Qualico Lake Communities Through The Decades
Qualico Through the Decades – 1970s
For many decades, Qualico has pushed innovation, stretching the imagination to create solutions to unique problems. With the development of new communities, the importance of water management and ecological balance has been an ever-present challenge, but not one from which the company backs down. Rather, some of the most beautiful communities are born of the need for the preservation of nature and responsible water management.
As such, Qualico boasts five notable lake-embodied communities where innovation has rendered beauty, nature, and responsible land development.
1) The Lake of All Seasons, All Seasons Estates/Sun Valley, Winnipeg, MB
In the 1970s, Qualico Developments Ltd. in Winnipeg embarked on a new concept in community development with the introduction of All Seasons Estates. This master-planned community is home to the Lake of All Seasons, one of the first of its kind to include a man-made lake, which to this day is still the largest in the City of Winnipeg.
"It would depend how you define the 'first' but All Seasons Estates here in Winnipeg was, or was one of, our first big community developments in the late '70s with Qualico clearly at the lead of the project," said Eric Vogan, former Vice-President of Qualico Communities Winnipeg.
What makes this lake unique, especially for its time, is its cooperative storm drainage with existing city infrastructure via Bunn’s Creek Storm Retention Lake. An uncommon practice in the 1970s, this idea sparked a new way of developing communities to work with the overarching vision for city infrastructure. Beyond simple water management for the area, Lake of All Seasons was a marvel of recreation, inviting residents to canoe and sail on their own neighbourhood lake.
Winnipeg city map of All Seasons Estates showcasing the Lakes of All Seasons
Surrounding the lake was another new concept for its time: the linear park. Never before so close to home had residents been able to enjoy bicycle routes, jogging trails, and recreational facilities stretching from the Red River to Lagimodiere Blvd. Although Bunn‘s Creek and the new man-made Lake of All Seasons had the important job of managing the water systems for the area, they also provided a new way of life for residents within the community.
With the success of Lake of All Seasons, Qualico embraced the concept of water features in new communities, and since the 1970s has developed innovative and complex solutions across all of its regions.
2) Harmony Lake, Harmony, Rocky View County, AB
Harmony Lake is a notable example of addressing the challenges of various municipal policies and unique land management requirements. Harmony is an award-winning, vibrant community, located west of Calgary, Alberta in picturesque Rocky View County. The community is situated in such a way that it is entirely detached from any other municipal resources and infrastructure. As such, Qualico, in partnership with Bordeaux Developments, was tasked with finding ways to create self-contained sanitation and water infrastructure.
“Because the area is located where there isn’t any community built around it, the servicing needs for the area simply weren’t there,” said Cary Kienitz, Associate Director of Development, Qualico Communities Calgary Region. “It was decided that we’d build our own water and wastewater treatment plants.”
In order to sustain these treatment plants and the water needs of the entire community, Qualico needed to determine how to store large amounts of water. A man-made lake was the ideal solution. Harmony currently has one operational 40-acre lake that feeds the infrastructure of the community, with a second lake, nearly 100 acres in size, planned to provide the required capacity in future years.
“The decision to build a lake created a ripple effect into making a resource that was triple-pronged,” said Cary. “This included a recreation facility to allow residents to swim in the lake, a stormwater retention area, and a water reservoir for the treatment plants.”
Lake A's South Beach in Qualico's Community of Harmony
Harmony Lakes Circulation Systems
Throughout the community are several wetlands with built-in circulation systems intended to filter out contaminants from stormwater prior to its arrival at the lake.
“The lake is also treated with ozone and oxygen to assist with water quality,” said Cary. “The measures taken to create a sustainable water supply have allowed our residents to not only swim in the lake, but also to fish. The lake is stocked with brown trout.”
There’s a lot to be proud of with the community of Harmony. It’s no wonder it’s a four-time winner of community of the year, as recognized by BILD Calgary.
3) Westbrooke Detention 'Lake', Langley, BC
In Langley, BC, Qualico’s Westbrooke Community endured similar challenges in the creation of water management facilities in the Willoughby Heights neighbourhood. The result is producing what might not be classically defined as a lake, but its engineering and legitimate ‘cool’ ecological benefits, ensures it places as one of Qualico’s ‘Great Lakes’.
Faced with limited land availability and significant development investment, Qualico collaborated with the Township of Langley and McElhanney Consulting Engineering Ltd. to create an innovative solution – and what a solution it was.
Qualico Communities BC's Westbrooke Detention Facility (Photo from Development)
“At a time when land in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is so scarce, we are challenged to find innovative solutions from both a housing perspective and an engineering services standpoint,” said Kevin Anderson, Vice-President, Qualico Communities BC. “The Westbrooke dual-use detention pond was an exciting project for the Communities BC team to be involved with and we look forward to opportunities to build off this concept in future projects.”
To maximize space usage and retain cost-effectiveness, Westbrooke is now home to Qualico’s first underground ‘lake’: a stormwater detention tank of mammoth proportions. Constructed below the sports fields in Yorkson Community Park, this pond not only introduced new methods for sustainable land use, but also met the requirements imposed by the township to service the whole catchment area.
Creating such a unique facility was a steep learning curve for the parties involved, but one that now sets a precedent for future developments. At more than 21,000 cubic metres in capacity, the stormwater detention facility in Westbrooke is one of the largest in North America and leads the way in innovative water management facilities.
An added ecological benefit of the underground system is that it detains water at a cooler temperature than a traditional exposed pond. Nearby creeks host important salmon spawning and the fish benefit from the cooler water the underground storage system releases back into the creeks.
In 2019, the Westbrooke I stormwater detention centre was recognized by the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of British Columbia with an Award of Excellence in municipal and civil infrastructure.
4) Sage Creek Wetlands, Sage Creek, Winnipeg, MB
The water systems at Sage Creek in Winnipeg are as natural as they come. They also changed the name of the game of community design in Winnipeg going forward.
When Sage Creek was initially designed, the idea of naturalized stormwater retention basins was just beginning to take hold in Winnipeg. The Qualico community was the first in Canada to include naturalized retention basins and upland prairie grasses on such a large scale. Sage Creek’s innovative and eco-oriented design was brought forward by Qualico in 2006 and was later adopted by the City of Winnipeg as the standard for all future development.
The area was developed to include over 42 acres of natural wetlands, set in place to act as stormwater retention ponds and sustain wildlife and a natural ecosystem. In addition, there are 82 acres of native prairie tall grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. For the design, implementation and management of the wetlands and native grass plantings in Sage Creek, Qualico partnered with Native Plant Solutions, a division of Ducks Unlimited Canada.
“Our man-made wetlands have a number of engineered features to mimic nature very well,” said Mike Armstrong, Manager, Operations, Qualico Communities Winnipeg. “Native Plant Solutions’ style of pond is graded, and the tiered terraforming mimics a natural wetland’s waterbody and edge. This provides different depths to accommodate different types of plants, along with proper habitat ‘layers’ for both our plant and animal species. Our ‘dry’ stormwater retention basins are graded and tiered as well, although they have different plant species than the wetlands."
“All of our basins, or lineal lakes, are designed to maximize frontage for our housing lots,” he added, “but at the same time, we ensure their widths complement permanent open water as our wetlands continue to expand – except within our deep water channels where vegetation cannot survive.”
The naturalized wetland and upland areas at Sage Creek improve the overall water quality in the urban water system and sequester approximately 92 tonnes of carbon per year, the equivalent of nearly 40,000 litres of fuel.
While other types of stormwater retention systems in communities are effective, so too are the wetlands at Sage Creek. Wetlands are an effective tool for flood control. The many species of plants absorb water, controlling the flow and slowing down accumulation. Reduced flooding eases the stress on the adjoining water systems, benefiting the surrounding communities as well.
5) The Lake at Sun Chase, Sun Chase, Austin, TX
In southeast Austin, Texas, the upcoming master-planned community of Sun Chase is under construction around an existing lake and water system. Rather than having to trench the lake for inclusion in the community, Sun Chase is designed to work around the 60 acres of water already in the area. What historically was a dugout on a family-owned acreage offering cool dips in the summer for the kids has grown into a lake worthy of being a community centrepiece.
“When we were working on the plan for Sun Chase, we considered how to structure the layout of the community to ensure the lake is accessible,” said Vera Massaro Vice-President, Qualico Communities Austin. “We didn’t situate homes right on the main water feature; we wanted everyone to be able to access the water and enjoy the complete lake experience.”
Preliminary Sun Chase Lake Map Rendering (Subject to Change)
The lake in Sun Chase is not an exclusive feature only for residents – it will be open to the broader community.
Probably one of the most spectacular features of the lake at Sun Chase will be the largest fishing pier constructed in company history. Stretched across the north edge of the lake at a length of nearly 750 feet, the pier is accompanied by a boardwalk and designated fishing pavilion. What will people be catching? Rumour has it, there’s catfish in them waters!
Aerial view of Sun Chase Lake from 2018
“Our focus with this community design is enhancing what is already in place in this location,” said Vera. “By adding facilities for fishing and a canoeing launch, residents have more unique recreational opportunities available for things they can do to enjoy the lifestyle at Sun Chase.”
The finished community is expected within five to eight years, with a healthy mix of single-family and multi-family homes, two planned schools as well as supporting commercial development. Sun Chase will certainly welcome a diverse group of residents to the area.
To Sum It All Up
Many of Qualico’s communities across Western Canada and the United States contain some form of water feature, whether it’s a lake, pond, underground storage, wetlands, or creeks. The importance of sustaining the natural beauty and biodiversity of the communities in which we build drives much of the design and planning in these areas. Not only do these features play a key role in water management for the area, but healthy ecosystems feed the life and lifestyles within these communities.
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