Everyday adventures – Greenspaces in new communities bring close-to-nature lifestyle home
August 03, 2020
Early morning walks through lush green pathways amid the calming twitter of songbirds. Afternoon bike rides with the wind at your back, even cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on mild winter days. The lure of living close nature has always been irresistible, and these days in Edmonton, it’s closer than ever.
Some may think that living in the suburbs outside the busy inner-city core may be boring, preferring the siren call of the exciting downtown nightlife. But the lifestyle offered in communities with an abundance of greenspace has proven to be even more popular in these days when social distancing is the norm. After all, wouldn’t you rather be surrounded by nature than strangers right now?
The term “greenspace” is a catch phrase denoting all land in a residential community that is not allotted for housing. It mainly means parks, tot lots, pathways, ponds and any other open, grassy areas. Rohit Land Development’s marketing manager Marty Pawlina says he even considers the streetscapes as part of greenspace – after all how the streets and boulevards of a community are presented can contribute to its overall look and feel.
“Greenspace is more than just parks and playgrounds. It’s also the entrance features and landscape that bring enjoyment to residents,” he tells Edmonton New Home + Condo Guide. “Greenspaces are place-makers, they are a destination in the community that contribute to the well-being of residents.”
Reanna Rehman, Project Manager for Qualico Communties’ The Uplands at Riverview, agrees. She says their greenspaces are designed to “serve as destinations for pedestrians and cyclists, while providing passive and active recreation opportunities.”
While Laura Box, Marketing Manager at Carrington Lands and Bedrock Homes says their greenspaces are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, where homeowners can stretch their legs and enjoy the community outside of their own backyard. She believes it also serves a function as a crime deterrent, as open spaces present an unobstructed field of vision.
“The location and design of parks, greenspaces and ponds provide views from the abutting roadways, and thereby heighten residents’ awareness of access and activities within the neighbourhood,” Box says.
“This promotes open spaces as walking destinations and enhances their natural surveillance to prevent crime.”
Many of today’s new communities now devote a significant portion of their land to greenspace, creating a shared environment where neighbours can meet each other while walking their dogs, where children can play and explore and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors.
Developers are getting extra creative when it comes to the design of their greenspace, some are creating playgrounds powered by solar and featuring new, recycled material for surfaces and more challenging play structures, including climbing walls. Some rely on the natural beauty of their location and take extra measures to leave a smaller footprint that not only protects the landscape but makes natural features like adjacent ravines, lakes and environmental preserves more accessible to everyone.
Rohit’s Woodhaven Edgemont, which won Best New Community at the 2020 CHBA – Edmonton Region Awards of Excellence in Housing, is particularly well-endowed by nature with a landscape surrounded on three sides by ravines and multi-use trails along Wedgewood Creek. It is Rohit’s efforts to enhance what is already there that has made the community a model on how to design greenspace to match the contour of the land.
In Woodhaven Edgemont no home is more than 100 metres from nature, Pawlina says. In fact, in almost all their communities, homes are at most only 200 metres away from the nearest greenspace. “We also enhance the experience of these greenspaces, we provide power outlets in park benches and picnic tables to allows residents to charge phones, outdoor cookers, radios,” Pawlina says. “Everyone can use these spaces, not just the residents, and it is used year-round.”
Their Starling at Big Lake is another masterful way of working with what nature has given, this time centred around Edmonton’s beautiful Big Lake area. It aims to be a sustainable neighbourhood that will evolve into a recognized environmental community where residents feel connected to the natural world and develop a better appreciation for nature and ecology of the Big Lake area. “
Qualico says they strive to provide at least 10 per cent of the developed lands as municipal reserve (i.e. greenspace), says Rehman. “This is above any preservation of existing natural areas that would be qualified as environmental reserve (i.e. existing natural areas).”
She adds that Qualico uses the greenspaces to create a unique neighbourhood identity using appropriate urban design principles that also address year-round weather conditions; create public open spaces that encourage community interaction; and inspire a healthy lifestyle with active and passive recreational activities.
Qualico’s The Uplands at Riverview brings into sharp perspective the greenspace philosophy that the developer espouses. Natural elements such as parks, playgrounds and walking trails are integrated with nearby amenities such as schools, recreation facilities and shopping. It offers a quiet, secluded setting that also allows access to major driving routes when needed.
The Uplands allows residents to follow nature trails and explore the rugged beauty of the nearby Wedgewood Creek Ravine. Lots backing on to the ravine are also available.
“In The Uplands the environmental and community characteristics are reflected in the urban form to maintain a unique identity and character, and to foster a sense of place and attachment,” Rehman says.
Natural systems play an important role in ecological conservation, Rehman adds. “Passive recreation includes existing tree stands and wetlands that offer a rich mixture of habitat of vegetation and wildlife.”
In fact, at The Uplands, Qualico is trying something new with its Altalink Corridor that is designed to promote wildlife and bees. “This pollinator corridor features thousands of shrubs that attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies and birds,” she says. “Our playgrounds are also designed to be all-inclusive and accessible to all.”
For Carrington Lands, the welfare of residents in their communities is top of mind when designing greenspace.
“It is important to have a place you want to stay and enjoy without having to get in your car and leave the community to have some fun,” Box says. “You should be able to grow with your community both in terms of the home types, and amenities in and around the area.”
Its Rocha in the Orchards is a boutique community in southeast Edmonton that has roads lined with fruit trees. It features plenty of walking trails and stunning pond backing homes. The Village at Schonsee – a mature community in northeast Edmonton – highlights greenspaces that includes a playground, sledding hill, trails and a lush pond. While Woodbend, the newest community in Leduc, brings nature close to home with beautiful walking trails, a tot park, and future access to a natural creek.
Carrington also goes out of their way to provide for the comfort of families through greenspace design with modern tot lots that are accessible to everyone and have a rubberized surface for added comfort and safety, Box says.