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Jane's Walk weekend explores Ottawa from ground level

From the bowels of the ByWard Market to Ottawa's great foodie meccas, Jane's Walk will cover all matters of urban living this weekend.

Jane's Walk participants learn about urban foraging during last year's event. This year's list of walks include a foodie tour, a lambasting of Lansdowne and tours of the Ottawa Tool Library.

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Jane's Walk participants learn about urban foraging during last year's event. This year's list of walks include a foodie tour, a lambasting of Lansdowne and tours of the Ottawa Tool Library.

What’s the deal with all our brutalist buildings, what’s a tool library, and why, oh why, is there so much surface parking in our iconic downtown spaces?

All these questions and more can be answered this weekend as volunteers lead 48 free Jane’s Walks throughout the city.

The event, now in its ninth year, is inspired by urbanist pioneer Jane Jacobs, who would have turned 100 this May. She encouraged a community-based approach to designing cities, promoting high-density neighbourhoods with diverse local economies.

If you’re an urban planning geek, a history buff or just interested in your community, there’s a Jane’s Walk for you.

Apart from the popular annual tours – an unauthorized history of Parliament Hill, anyone? – there are nine new walks on the schedule this year, and organizer Leigh Thorpe said several in particular are not to be missed.

In Sandy Hill, a short walk on Saturday celebrating the new Adawe Crossing footbridge promises to be “more of a pageant,” Thorpe said. The agenda includes a town crier, ceremonial drumming and a talk from First Nations historians about the Rideau River’s importance and history.

Downtown, two urban enthusiasts, James Chan and Nico Koenig, will voice what everyone else is thinking: “Why is there a parking lot here?!”

The recent Toronto transplants will focus on the vast amounts of surface parking they found in the heart of the nation’s capital – often right in the middle of our most spectacular views.

“There’s almost a thousand spaces that are surrounded by the best views and they are all empty on the weekend,” said Koenig, who moved to Ottawa last year.

They’ll tour the massive lots near the Supreme Court and Library and Archives buildings, and, of course, stop by the ByWard Market.

Another timely walk this year is a tour of the Civic Hospital campus and Experimental Farm – both intimately connected by the hospital’s plans to build a new facility on top of decades-old climate change research.

While most of the walks are in English, Thorpe highly recommended the French-language tour of the Chaudiere Falls on Sunday.

“Why we have this city here is intimately related to those falls, and they don’t look anything like they did back then,” Thorpe said.

But the walks aren’t limited to the urban centre.

There’s a tour planned of the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre on Moodie Drive, and another at Petrie Island in Orleans to explore turtle habitat protection.

There’s also a walk planned in downtown Stittsville, and another in the heart of Orleans.

If nothing else, Thorpe pitched the weekend as an easy Mother’s Day gift.

“Take Mom to something really interesting and you don’t have to pay for it,” she laughed.

For a complete schedule and walk descriptions, visit janeswalkottawa.ca.

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