Finding the Nature in Urbanity

Editor's Note: Thanks to volunteer Ted Nanninga for this guest blog post!

Hello Again!

I have been exploring Lethbridge’s urban parks system quite extensively these past few months and the city offers a wealth of 143 parks and green spaces. Everything from bustling, boisterous playgrounds, dog parks and community parks focused on recreation and events; to quieter, wilder nature preserves that emphasize wildlife and habitat. To reach these destinations one can jog, bike or stroll over 200 km of trails, ranging from paved pathway to dirt track.

  The Oldman River valley supports 10 of the largest and wildest parks in Lethbridge

The Oldman River valley supports 10 of the largest and wildest parks in Lethbridge

Every park is unique in its own way and offers a chance for you to discover the hidden natural treasures each place holds. That’s the thing: the parks and green spaces within our major urban centres are key in offering a bridge for all people - regardless of age, race, religion, orientation or socio-economic status – to re-engage with nature since these places are easily accessible, typically free and often contain a level of biodiversity that would surprise even seasoned nature veterans. Perhaps you’ve heard of a term coined by author Richard Louv in his book titled Lost Child in the Woods called “Nature Deficit Disorder”. Now, while its not an actual clinical term or medical diagnosis (at least not that I’m aware of), it strives to encompass the real disconnection, or lack of relationship, many people (especially children) have with nature such as smelling wet humus after a rain storm or listening to the ethereal calls of migrating sandhill cranes or planting your buttocks on prickly pear. The importance of these “ribbons of green” as a conduit to the non-human world will only increase as humanity becomes more and more urban.

 Nicholas Sheran Park in late summer

Nicholas Sheran Park in late summer

Since we live on the west side of Lethbridge, one specific location called Nicholas Sheran Park (named after a New York City born coal miner) has received my particular advances. It is a significant recreational area for west Lethbridge with a playground, outdoor gymnasium and a 18 hole disc golf course. In the summer, one can even gather your own food from a recently planted edible orchard of various fruit trees  and there are fishing opportunities for trout and pike in the large man-made waterbody that is the center piece of the park. While I personally have yet to throw a line out there, I have observed a flock of common mergansers successfully catch breakfast this past fall. Which usually resulted in much bickering within the flock as empty-bellied thieves tried to chase down the more talented individuals and steal their meals.

  Common mergansers fishing on a fall morning

Common mergansers fishing on a fall morning

Speaking of birds, the park provides good habitat for many wildlife species. Nicholas Sheran is mainly open grass, interspersed with large spruce and poplar; while the man-made lake is fringed with willow, Russian olive and thick banks of cattails; making this combination very appealing to many animals. To date I’ve recorded 46 bird species flying over, diving under or flitting through Nicholas Sheran and I haven’t even known the area for half a year. Muskrats are frequently seen working on their “push-ups” and a resident herd of mule deer often grazes in the open. A few highlights for me have included a splendid male rose-breasted grosbeak, a migrating family of pied-billed grebes and a moving piece of bark that turned into a brown creeper. There is much to discover within Alberta’s fourth largest city. What will your senses uncover among the coulees and cottonwoods? To do this you need to…

  The park's more common residents (Canada goose and ring-billed gulls)

The park's more common residents (Canada goose and ring-billed gulls)

  One of the local predators, a male merlin (a species of falcon) scans for it's next target

One of the local predators, a male merlin (a species of falcon) scans for it's next target

  A mule deer buck watches people play a round of disc golf

A mule deer buck watches people play a round of disc golf

Get outside, its good for you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An experienced wildlifer, Ted has a wide array of knowledge about wildlife and environmental issues.  A reluctant birder (because there are certainly “cooler” hobbies), birds are nonetheless an increasing interest and a Big Year is not out of the realm of possibility. He has been fortunate to work and play with many different species and even better people.