Jane’s Walk began in 2007, a year after the death of Jane Jacobs, an urban activist and author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Walking together on the first weekend in May and sharing our stories of life in the city is a simple activity, but the outcome is huge. “The walks are all about community, working with the city to promote understanding. The idea is to walk together, sharing our neighbourhood stories in a fun engagement in city life,” says Wesley Andreas, a board and committee member of Spruce Avenue Community League.
Andreas sits on a loose organizing committee for Jane’s Walk in Edmonton. His community involvement goes back many years, and the result is channelled into Jane’s Walk. Andreas was the league’s lead on a history project commemorating Spruce Avenue’s 65th anniversary in 2016. Working with other volunteers, Andreas collected the history of the residents. The result is a series of historical house plaques and street signs that dot the neighbourhood. Since then, the signs have helped guide Jane’s Walk.
Before COVID-19, Jane’s Walk tours were led, in-person, by knowledgeable local people like Andreas. Starting last year, all the Spruce Avenue walks were posted online, sprinkled with fascinating tidbits about houses and history. Again this year, participants are encouraged to visit the Spruce Avenue website and use the information as a guide.
The purpose of Jane’s Walk is to preserve Jacobs’ legacy. Edmonton joins hundreds of cities worldwide in response to her encouragement to make cities work on our behalf. One such observation seems particularly relevant. Jacobs wrote, “Streets and their sidewalks—the main public places of a city—are its most vital organs.”
Ian Hosler, program coordinator for the City of Edmonton’s planning committee, shares his excitement for the event. “Edmonton started our walks in 2010 as a grassroots movement,” he recalls. “After a few years, we thought, wouldn’t it be great to make a bigger deal of it?” One way was to link Jane’s Walk with the city’s community leagues.
Many other leagues will join Spruce Avenue Community League in developing ways to get people out walking while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols.
Sarah DeLano, program coordinator for Parkdale-Cromdale Community League, is completing her studies in community engagement at the University of Alberta. Jane’s Walk is a perfect project, she says. “I am inspired by Jane Jacobs and her involvement in community building. Today, more than ever, people are craving activity and we can go out and walk as a family.”
Parkdale-Cromdale residents are invited to walk from the league’s brightly decorated chain link fence to the CreArt Edmonton mural displays along the path into Kinnaird Ravine from Sheriff Robertson Park. “The fence and the murals are artistic representations of the city,” says DeLano. “They are uplifting reminders that we have so much good energy and good people here.”
In walks big and small, virtual, and with cohorts in the great outdoors, Jane’s Walk is alive and well. A follow-up event is being planned for Community League Day this September, in person if allowed.
Worldwide site: janeswalk.org
Spruce Ave’s virtual Jane’s Walk: sites.google.com/view/spruceavejaneswalk
Parkdale-Cromdale Community League: parkdalecromdale.org
EFLC’s toolkit for building a Jane’s Walk: efcl.org/initiatives/janeswalk2021/
Edmonton Jane’s Walks (virtually May 7-9): janewalksyeg.wordpress.com/