The city of Lethbridge has more than 177 kilometres of paved pathways, and more than 57 kilometres of gravel or natural pathways, making for a lot of opportunities to get outside and explore different areas around the community.
Parks Manager Dave Ellis says last year saw a major uptick in people heading outdoors, possibly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We found that use in parks went way up,” he said. “Our pathway use in 2020 was up 45 per cent over 2019.”
“When everybody else was working on closing, we were working hard to keep outside open.”
Ellis expects this year will continue a similar trend to last, with pandemic restrictions halting a variety of other activities.
While appreciative of people taking to the outdoors, he encourages residents to continue to obey COVID-19 signage set up by the city, and to consider expanding their horizons.
“Some of our more popular parks are maybe a little overcrowded and we encourage people to explore different parks,” he explained. “If you use the (Parks app) or the city website, you can see where the parks are at and different things that are there.”
“There’s a lot of places that I’m sure people haven’t been.”
Public washrooms are now opening for the season and garbage bins will remain propped open to limit unnecessary touching.
In Lethbridge’s river bottom, the Helen Schuler Nature Centre is still working to connect with the community, despite its physical location being temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
Jessica Deacon-Rogers, the centre’s program coordinator, says staff have been working hard since last March to pivot their programming and continue bringing new ideas to the table.
“Throughout the year we’ve had over 35 different types of activities, throughout 12 different city parks,” she said.
“Instead of people coming to us and coming inside the building… we’re taking those exhibits outside and along the trails where people are at in the city right now.”
Deacon-Rogers has also noticed more people exploring the area and advises them to be conscious of the four sensitive nature reserves within the city: Elizabeth Hall Wetlands, Alexander Wilderness Park, Cottonwood Park and the Lethbridge Nature Reserve.
“One thing that we are finding is that a lot of people aren’t aware of the different rules in different parks in Lethbridge,” Deacon-Rogers explained.
“We’ve been having a lot of issues in the nature reserves just with people walking dogs off-leash and chase animals, people walking dogs on leash but letting their dogs wander.”
More information on park and pathway usage can be found through the City of Lethbridge website.