Scenic Routes in Winnipeg

Winnipeg, like all other cities, is made up of smaller parts. Originally incorporated in 1873, Winnipeg was bounded in the north by Burrows Avenue west of Main Street, and Aberdeen Avenue east of Main Street; on the south by Assiniboine River; on the east by Red River; and on the west by Maryland Street, Notre Dame Avenue and McPhillips Street. If you look at this drawing of the original boundaries, you realize how small Winnipeg started off compared to how many neighbourhoods are included in the current perimeter.1873 City of Winnipeg

It wasn’t until 1972 that Charleswood, Fort Garry, North Kildonan, Old Kildonan, Tuxedo, East Kildonan, West Kildonan, St. Vital, Transcona, St. Boniface, and St. James-Assiniboia  amalgamated with the City of Winnipeg and the  Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg to form Winnipeg as we know it today. Which helps to exaplin the baffling lack of consistency in urban planning and the lack of continuity in street names.

All this to say that this was the journey our city took to develop into the unique neighbourhoods we have today. It’s pretty cool to live in one place that offers such a variety of vibes depending on which part of the city you’re in. Some of our most well-loved neighbourhoods are the areas where the population density is the greatest. These are the parts of the city that feel alive and vibrant with people where you can people-watch or have impromptu reunions with old classmates or co-workers. For a long time I always felt wished that Winnipeg’s densely populated areas were more closely linked. Since Winnipeg is pretty sprawling compared to its overall population density, it feels like there are areas of the city where people will congregate, but because they feel unattached, it’s easy to think of them as being separate clumps. My parents live on the other side of the city from myself, so sometimes when I’m driving back and forth, I like to mix up my routes. Especially when it’s summer and driving around with the windows down. Unfortunately, if I take some of my normal routes, all I see are cars and more cars. Until I took a different route. Since then, I make it a habit to drive down routes that shows off the more active, pedestrian-friendly version of Winnipeg even if they aren’t as direct.

One of my favourite summer routes is between Waterfront Drive and Corydon Avenue. The best part is that this route can be enjoyed in any way, whether it’s driving, biking, or walking. Along Waterfront there are beautiful condominiums with a river view as well as Stephen Juba park and the Goldeyes Stadium. Across Provencher, Waterfront turns into Israel Asper Way, which winds towards the heart of the Forks. No matter what the season, there is always something going on. From the Forks, I like to make my way to Assiniboine Avenue, passing the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park. Assiniboine Avenue is such a lovely little street with some really interesting buildings going up. It feels exactly how a downtown neighbourhood should feel; it’s tucked away from all the busy streets, but still homey with lots of greenery. My route winds down with a quick tour through Osborne Village and finishes up in the Corydon area for a coffee or a cocktail on one of the patios. It’s a perfect way to spend a warm Winnipeg evening.

Here is a map of the route:

I couldn’t include all the neighbourhoods I love to tour through, so if anyone is interested in more scenic routes, I can make similar posts in the future.

Do you have any favorite routes?

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The Importance of Neighbours

Last year I found out that once you move into a house, a question a lot of people will ask is “How are your neighbours?” Which makes sense because there is the close proximity within which you will both be living your lives. Neighbours are important. If you’re away for a few days, there is comfort with knowing that the good people next door will be keeping an eye out. Even if you have family or a friend checking on your house, it’s the neighbours who will recognize behaviour or events that might be out of the ordinary.

These are the folks who will warn you about events happening on your street, like car break-ins, vandalism, or suspicious ‘furnace inspectors’ knocking on doors. It’s only your neighbours who are equally concerned about local services, like schools, libraries, or community centres. Only the residents on your street or in your area face the same daily gripes that you do.

Like most communities, it is the unfortunate case that it’s usually difficult circumstances that unite us. All it takes is a drive down Henderson Highway these days to see how the impending loss of the urgent care facility at Concordia is uniting the 27km stretch of road. Back to our neighbourhood, River Heights is regularly united by car break-ins, and a deeply held belief in NIMBY-ism. Google ‘River Heights Residents Angry’ and you can see a lengthy and varied search return. The majority of residents obviously value the status quo. If you zoom out a bit, there is a clear difference in the level of community between neighbourhoods with different demographics.  As anyone that has lived in the North End will tell you, the sense of community is palpable. Everyone places a much higher value on community and make a huge effort to be friendly with each other. In contrast, talk to anyone who lives in Tuxedo. Many of them don’t even know what their neighbours look like, let alone their names. It might be the money that makes the difference. After all, how many of us end up chatting with the neighbour over the fence while mowing the lawn or gardening. If that work is done by a contractor, that opportunity is gone. Home and neighbourhood design have changed as well over the years. With big attached garages, you can avoid contact with people altogether by driving in and out. When my parents moved to the city, I could match each SUV to the corresponding house, but I don’t think I could have placed a single driver in a police lineup.

Currently, we have great neighbours. They’re friendly, and although slightly eccentric, none of them appear to sell drugs, belong to gangs, or live a pesticide-free lifestyle (hippies: everyone’s least favorite suburban neighbour). We are familiar enough to know the names of their pets and their general lifestyle. Even better, is that we have neighbour-friends that we alternate hosting dinners with and they’re a really wonderful couple. It didn’t happen by accident though. They put in conscious effort to welcome us to the area when we moved in. They extended an invitation to get together and gave us their phone number. If it weren’t for those gestures, we would likely have lived for years next to a great couple without getting to know them. Transcona has a great festival called the Hi Neighbourfestival which I first thought was kind of a cheesy idea. And maybe it is a little bit, but I think it really underscores the value of getting to know the people around you. Social media fascinates us because it shows the exotic, the exciting, the everything else. Meanwhile we’ve stopped valuing our own reality because it seems less interesting in comparison. Until that difficult circumstance comes along, we don’t need the people who live nearby. Instead of waiting for that day to come, we should make the effort now. Being a neighbour is more than just living next to each other, it’s also finding value in the sense of community that that closeness provides. And in order to do that, we have to cultivate those relationships, like our neighbour friends did, by making the effort.

Thinking about this made me revisit Mr. Rogers and his timeless invitation:

“Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbour?”