As it turns out, both Cochranites and city folk alike have been pretty keen on the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park lately.
Like, really keen.
Around 1000 people took in the foothills vistas of the park in January 2020. That figure 12 months later? Almost 9000.
Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation executive director Sarah Parker said in the latter half of 2020, the park saw a 164 per cent increase in visitation over that same period in 2019.
“The trend continues into 2021, and we see this park being very busy in the coming months ahead,” she said.
“That’s one of the reasons why our foundation’s work here is really important: to educate people to stay on the trail and learn more about their ecosystem that they live in.”
On February 19, foundation volunteers and board members gathered (not too closely) on the park’s sunny plateau to launch a novel new program aimed at caring for Glenbow Ranch both in a busy 2021 and well into the future.
The public can now sponsor their very own acre of the treasured area with the Steward an Acre program. They’ll get a certificate, a description of their area, and even an ‘I [Heart] GRPF’ bumper sticker.
Potential sponsors can visit StewardAnAcre.ca and select from the online map either the exact acre they wish to sponsor, or from one of the park’s unique quadrants.
“What we wanted to do was kind of break it down into the sort of staple parts of the ecosystem here,” Parker explained.
“Water, the park runs along the Bow River and we have wetlands and marshes. Grassland, which of course we have an abundance of. Aspen, which is the primary forested areas throughout our park […]. And last is sandstone: our far east end is sandstone cliffs, and also once had a sandstone quarry.”
Some may choose to dedicate their acre to a loved one as a memorial. Others might dedicate theirs as a gift, or sponsor on behalf of a business.
“They can actually write up to 150 words about who they’re stewarding the acre for or why they’re stewarding the acre, and that will all go onto our website for other people to be able to read and look at on that interactive map.”
Sponsorship of an acre is $150 for three years, with funds directed toward the foundation’s work protecting the biodiversity of the region as well as education initiatives.
Established in 2007, the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation is a not-for-profit dedicated to maintaining the 3,200 acre provincial park. The Alberta government had acquired the ranchland from the Harvie family in 2006, with the park officially opening in the spring of 2008.
“In the early days, there were maybe a hundred people on a weekend and a few people through the week,” recalled park foundation volunteer Alice Fedosoff.
“Now it’s thousands on the weekend and over a hundred every day, and that’s wonderful to see.”
“People love the park, and it shows. It’s rewarding to be a volunteer, to be part of that enthusiasm.”
The area was first used by First Nations who established tipi camps on the site, corralling bison in the coulees.
Later part of Cochrane Ranche, a Canadian Pacific Railway station was set up at Glenbow by 1903. It was a full-on community: home to a sandstone quarry and then a brick plant, reverting back to mostly ranchland by the mid-30s.
For more information on the visitors’ centre, historical information on the park, volunteering with the foundation or other donation options visit GRPF.ca.