Thousands of residents are expected to hit the streets on May 4 and 5 for Jane’s Walk, a citywide event that celebrates local businesses, public spaces, and the city’s history. Launched in Toronto in 2007 in honour of the late activist and author Jane Jacobs, the walks have quickly grown in popularity and spread all over the world, beginning in Ottawa six years ago. An expert in urban literacy and city planning, Jacobs was known for saying “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” In this spirit, the free events are led by experts and locals with a passion for their neighbourhoods. With an expected 50 walks taking place around Ottawa-Gatineau, here are five we’re especially eager to try.
By Sanita Fejzic
Art, Nature, and Architecture
This is a new twist on last year’s successful Art Walk, led by two guides who are passionate about art and nature. Starting at Wall Space Gallery on Richmond Road, the walk moves to the historic Maplelawn Garden and ends at the First Unitarian Congregation on Cleary Avenue. Bridging local contemporary art with the effortless beauty of nature and the power of architecture, the walk wends its way over 1.5 kilometres and features experts at each stop.
Homeless People: Their Ottawa
The strength of a city’s social fabric can be measured by its weakest thread. How does Ottawa support its homeless population? This walk sheds light on the shelter system, food banks, and other drop-in centres in the ByWard Market, with the walk leader explaining the hardships, obstacles, and particular needs of Ottawa’s homeless population.
Organized by Sandra MacPherson and the Bettye Hyde Cooperative Nursery in Sandy Hill, this walk — led by kids for kids — will enchant the whole family. MacPherson is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa who studies urban walking and is specializing in flaneurs (a 19th-century French concept of “city walkers” or “strollers”) in Canadian literature. Perfect for kids aged four to 10, the walk ends with a creative activity at the Sandy Hill Community Centre park.
Sociological Walk: Somerset West
Fresh off a stint in New York City, local documentary photographer Jackson Couse presents this exploration of the Somerset West community. He describes it as “less of a guided tour and more of a conversation about the neighbourhood,” with a route that will include hidden paths and alleyways.
The Turtles of Petrie Island
Get closer to the turtles of Petrie Island with the help and guidance of Al Tweddle, chairman of Friends of Petrie Island. Tweddle discusses the lifecycles of the local turtles, and how the newly hatched reptiles are faced with unique challenges caused by human development and other changes to their natural habitat. Learn about the history of the island and its relationship with these gentle creatures — take boots in case of rain.
For a detailed schedule of the walks or to volunteer, visit www.janeswalkottawa.ca
This story appears in the April edition of Ottawa Magazine. Buy the magazine on newsstands in April, or order your online edition.