In no time at all, Jeromy Farkas has rolled up his sleeves and dived into his role as the CEO of the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation (GRPF).

Known for his advocacy and love for natural spaces, support of valued grassroots causes, and responsible government spending, Farkas says he jumped at the opportunity and has found his dream job. The former Calgary city councillor says it checked a number of boxes.

"The fact that I can spend every day in this slice of heaven to have a meaningful chance to contribute to kids programs, summer camps, education, conservation, and all the rest, that is the cake, but the icing on top of that is the fact that we're at such a time when we're thinking about the critical bridge connection into Cochrane from the park."

It's also at a time when its trail system is threatened by a flood mitigation project on the Bow River that would destroy upwards of 700 acres of the park.

What's commonly referred to as the East Glenbow Reservoir is one of three options being considered to protect communities downstream of the park, particularly Calgary. The ideas Farkas and the foundation's board of directors lean upon go a completely different direction.

"It's an important piece of my work to not just protect the park as it is today, but think about future opportunities to expand it," he says.

"We think it's important to preserve the rolling hills and grasslands that are proving so rare in this province and this county," says Farkas. "We think that the park is worthy of further investment rather than essentially destroying it through flood mitigation measures. Granted, flood mitigation is absolutely necessary, but frankly, there are a lot of better options that could and should be explored."

The park recently acquired land essential to completing the connection to the 126-acre Haskayne Legacy Park, which celebrated its official opening on Sept. 16.

Last December, an agreement was announced that significantly improved public access to the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park and the Legacy Park, helping to build upon the long-time vision of the Harvie and Haskayne families and others.

Efforts continue to connect the trail to Cochrane, and someday into the mountain parks. It opens the door to fulfill an ambition to become part of the Trans Canada Trail.

"Reducing the size of the park, frankly, sets us back. That's the wrong direction. The direction that I feel, as well as our board wants to go, is actually a thoughtful and strategic start to acquire perhaps other properties nearby so we can actually grow the footprint and make sure development in the area makes sense.

"We definitely want to work as part of a team in the area to make sure that whether you come from Calgary or Cochrane or the county, now and forever you'll have an incredible slice of heaven to be able to come and appreciate and enjoy its peace and serenity." 

READ: Land purchase suspicious, believe GRPF officials

Thanks to the completion of the Legacy Park, they've already seen an increase in visitors to Glenbow Ranch. He envisions the day when they'll be greeting over a million visitors annually as the trail continues to expand to Cochrane and beyond. He anticipates a five to tenfold increase.

"These are visitors who are going to come from far and wide to our park to experience the very best that Canada has to offer. We're going to be a shining jewel in the greatest trail network in the world's history."

To meet that need, the park will require further infrastructure and more trails.

"It's important to love our parks but it's important not to love them to death," he says.

Fundraising isn't anything new for Farkas. In March 2022, he began his "Big Walk." In 168 days, he completed a 4,260-kilometre journey on the Pacific Crest Trail in support of Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS). He initially set a goal of raising $50,000. As of this January, it had raised over $250,000 to become the biggest fundraiser in the history of BBBS Calgary

As a follow-up, he completed his Big Climb of scaling "25 Peaks in 25 Days" in support of Calgary's Alex Community Health Centre. It has almost doubled its initial goal of raising $25,000.

The administration of Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is unique among the province's parks. It is jointly operated by Alberta Parks and the GRPF.

GRPF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of the park and other lands that possess important heritage and ecological value. Established in 2007 by the Harvie Family, its mission is to protect and promote Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park through engagement, education, collaboration, and conservation.

Just 13 km east of Cochrane, the park offers 3,200 acres of native fescue grassland and includes an active cattle ranch. It's a day-use operation that offers over 28 kms of pathways in combination with extensive programming and interpretation.

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