Strathearn Stories: Now and Then - Camel Humps Park Preserve

  1. Brickyard - Past - Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta, B1352
  2. Black-Capped Chickadee Courtesy of Corey Scobie
  3. Camel Humps Park - Now - Courtesy of Diana Tirlea
  4. Dog-Wood – Courtesy of Diana Tirlea

Strathearn is a dynamic neighbourhood to live in. There are many changes happening right now, including the opening of our new community hall, future community garden, and coming LRT line. But what about the changes our neighbourhood has experienced in the past? In this article, we will dive into some of the history and nature of Camel Humps, the treed nature preserve bordering the north perimeter of Strathearn Park along Strathearn Drive.

Just over a hundred years ago, the site was used for brick making—first by a company called Pressed Brick Ltd. (1907-1911), and then by the Hardstone Brick Company (1912-1915). The owners of Hardstone Brick noticed that the location was perfect for making sand-lime bricks, which were stronger than regular clay bricks. They drew sand from pits directly on their site, and fired the bricks in kilns, powered by coal mined near the riverbanks.

Hardstone Brick was, at the time, a very modern operation. They installed new equipment on the site, and claimed to be the first company in Canada to use a German brick-making process called the “Magdeburg” process. Unlike some of their competitors, including the Anderson brick company just east of Mill Creek, Hardstone even had electricity, automatic machines, and could operate year round—not simply in the summer months.

They advertised production rates of 30,000 bricks in a ten-hour day, and offered several varieties in a range of colours. By December of 1915, however, the company had stopped production and was liquidating its assets. Hardstone Bricks was only in business for three years.

For many decades after, you could still see traces of where the sand was mined in and around Camel Humps, and carted over to the brickworks. Perhaps you can still see them today? In 1986, Camel Humps was designated a nature preserve, based on its use by groups for nature interpretation programming and as an environmentally sensitive area.

Today, Camel Humps is a preserve with a mature stand of trees, mostly deciduous Trembling Aspen and Balsam Poplar trees. In early spring, you can see fuzzy clusters of flowers on these trees before the leaf buds pop open; these are the showy catkins produced in spring by willow-related plants, including poplar trees and pussy willows.

To identify these common trees, you can feel the leaf stalks, called “petioles,” between your fingers. If the petiole is flattened and the leaves are round and somewhat heart-shaped, you have Trembling Aspen. Balsam Poplar leaves are more robust, shiny, oval-shaped, and have more rounded petioles.

If you descend the stairs into the preserve, you will see an understory made up of mostly red-stemmed Red-Osier Dogwood, Willows, Prickly Rose, creeping Sweet-Clover and Field Horsetail. The wood of Red-Osier Dogwood is a valuable food source for many deer species, and small mammals like the common city-dweller, the White-Tailed Prairie Hare (aka Jack Rabbit).

Hares are often larger, have longer hind legs and ears than rabbits do, and the baby hares (leverets) are born with their eyes open, furred, are mobile, and live aboveground—compared to the helpless kittens of rabbits. You will often see leverets alone, which is normal, as the female hare is rarely near them.

Camel Humps is also home to numerous birds. Many birds have calls and songs, which sound different, and are a way to communicate with one another. This includes the friendly Black-Capped Chickadee, with their signature “chickadee-dee-dee” call. To warn other chickadees in the area of a threat, like an approaching predator, they end this call with more “dees” or they make a high-pitched “see” or “see-see-seet” call. Their song sounds like “feeeee-bee” or “cheeesssse-burger.”

In spring, they are busy building their nests in small cavities of trees and laying 5-10 eggs. In a period of about a month, the chicks will have hatched, grown flight feathers, and fledged (leaving the nest). Chickadees’ primary food source is insects, so they help to reduce and maintain insect populations, including the loathed mosquito.

Next time you’re hiking through Camel Humps, watch for the traces of the old brickworks, or of the many species of plants and animals that are our neighbours!

By Diana Tirlea & Jillian Richardson

Resources to Explore

Hall Grand Opening

Smiles All Round as Strathearn

Community Hall Officially Opens

The brand spanking new Strathearn Community Hall has been open for a month now and it has been received very well indeed.

The grand opening pancake breakfast in early May was well attended by the community members, with young and old tucking into the treats whilst admiring the spacious main hall. Jason Ruhl, member of the Strathearn building society, greeted everyone and noted that the old hall could have fit entirely into the main room of the new hall alone! That’s quite the increase in size and potential!


Marlin Schmidt, MLA, officially opened the hall with a ribbon cutting ceremony flanked by Strathearn Building Society’s Marshall McAlister and Jason Ruhl as well as former local MLA, David Dorward.

Since the kick off, the hall has been used for all sorts of activities from AGMs to Artwalk fundraisers to the newly restarted ‘stay and play’ every Friday morning. And there’s more to come, both public and private, from birthdays to weddings and more throughout the coming months!

If you’d like to book the hall for your family get together or kids birthday bash then visit the hall page to check availability, prices and to send in your request!

And there’s more! Watch this space as a new deck has been generously donated to the league by the building contractor Southwark, so the fun times can move from inside to outside in the very near future!

Silver Heights Park Clean-Up & Artwalk Showcase

Saturday May 12, 12 - 3pm will be the fifth annual Silver Heights Park Spring Clean-up. Join the Strathearn community league as we prepare for summer park programming.

We’ll be getting the playground in shape for Green Shack, cleaning the basketball court and making sure our spray deck is ready to go for summer fun. No need to signup in advance just show up with some garden gloves and we’ll put you to work.

Volunteering in your neighbourhood is a great way to end the winter hibernation and meet some new friends. Light refreshments will be served for volunteers.

Following the park clean-up join the Strathearn ArtWalk as they present John Aram's Musical Mixer. Starting at 4pm three bands rock the new Strathearn Community League Hall for the low, low price of $10 - ArtWalk beer tent favourites Stovetop, The Misery Mountain Boys and a special guest act. Refreshments will be for sale, all ages welcome. Keep your eyes peeled for where and how to buy advance tickets.

Hall Grand Opening - Pancake Breakfast

We're looking forward to start using the hall and we'd like you to come celebrate with us!

On Saturday May 5, from 9am, Strathearn Community League is hosting a free pancake breakfast, open to all community members. We'll be serving fresh pancakes hot off the griddle, along with juice and coffee, and celebrating the grand opening of the new Strathearn Community Hall.

Come see the hall, talk to your neighbours, and hear about the wide range of programs and events we're planning for the hall. See our skate change area, the kitchen, our storage areas for hall user groups, and our outdoor storage. Learn about future projects we have planned, and share your ideas for the hall.

Thanks to Re/Max Edmonton & Area Associates for providing plates and utensils for this event. The breakfast starts at 9am and is first come, first serve until we run out!

We'll also have members of the Strathearn Building Society available, so please consider making a tax deductible donation to help support the hall.

Strathearn Community League's 2018 AGM

Strathearn Community League will be holding their Annual General Meeting on 4th June at 7pm inside our shiny brand new hall!!

Come along to have your say about the hall, the community, share your thoughts and meet the neighbours!

Want to get involved? Join the energetic and dedicated Community League Board to share ideas and influence what happens in your community!  Available positions on the include Member-­at­-Large & VP.

Get involved!!