Mark Thompson Park

In some ways, the Stonebridge neighborhood ticks all the boxes as an environmentally friendly development, with high-density housing and shops within walking distance. Other services, such as elementary schools, are centrally located on quiet streets. There are also several parks where people can walk and play. It is worth noting, however, that these green areas are small compared to the roads and parking lots, buildings, and shopping malls. Humans take up a lot of space, and we are never, it seems, entirely environmentally friendly!

The majority of Stonebridge’s parks are expanses of lawn, but there are also some wonderful storm water retention ponds. One of these is currently set up for skating — how wonderful to be able to skate around on “wild” ice!  Another space, Mark Thompson Park, is naturalized, so that native plants still have a place to live. Interestingly Mark Thompson Park also carries the memory of more than 6,000 years of human history.

A Walk Back in Time

From time immemorial, the Stonebridge neighborhood has been inhabited by humans. Long before white settlers arrived, people hunted and lived on and with this land. The Archaeological Society of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan Department of Archaeology have excavated in this neighborhood for nearly 50 years, before houses were built here. They have learned that the area was used for hunting and processing bison. The land was marshy, making it easier for the hunters to trap the weighty bison and kill them, one by one, as needed.

Today, a visit to Mark Thompson Park is an opportunity to go back in time, a short time, only 150 years, and imagine the creaks of settlers’ wagons as they made their way along the trail from Moose Jaw to the new Temperance Colony of Saskatoon in the 19th century. Alongside the old wagon ruts, still clearly visible, creative interpretive features map the Moose Jaw Trail and tell the story of the hardships that were endured during the journey.  They tell of the impressions that the vast prairie landscape made upon the newcomers.

Interpretive sculpture. Photo credit Ahmed Badawy.

A breath in nature

Neither Janet McVittie, my friend and partner in this adventure, nor myself reside in the Stonebridge neighborhood, but we both visited the Mark Thompson Park to see what nature is left in the neighborhood and to share what Stonebridge has to offer in the way of beauty.

The day of our visit, Saturday, December 30, 2023, was sunny with a light covering of snow on the ground. The tall thin trembling aspen trees and what looked like willows were beautiful, even without their summer leaves. There was a variety of shrubs in the forest understory, including snowberry and wild roses (the fruit of which contains more Vitamin C than an orange – but eat these cautiously, avoiding the seeds!)

Janet’s dog, who loves the cold, pulled on her leash and rolled in the grass, obviously content to be here. It wasn’t hard for us to locate a spot on the grass where we could have our lunch and hot tea. Although Mark Thompson Park is small in size, we felt surrounded by nature. Before we visited, I didn’t know about the history of the Moose Jaw trail. As we read the interpretive signs, I was really impressed by and appreciative of what we could find of beauty and what we could learn of history, by just exploring our city.

Although Mark Thompson Park is the only naturalized park in Stonebridge, one can get a long walk in by visiting other nearby spaces without crossing many roads. From our parking spot by Mark Thompson Park, we walked across the street to Patricia Roe Park, which has a bit of a forest and a children’s playground. From there, you can walk up Whalley Crescent to Marshall Hawthorne and Howard Harding Parks. These two parks have a stream, some small plantings of trees, and a stormwater pond. This is where people can skate in the winter. Across Vic Boulevard from Howard Harding Park is Blair Nelson Park, which has a huge pond. Skating is not recommended here, as there are areas where the ice is thin. At the southwest end of Blair Nelson Park is John Cameron Park, a small place where one can sit and watch the water. From John Cameron Park, one can walk north on Langlois Way to Alexander McGillivray Young Park. This park has an adult fitness playground, along the walking/running/skateboarding trail, and a children’s playground. From the eastern edge of this park, we spotted Cecil Wheaton Park and then turned back to Howard Harding and Marshall Hawthorne Parks.

Although none of the parks except for Mark Thompson are naturalized, they could be! Blair Nelson Park could be planted to native grasses and to native wild flowers. If left alone, the water retention pond will likely soon have a few aspens, willows, and already has a few red osier dogwoods and bullrushes. Marshall Hawthorne and Howard Harding could have more native trees planted, instead of the exotics that are there now.

– Ahmed Badawy

An Experience Never Forgotten

This text comes from an interpretive panel in Mark Thompson Park:

“By the summer of 1882, Moose Jaw was the western terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  To get to Saskatoon, settlers and traders had to load their goods on Red River carts or wagons for the overland journey.  For lightly packed carts, this trip took approximately four days, but for heavily loaded ones the journey could take a month.

The trek began on Main Street in Moose Jaw then ran roughly north to the Qu’Appelle (or Big Arm) River Valley. There it linked with an established First Nations and Metis foot trail at the top of the south slope of the valley until it reached the South Saskatchewan River at The Elbow.  The route then joined a series of buffalo hunting trails where it ran northward toward Saskatoon – through this site – and onward to points west including Battleford and Edmonton.

The Moose Jaw Trail was used during the 1885 Resistance.  After the railway came to Saskatoon, the trail was used mainly for local traffic, including the delivery of milk by horse-drawn carts until the late 1930s.”

Snowberries. Photo credit Ahmed Badawy

Alternative Route

For a slightly different route, check out the three-kilometer-long Stonebridge Archaeology Walking Tour developed by Whitecap Dakota First Nation and Saskatoon Public Schools. 

Annie, leaving her investigation of the snowberry bushes to get back to the business of walking. Photo credit Ahmed Badawy.

How to get there

Access: The park is in Stonebridge, at the corner of Rempel Avenue and Hunter Road. From Preston Ave S, you can walk to Hunter Road, turn east for about two minutes before you turn north on Rempel Manor.  After you have turned, Patricia Roe Park will be to your right-hand side, while Mark Thompson Park will be just in front of you and towards your left.

Park trails are good for walking. Only leashed dogs are allowed. Cycling and skiing won’t likely be an option of choice, due to the small size of the park.

Time in the park: The park is accessible 24/7 and is open with no fences.  Whenever you feel like it, give it a visit and enjoy nature within the Stonebridge neighborhood.

The park is small in area. A leisurely walk, stopping to read the interpretive signs, will take not more than 30 minutes. Exploring the native plants and having a picnic on the grass will add to your joy and time there.

For more information: Check out the Saskatoon Nature Society’s A Guide to Nature Viewing Sites In and Around Saskatoon, available on loan from the Saskatoon Public Library and for purchase at Turning the Tide and McNally Robinson bookstores and directly from the Saskatoon Nature Society, purchase the book here.