HALIFAX – Haligonians enjoyed a quick respite from the seemingly endless deluge this past weekend while participating in the city’s well-timed Jane’s Walk walking series. Over 100 people came out to walk, talk and learn about their neighborhoods. A variety of folks, young and old, shared stories, maps and anecdotes about the places we live and the paths we use to navigate ourselves around the city.
Janet Barlow, coordinator of the Active and Safe Route to School project, kicked off the series with a walk to school in Clayton Park, a suburban development off the peninsula. Parents from the nearby Park West Elementary joined some curious city folk for a stroll, as we meandered through the system of cul-de-sacs. Although most children live within walking distance, 25% of them are chauffeured to school, causing unnecessary traffic congestion and danger. Barlow, a treasure trove of information, showed us the paths that connect the dead-end streets meant to encourage pedestrianism. Unfortunately, some of the residents have been successful in shutting down these paths to public usage. What would Jane Jacobs say? Trouble arises when a neighbourhood is designed in such a way where there are no eyes on the street to collectively supervise the goings-on.
Sophia Horwitz lead an urban hike through the South End of Halifax, on an elevated trail above the train tracks. It felt like we were walking in the countryside, far away from city life and automobiles. We visited one of the few public access points to the harbour and talked about the encroachment of private development and the lack of protection for public access to water in our city. We witnessed a train pass and surprised a few graffiti artists painting under the bridges along the way. Exciting!
Sunday was a full day of walks and a joyful overload of previously unknown information. Jayme Melrose proved herself to be a truly passionate and down to earth teacher. Touching upon Mi’kmaq history, she delved into the details of the natural environment that defines our space. She shared some of her knowledge of the medicinal plants growing all around us, right under our noses. Many were eager to learn more about the Fresh Water Brook watershed buried under the city. We huddled around a cement grate that allows you to see and hear it rushing underneath. Whoa!