High River, Town of High River
High River has a goal: to become a walkable, bikeable town where all road users are safe, twelve months a year.
The town of High River is a rural community of 13,500, located south of Calgary. High River was perhaps the hardest hit in the 2013 Alberta floods, and reconstruction is ongoing.
A proactive municipality
Leaders in High River saw an opportunity to be forward-thinking in their approach to reconstruction. The Safer Calgary coalition, a project of Sustainable Calgary, and a group of students from NHTV, the Breda University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands) became involved in community visioning early in the process. The students proposed a series of projects, several of which were aimed at celebrating and adapting to the river, rather than turning away from it. This is a philosophy shared by many residents. They also prioritized walkable, bicycle-friendly and safe routes for all users in their strategic plans.
Since June 2016, Active Neighbourhoods has been partnering with Our High River and Alberta Health Services to engage local residents and develop urban design “schemes” with local professionals. Resident priorities were aimed at tying quality pieces of infrastructure together: closing gaps in walking infrastructure, improving safety in targeted locations, and developing vibrancy and sense of place in the downtown core. Spinal Cord Injury Alberta became involved in December, sharing invaluable observations on the built environment from the perspective of sight, hearing and mobility impairments. In March, we presented work back to community members, who identified gaps in our analysis.
Because its decision makers and community are so engaged and committed to tackling the challenges of reconstruction, High River is quickly becoming a leader on walkable rural communities in the 21st century.