Hopefully, after a couple of news stories in the local papers and Mary Wilson’s dynamic talk at the recent New Westminster Pecha Kucha event, you are aware that there will be a series of Jane’s Walks in New Westminster this weekend.
(parts below cribbed from a press release I helped pen – so sorry for the quasi-self-plagiarizing!)
Jane’s Walks are becoming a global event, held in hundreds of cities around the world on the first weekend in May. Around the world, neighbourhood groups organize free community walks to honour the memory of Jane Jacobs.
Jane Jacobs is considered by many to be the Mother of modern Urbanism, in that she brought it to life, loved and supported it, and worked tirelessly to give it all the tools it needed to prosper. She rose to prominence for her activism to protect Greenwich Village from the Lower Manhattan Expressway proposal, and her ground-breaking book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. She moved to Toronto during the Vietnam War, and brought her Urban Activism with her, such that she received first Citizenship, then the Order of Canada. To put a local angle on her story, Jacobs is sometimes referred to as “the mother of Vancouverism” for the influence her writings and research had on the development of post-freeway Vancouver, and the belief that density can be done without compromising liveability.
Jane’s Walks are meant to honour Jane, but also to honour her desire: that cities and urban areas become safe, diverse, and interesting places for people to live, work, and play. We honour this by drawing urban neighbours together to take a walk through their own city, not to get from A to B, but to have a “walking conversation”, meet neighbours, learn something new about their own backyard, and ultimately increase citizens’ connection to their urban home.
It just so happens that this year, Jane’s Walk came on the perfect weekend for a burgeoning New Westminster election tradition: Tenth to the Fraser, NEXT NewWest, and the New Westminster Environmental Partners working together to organize a unique event to bring voters and candidates together. Instead of another boring debate or staged Q&A, the “All Candidate’s Jane’s Walk” will be an inviting, social, and fun event. The goal is to give everyone a chance to meet, greet and get to know the candidates seeking your vote on May 14th.
All New Westminster residents are invited to gather at Sapperton Park (at the corner of East Columbia Street and Sherbrooke Street) at 5:30pm (sharp!). The five candidates will be introduced, and the group will walk along Columbia Street and the Central Valley Greenway to Downtown New Westminster and the River Market (a distance of about 3.5 km, so about an hour walking at a leisurely pace).
Along the way, each of the candidates will be given an opportunity for their 3-4 minutes “on the soapbox” to address the crowd. We promise to keep the speeches short, as the emphasis will be on face-to-face and small group conversations during the walk. Participants will be encouraged to chat with the candidates and ask their own questions. At the end of the walk, participants and candidates will be encouraged to gather at the Paddlewheeler Pub to continue the conversation, socialize and network (in the NEXT NewWest tradition). A rough schedule is available on the Jane’s Walk Event page– so if you can only catch part of the walk, you are, of course, welcome to join or leave! Don’t forget to bring Skytrain fare to get from the end back to the beginning- both ends are close to Millennium Line stations!
Now that the self-serving advertizing part of the post is over, I want to encourage you to go to the Jane’s Walk New Westminster page and see what other walks are coming your way this weekend. There are no less than 10 walks planned, most of them an hour or two long. I love looking at the Jane’s Walks GoogleMap plug-in to see that New Westminster is one of the two centres of Jane’s Walks for BC along with some young upstart village to the west…
I like to think this is because we have a beautiful, walkable City, and engaged citizens who are proud of their neighbourhoods and want to create community connections. It may also be because we have Mary Wilson leading the charge to make us a walking city. No matter if you live on the West Side, Queensborough, Downtown or the Brow – there is a walk in your neighbourhood.
The weather forecast is spectacular this weekend– sunscreen and water bottles are about the only thing you will need for any of the walks, and many of them terminate near places where one can buy ice cream or icy cold beer, as per your preference. So get out of your house, drag the kids away from the screen, leave the car in the garage, and meet a few neighbours. We’ll see you on the Streets of New Westminster this weekend!