of the airspace of the new air school.9
On the morning of October 28 1940, only 132 days after receiving permission to move the transmission lines, the flight school was officially opened. With the airspace clear and the runways built, the air school was ready to begin training new pilots and airmen. Continue reading “Electric Transmission Line Relocation”
Today, a new name was unveiled for the Southwest portion of Calgary’s Ring Road, between Glenmore Trail and the Fish Creek park. Tsuut’ina Nation Chief Lee Crowchild, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason and Canada Minister of Veteran’s Affairs Kent Hehr were on hand at an official ceremony to announce that the road would be known as ‘Tsuut’ina Trail’. The ring road is currently named ‘Stoney Trail’ around the rest of the city.
The ceremony began after an opening prayer by Tsuut’ina elder Gerald Meguinis. The prayer spoke of safety and prosperity not just for the Nation, but for the assembled guests, and for the travellers who would soon be using the road.
While the Province is officially embracing ‘Tsuut’ina Trail’ as the name for one segment of the ring road, Chief Crowchild suggested taking the renaming one step further. He stated “We believe that the entire ring road can, and should, be named Tsuut’ina (Trail)” and noted the significant role that the Nation has played in helping to get the road finished.
Transportation Minister Mason was reportedly only made aware of the idea to rename the entire road within the last day or so, and was cautious, yet willing to explore the idea. “It doesn’t take a political science graduate to see the difficulty, but certainly I’m prepared to talk to the chief and if necessary, to talk to the three chiefs and the Stoney Nation as well and if they can reach some sort of agreement, I think we can too.” he said.1
Regarding the official renaming, Mayor Nenshi stated “I can’t think of a better name for this important piece of infrastructure than Tsuut’ina Trail. It is a reminder of our common path as neighbours and fellow citizens,”.2
Calgary’s ring road was first officially named ‘Stoney Trail’ in January of 1981, by Calgary’s City Council when the road project still fell under the City’s remit.3 Previous working-names for the southwest section of the road have included the West Bypass (1959), the Sarcee Trail Extension (1970) and the Southwest Connector (2003).
On May 3rd, 2017, I was fortunate enough to accompany Hal Eagletail on a tour of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve. Hal is a well respected cultural leader of the Tsuut’ina, and the Lakeview Community Association’s Tsuut’ina Nation Relations Committee had invited him to speak to residents about the history and culture of the Nation. Hal wanted to show certain areas of the reserve in his presentation, and as chairman of the committee, I was asked if I was interested in seeing more of the land and to take photos. I was treated to an incredible day, listening to some of the stories and walking the land of the Tsuut’ina Nation.
Any mistakes in the stories recounted in this post are mine and not Hal’s. While the post below covers some of what was presented in Hal’s talk, I recommend watching the video of the presentation, which is shown at the end of this post.
‘Danit’ada’ is the traditional Tsuut’ina greeting.
On the signing of Treaty 7 in 1877, the Tsuut’ina Nation was allocated a reserve adjacent to the Siksika Nation, near what is now Bassano, Alberta. After negotiating with the Federal Government for their own land, the area around Fish Creek (known as Wolf Creek to the Tsuut’ina) was selected by Tsuut’ina scouts. The scouts created a pile of rocks on a hill overlooking the creek in order to mark the land, and in 1883 when the new reserve was established, Chief Bullhead placed a rock on the pile and told all of his people to place their own rock. To this day, every Nation member continues to place a rock on the pile when they come of age, and as the Nation grows, so to does the pile.
A marker stone telling the story of the cairn was unveiled by Prince Charles in 1977.
Near the rock cairn is the new Tsuut’ina Nation museum. The previous museum was established in the early 1980s, and was located in the old Seven Chiefs sportsplex building. When the sportplex was torn down a few years ago to make way for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, the museum’s collection was put into storage to await a new home. The new museum is located just south of Chief Bullhead’s old house (built in 1909) is slated to open on Treaty Day, June 28 2017.
For decades, Federal employees known as Indian Agents were sent to oversee nearly every aspect of a First Nation’s business. The agent would typically live on the reserve they were sent to manage, in a house provided by the Government. This hundred-year-old Agent’s house, with its three fireplaces, was considerably larger than any other residence on the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve including the Chief’s house.
The lone spruce tree just to the right of the centre of the photograph above grows on the site of the old Tsuut’ina Nation reserve residential school (the Anglican St. Barnabas School). In the foreground is a thicket of yellow lilac bushes planted by the children who lived at the school.
Pictured is the third Anglican Church built on the reserve. The foundations of the second church lie to the left of the church in this photograph. The first church, established in the late 1880s, was a sod building.
This view, looking north, shows the new Southwest Calgary Ring Road corridor along the eastern edge of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve. The Wolf Creek/Fish Creek valley is in the foreground, and the fence-line to the right of centre of this photo denotes the previous boundary of the reserve, adjacent to 37th street SW and the community of Woodbine. The Nation’s Administration building is visible at the left of the photo.
Hal recounted that in the 1800s a man named Eaglerib had a vision: that the land chosen for the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve would one day be surrounded by boxes, and that these boxes would allow the Nation to prosper. Over a hundred years later, the houses of Calgarians will soon surround the reserve on three sides. With the new ring road being built to provide access to future commercial developments, the growth and proximity of the City of Calgary is seen to be fulfilling Eaglerib’s vision of a coming prosperity for the Nation. Continue reading “A day on the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve”