The World’s Top Public Spaces

A neighbourhood park in Laurier Heights. Screen Capture from Google Maps

Editor’s Note: For the upcoming weeks, a series of articles focusing on public spaces will appear on Spacing Edmonton. First up, Lana Cuthbertson will discuss the value in the neighbourhood park.

I read an article that lists the top 10 public spaces in the world. The list includes the Peace Bridge in Calgary. Congrats, fair southern neighbour!

I naturally thought about Edmonton’s public spaces. Which are my favourite?

One immediately comes to mind: the park in the middle of the large cul-de-sac in Laurier Heights, between 79th and 80th Avenues and 146 and 147 Streets. In my youth, it was “the park across the street.” You might have guessed I grew up across the street from this park.

Especially for a kid, the park was an absolute wonder. It was a large park for a cul-de-sac park, and consisted of the very basics: grass, trees and bushes. It would probably take me eight or nine minutes to walk around the edge of the park now.

The crescent was full of families and other kids, and those kids are still some of my closest friends today. We played capture the flag in the open areas, we invented bedrooms, houses, whole worlds in the bushes, and climbed the trees just to sit up in the branches for a while. Every summer, the parents would organize a crescent picnic. People hauled their tables, barbeques and blankets out to the park across the street, and everyone brought some food and drink to share. In the winter, we built forts, often rival forts. My dad, who had access to a bobcat for his work, cleared an area in the middle of the park for a skating rink. Other dads extended their garden hoses, dragged them across the street and helped flood the rink every night. I learned to skate on that rink–I remember the little bumps from the blades of grass underneath the ice.

The snow that was removed from the skating area was piled up into big hills, which we slid down and carved out to make tunnels.

To me, the best public places are the parks across the street of the world, of Edmonton. That park became something different every season, every day, for me and my family. It brought the community together, and by doing that, helped make Edmonton the great place to grow up that it was, and still is. The only architecture in the park was what nature created, what we could imagine was there, ideas we dreamed up and made real.

One comment

  1. Hi Lana,

    Nice comment and story about the memory of a community space.

    One thing that stood out was your thought on it as a space that ‘nature created’. While appreciating the natural elements and the pleasantness they create in the park, I just wanted to highlight that most aspects of the park are the result of conscious human design choices and policies.

    From planning policy that would have mandated a certain amount of parkland for the neighbourhood, to the choice of grass and trees likely by a landscape architect, most of what is there is likely the result of human intention (with of course natural environmental factors playing their part.)

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