(Part 2 in a series of reflections based on striking out from home in each of the four directions.)
To the south lie the paved bike trails of the Bishop Grandin Greenway. The majority of these pathways run east/west, parallel to the freeway, but I hook up with them briefly where they take me from the end of the dike, under the bridge, and towards the university campus. Along the way, I pass by a stretch of riverbank that has been designated as a “Grassland Naturalization Area.” Like the paved trails, the sign is a reminder that I am able to enjoy my riverbank walks because of some careful and deliberate planning.
It takes me a little over ten minutes to get from my door to the golf course gate. The golf course that isn’t a golf course any more. The University of Manitoba has acquired the land, and is taking a slow, measured approach to developing it. The community has been promised that, for the first few years, the land will be left untouched to be used as a public park. The old golf course buildings stand abandoned, and a maze of trails criss-crosses the space, along the river, through the trees. Some of these trails have been “built” and represent the path that the golfers would have taken around the property, but the trails I like are the more recent ones that have been created by a silent consensus of feet and bicycle tires.
The land is sparsely populated by students using it as a short cut to the campus, walkers like me, birds, squirrels and deer. Yes deer, here in the middle of the city. The deer have held their ground in spite of two years of stadium construction just across the road.
The university has launched an international design competition for mixed-use development of the space. While there is always an element of controversy around any land development initiative, I have to say I like what I’ve seen so far. In particular, I like that their design objectives include keeping the riverbank as a public space. I had the opportunity to attend a presentation on the development initiative, and learned that, in preparing the detailed specifications for the design competition, one of the things the university did was plot the GPS coordinates of all the trees on the property. They will be looking for design concepts that maintain existing mature trees. I like that too.
I’m a little concerned about the deer, however. It’s hard to say at this point if there will be a place for them in the new planned community. But for now they are happy to claim this bit of paradise as home. The young ones skitter past and duck into the weeds along the bank, but the older ones are apt to stand in the middle of the field and stare you down, as if to say “I don’t mind you here as long as you’re just passing through, but don’t get any funny ideas…”