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Posted by: Anna

Response to COVID-19 pandemic and updates from the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

To our volunteers, donors and neighbours,

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted all of our lives in some manner or another, forcing us to make changes to prevent its spread.

The Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area, along with many other organizations, has postponed education programs until the current situation changes.

Out of a concern for health and safety, our building will be closed to the public.

All washrooms in the area, including outhouses will also be closed.

As many are limiting their contact with others and avoiding public places, we encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors and experience the health benefits of time spent in nature. The ASCCA will remain open for hiking and snowshoeing. To add to your visit, we have interpretive signs along our Fescue and Aspen trails to guide your hike.

Please note that we do not allow dog-walking, skiing or biking in the area. For a full list of our guidelines as a conservation area, please visit our website .

To make the area more accessible, we will suspend the fee required for parking in our visitor lot until further notice. While visitors are not expected to pay for parking in our lot, donations are still very much appreciated. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out. If we are not in the office, the best means of contact is by emailing info@crossconservation.org . Please call 403-612-5526 in the event of an emergency or issue you think we should be aware of.

We wish you and your loved ones all the best in these uncertain times.

Click here to download fun nature activity sheets!

Click here for resources on COVID-19 in Alberta

Posted by: Anna

With the announcement that provincial parks have re-opened vehicle access as of May 1, 2020, trails at the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area are currently open to the public.

We will monitor this situation as it develops and may consider closing the area again if our public health situation changes, or if we see that visitors are not respecting physical distancing and our guidelines. All visitors should be aware that our parking lot and building are being monitored by security cameras 24/7.

Our washroom facilities and building remain closed.

At this time, we have removed the registration book from our kiosk and are asking visitors to book their hike in advance online at http://www.crossconservation.org/visitors-and-hikers/book-your-visit.

We will reinstate our paid parking policy and ask annual pass holders to display their pass. Our daily parking rate is $10/vehicle. To pay with cash, please take a parking envelope from our kiosk and deposit it in our donation box, with the tear-off validation slip displayed in your vehicle. To pay with card, please visit http://paypal.me/asccaparking/10. Write your name and 'card payment' on an empty envelope (or piece of paper) and display clearly on your dashboard. The lot will be monitored periodically by staff and volunteers. For our updated parking policy please visit http://www.crossconservation.org/parking.

Based on recommendations from Alberta Parks we ask that all visitors observe the following guidelines, in addition to our Area Guidelines:

- Drive to the area only with members of the same household or cohort family. You make visit with friends and relatives not in the same household, but agree to maintain at least 2 metres of physical distance with them.

- Visit early in the day, so you can head somewhere else if our parking lot is full. If our parking lot is full, please consider visiting at a different time. Do not park on the shoulder of roads.

- Do not remain in our parking lot for longer than neccessary. Make sure that only one person enters our welcome kiosk at a time.

- Do not visit if you are sick or were recently exposed to someone with COVID-19. Follow all public health recommendations.

Thank you for supporting the ASCCA and helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you have any questions at this time please contact Greg Shyba at gshyba@crossconservation.org or call 403-918-2558

Posted by: Griffin

I can't remember when the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA) was not a part of my summer adventures. For a little girl who did not enjoy her mother putting her in day camps, I quickly changed my attitude about going to camp when I stepped through these doors. Out of all the camps I had gone to as a child, this was the only one I couldn't stop going back to summer after summer, even to this day. From an early age I was intrigued with nature and inspired to protect what precious wildlife we have. At camp I learned about different living organisms, how to build a shelter, and how to handle various survival situations, work with others and think creatively. Summers at ASCCA have shaped my character and how I value the preservation of our environment. As I am growing up, I carry the things I learned at camp into real life situations. With increasing environmental problems such as climate change, pollution and resource depletion, I believe it is critical to teach future generations how to care for our environment before it's too late. As a day camp volunteer, I now help inspire volunteer opportunities for campers who are passionate about conserving our environment and working with younger kids at day camps. I want to help them understand their responsibility in protecting nature as well as having a fun summer experience. It's these young minds who will have the responsibility of coming up with new solutions to growing global issues. If I had never gone to this camp, I know I would not have the aspirations I do today to keep our world healthy.

Ann & Sandy Cross were two people who donated their land with a vision of educating those who visited about the conservation of our Earth. Thanks to their generous donation, myself and many others have been given a new perspective and have been enlightened on the importance of conservation. I remember how my camp leaders mentored me throughout my camp experience. These camp leaders have had an impression on me and have inspired me to be a leader myself. The greatest part of volunteering at summer day camps is watching how the kids develop in just a week. At first they are shy, just like I was as a camper, but by the end of the week they've met new friends and are singing songs at the top of their lungs on the trails. I love telling stories to young minds and watching their eyes grow wider with interest and watching the smiles these camps bring to the kids. As a volunteer, I am so proud that I can contribute to the place that helped shape me by mentoring and inspiring future generations. Looking back I can only be thankful that I have had the opportunity to be a part of this organization. The Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area is without a doubt a hidden gem which was created for making memories.

By: Rachel Kubitz

Posted by: Griffin

 

“Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends.” I never thought I would be quoting one of the most notorious villains in the unknown galaxies, albeit a far, far away galaxy, but I must say when it comes to future street lighting, Darth Vader has a point. If we consider our friends to be our wildlife neighbours, or the astronomers at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO), or even our neighbour down the road, then darker is better. Why? Because circadian rhythms depend on the natural dark and light ratios of day and night, and all those friends need regular circadian rhythms to be healthy individuals. I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of recommendations that I would like to think Darth Vader would approve of to achieve his goals of spreading the Dark Side across the galaxies including the future Calgary SW Ring Road.

  1. Use the right amount of light-  A luminaire Backlight, Uplight and Glare value of zero should be used. Shorter lamp posts also ensure the light only goes where it is needed.
  2. Use efficient and environmentally friendly lamps and bulbs- Of course the Empire cares about cutting costs. For those of you unfamiliar with the Death Star, let us just say it was really big, labour intensive, and an expensive project. Efficient environmentally friendly bulbs mean less energy used which turns into money saved for you, the taxpayer.
  3. Using flat lens cobra head fixtures- ensures all your light goes downwards where it is needed preventing Uplight. Less Uplight means more stars are visible which is great for migrating birds, astronomers and the Millennium Falcon’s hyperspace jumps.
  4. Consider adopting those nice red hues often seen in Sith lightsabers. Warm yellows are also acceptable. Lights with warm colours have a longer wavelength and appear to be less disruptive to our circadian rhythms and night vision.
  5. Follow the MD Foothills Dark Skies Bylaw*.
  6. Dimming capabilities. Having highway lights that can be dimmed during low traffic times can reduce energy costs by at least 30%. Recent technology has even made motion-sensor highway lighting available, which in addition to saving energy also helps to track movement of Rebel Alliance that may be passing through the area.

Darth Vader was a presence. When he walked on screen you took notice. However, he does not hold much sway in public policy. If we are to embrace the power of the Dark Side then it is up to us to contact our MLAs and Alberta Transportation to let them know that Canada's first Nocturnal Preserve, the ASCCA, and one of Canada's largest Astrophysical Observatories, the RAO, should be kept dark; and that they are worthy of a Special Geographical Area designation that would require lighting designs to be designed to minimize light pollution as outlined in IESNA RP-33 in the Alberta Transportation Highway Lighting Guide. And may the Force be with us.

*For more information go to http://www.mdfoothills.com/residents/planning/environment/dark_sky_initiative/dark_sky_faqs.html

By: Laura Griffin

Posted by: Anna

Why are dogs not allowed at the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area? We love our furry companions, but there are quite a few reasons why dogs should stay behind when you visit places like the ASCCA. Even dogs that are well-controlled and on a leash can have a negative impact on wildlife, even if their owners are sure to pick up after them.

Dogs may give chase to wildlife, potentially killing or injuring them. Although a dog may have simply chased or spooked an animal, causing it to flee, this could be detrimental to the animal's health. Wildlife may be injured, weak, or suffering from disease, and the stress of a dog in their habitat could worsen their condition. For example, a deer might be pregnant, and expending energy to run from a barking dog could endanger her health and the health of her offspring. Animals can sense when dogs are present, and seeing them as potential predators, they will avoid areas frequented by dogs. A 2007 study revealed that dog walking in natural areas can reduce bird numbers by 41% and the diversity of birds spotted by 35%.

Dogs can be prone to trampling, scratching and digging, which can remove native vegetation and disrupt burrowing animals. Dogs can also introduce parasites and diseases such as CDV (Canine Distemper Virus), which can spread to other species. They can contaminate soil and water with the waste they leave behind. Their excretions will also add nitrogen to the soil and may encourage non-native plants to grow. Although many dog owners will pick up after their pets, this issue should not be overlooked. 

If you are concerned about the impact that dogs can have on wildlife and natural areas, please share this blog. The ASCCA is not 'anti-dog' and we respect that not all dog owners will agree with our policy. If you are seen walking a dog in the area, you will receive a friendly reminder that we do not allow dogs and will be asked to leave. 

Click here for a more detailed review of recent research.

Thank you for respecting our guidelines. Together we can ensure that the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area remains a safe home for all of the species that live here.

Anna Aldridge
Communications and Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by: Anna

150 Trees - making connections, filling spaces

Our July Canada 150 Legacy Tree Planting event started in February. We’d just submitted our application to the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th with an idea to invite new Canadians still putting down roots to plant a legacy forest, connecting them to their home. I often feel that the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area has an organizational dynamic like a tree. A tree that connects, grows and changes.

Several months before this event was conceptualized, I planted my first tree in the area. I’ll never forget that experience, and the realization of what I had become a part of. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with several plantings. Tree planting is a substantial part of our conservation work, leaving behind an impact that’s larger than ourselves. A young tree is like a growing child, holding immeasurable potential. With the trees we plant we seed our hopes and dreams. We dream of the right now, a time for action and a time for reaching out, to cross boundaries.

In March, our application was accepted. We had become part of a larger national dialogue spurred by community foundations across Canada, to share our stories and celebrate our Canada. The ASCCA’s Canada is Alberta’s Canada, and Calgary’s Canada – a Canada for the world; a Canada that belongs to each of us. Within it we discover the simple joy of being outdoors, a zest for life, of relishing in the beauty of nature and feeling a strong desire to protect it, preserve it, and share it with the ones we love.

On July 8, 2017, more than 100 new Canadians and their families came to plant trees in the area, in partnership with Calgary YMCA LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada). I’ll never forget how their faces lit up, holding the trees they were about to plant. We all took time digging holes, packing down dirt and getting our hands dirty. It was lovingly that we carried buckets for watering the trees, taking proud photos and smiling at the thought of coming back to see how they’d grow. Some of the participants may have experienced their first time in a place like the ASCCA. It’s not hard to understand how someone new to Canada might feel overwhelmed or even alienated. Canada can seem expansive and daunting, with harsh winters and wide open spaces. Let’s seek to fill them.

Anna Aldridge
Communications and Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by: Anna

Teaching Children the Importance of Wildlife Conservation 

Jackie Edwards

Jackie Edwards is an editor, researcher and writer who lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two daughters. Both are keen environmentalists and wish to share their love of nature with others, especially young children. To read more, please visit their blog at http://www.footstepsintheforest.com.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Children About Conservation

In our technology-fueled world, children are spending less time wandering around the great outdoors and much more time plugged in to a screen. As parents, it becomes increasingly important to bestow on our children the importance of interacting with nature and taking care of the environment.

Around Calgary, there are many opportunities for children to experience all of the wonders of wildlife and learn about conservation. Even if you do not live in the area, most places in the world today are aware of the changing climates and have ways you and your family can get involved in protecting the environment.

The Best Place to Start is Home 

Learning always begins at home. Whether you make sure to turn off the lights when you leave a room, or you try to cut back on using water in the kitchen or bathroom, your children will learn best by your example. Making your home ecologically-friendly by using energy-saving light bulbs and reusable grocery bags, will lead to your children learning and internalizing numerous habits that will impact the environment in positive ways as they grow.

Another activity that you can begin at home is keeping a “life list.” These are the perfect idea for your children to get excited about discovering new species in their own backyards. By keeping track of all of the critters, plants, or insects you uncover together, your children will soon be wildlife enthusiasts and think of the outdoors as a place for discovery.

Other Activities for the Outdoor 

In addition to talking to your children about conservation techniques in the household, it is vital that you bring them on exciting adventures in your community. Many cities that are rich in nature have preserved parks or trails, such as our very own Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area in Alberta. Places like these have numerous events and activities planned for children, such as scavenger hunts and even education programs.

You can also be aware of summer camps for children, which are a popular way for your little conservationists to experience an immersive experience in nature. Any memory formed while playing outdoors is sure to be a lasting one, as children are generally less inclined to spend time in nature on their own. By taking your children to parks, pointing out different trees as you drive, or even stopping the car to peer at a family of deer, you can be sure to spawn the next generation of animal-lovers and nature protectors.  

Posted by: Anna

"Exactly one year ago today, I came to hike at the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area for the very first time. I'll never forget the feeling that hit me once I reached this point and got a glimpse of the sweeping majesty of the land, the distant mesmerizing point where the horizon meets the sky, clean fresh air and brilliant sunshine. I took this picture and fell in love. For anyone coming out here who hasn't been before, they'll likely feel the same"

Anna Aldridge, ASCCA Communications and Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by: Anna

If Darkness Fails…

Late in the evening on March 18, 2017 a group of neighbours and friends gathered at Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA). Among these friends were the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) represented by five stellar volunteers, the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO) represented by their amazing Education Coordinator, and the ASCCA was joined by Ann Cross' son Marshall Abbott. But what prompted this meeting under the cover of darkness? Curiosity about our interstellar views and concern for that darkness itself was at the top of the list.

As mentioned in last month's article the trees along the 22X were recently cleared for future utilities. These utilities are to include new lighting along the highway. Lighting that has the potential to disrupt the dark sky that has allowed the ASCCA to become Canada's first Nocturnal Preserve and has given the Rothney Observatory years of important astronomical research. If the light fixtures that are planned along the highway and other nearby developments go into place, the resulting light pollution will be astronomical, which is sadly not a pun as with fewer stars seen through the glow of development would mean the Observatory's ability to operate under such brightening conditions would be increasingly limited, and possibly non-existent in the future.

The RASC did a wonderful job educating participants on the less obvious impacts that the new light pollution would have on the ecological balance of our Nocturnal Preserve. For example, there is the disruption that artificial light has on every organism's circadian rhythm, or the changes in foraging patterns of nocturnal animals who avoid bright lights. Birds who use the stars to migrate successfully year after year are having their maps obscured from the sky. Another impact is the insects and some birds who are drawn into artificial light that fly around, transfixed, until they fall to the ground in exhaustion.

We are not asking Alberta Transportation not to put up lights along the 22X; we are just asking them to reconsider the type of light fixtures and LED lamps that they plan to install. To install fixtures that will allow both the RAO and ASCCA to continue to operate in the best possible darkness. One grade six student who recently discovered the plans for new lights along the 22X blurted out “but don't they know there is an observatory and Nocturnal Preserve here?” The answer to that is yes they do know our concerns. What Alberta Transportation is unaware of is whether our neighbours care about what their lights will do to these two legacies of Sandy Cross. “What we need”, says Marshall Abbott, “is for those who are concerned about the lights to write to their members of government and ask them to please tone it down when it comes to these lights.”

For more information on the impacts of light pollution on astronomy and wildlife please go to the RASC website at http://calgary.rasc.ca/lp/  . To contact Alberta Transportation please email: Rizwan.Hussain@gov.ab.ca or phone (403) 297-5500

Laura Griffin
Education Intepretor

Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

Posted by: Anna

Last week we saw unseasonably warm weather, a welcome respite from some of this winter's downright frigid temperatures. The cold weather, from time to time, has made it challenging for our volunteers to do their weekly nature survey, a 8 - 10 km trek that goes on and off the trails of the conservation area to do a detailed survey of seasonal plants and animals. On February 15, it reached a balmy 16 degrees, and our steward volunteers enjoyed their lunch on a grassy hill with a beautiful view! Dick Choy supplied us photographs of Great Hairy Screw Moss and the Earth Star mushroom. It's amazing what you can find in nature when you look for it, despite the cooler weather, the natural world is not only surviving, but thriving.

Anna Aldridge
ASCCA Volunteer Coordinator

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area wildlife + plants

Pintail Duck
Anas acuta
  Male: Chocolate brown head with a white breast and white stripe on its back.  It has a dark bill, and long tail feathers.  Female: Mottled light brown, all over its body.
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