The good the bad and the ugly in Calgary

Calgary is often described as a city teetering on the line between achieving greatness and descending into mediocrity. This is a tricky balancing act — there are ambitious visionary people at city hall who want to take a giant leap into a vibrant and sustainable future but they are bogged down by the pressures of rapid growth as well as resistance from those who prefer the status quo.

Excuses aside even the city’s smaller decisions take us one baby step closer or further away from becoming a better place to live — sometimes they’re a hit sometimes they’re a miss and sometimes they’re just a mess.

The good — The city’s decision to move to the new ParkPlus System is a good one on many levels. Not only are the new machines expected to reduce the theft and vandalism that plague existing meters but you don’t have to scrounge for change you don’t have to return to your car to place a ticket on the dashboard and you can fit more cars on the street. The meters take cash and credit — or better yet register your cellphone with the city and then simply call in to start and end your parking session so you only pay for the time you’re there. As an added bonus it’s environmentally friendly: the ParkPlus pay machines are solar-powered and smaller cars qualify for a discount. The new system is being implemented gradually and will arrive on 17th Ave. S.W. prior to Stampede.

The bad — Pointing out Calgary’s problems is a popular and entertaining pastime: urban sprawl homelessness traffic congestion etc. Those complex issues won’t be solved anytime soon but the city has no excuse for delaying when a problem has a quick and easy remedy. My pick: the cosmetic use of pesticides. The solution: ban it. Most Calgarians would rather have their kids and pets play in fields of dandelions than toxic chemicals and we don’t need to be exposed to clouds of Weed ’n Feed sprayed by the next-door neighbours. The Coalition for a Healthy Calgary is calling on the city to pass a bylaw in 2008 phasing out the cosmetic use of pesticides on public and private land to protect its citizens from needless exposure to chemical toxins. The city has no excuse for waiting so long to take action — it’s time to get on with it and join all the other major cities in Canada that have taken the step towards a healthier future.

The ugly — Planting a tree is a great way to honour someone who has died but a beautiful idea turns ugly when you start adding garbage. The Nose Creek Memorial Forest adjacent to Deerfoot Trail in the northeast community of Renfrew is cluttered with junk. The public park is supposed to be a “natural” area with native species of trees planted in memory of individuals whose names are listed on simple plaques mounted on rocks. Instead some people have adorned trees with Christmas ornaments wreaths tinsel plastic flowers and personal markers more suitable to a graveyard than a forest. Some of the young trees themselves have suffered broken branches and what should be a lasting memorial that will benefit the entire city for generations to come is an eyesore instead. According to the city the contract with McInnis & Holloway at that site ended due to concerns about the park’s integrity but the funeral home remains responsible for the items on the trees while the city is responsible for items on the ground. It’s a sensitive topic but ultimately someone has to step up and take responsibility — the city needs to clean up the park and the people who visit it need to clean up their act.