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Opinion | Tristan Cleveland: Five ways to make Halifax a better winter city

Metro's columnist believes winter in Halifax can be more than just waiting for summer.

The CoppaClub in London has glass domes where we can eat and drink in warmth but feel outside.

Contributed/Allan Stone

The CoppaClub in London has glass domes where we can eat and drink in warmth but feel outside.

Sometimes it seems like Halifax’s most popular winter activity is waiting for summer.  

What would it take to make it a proper winter city, so awesome that tourists booked their flights for February?

Here are five ideas to get us there.

1. A winter festival

To stave off isolation and breathe some fresh air, our city needs to give us as many good reasons to get outside as possible. Quebec’s winter carnival has become one of their biggest tourist attractions. We should start a winter festival too.

I said as much to a friend, and he told me, “We are.” Waterfront Development is teaming up with Fusion Halifax and a whole list of groups to create the Winterful Waterfront Weekend Feb. 10 to 11. Cool!

They will have three wood fire pits with seating. MEC will let people try snowshoeing. There’ll be a novelty-size Crokinole board on ice. Free food, hot chocolate, and maple syrup. And winter yoga! (Winter yoga?)

Love it.

2. Heated bus stops

Not everyone can drive, bike, or walk long distances, but nearly everyone can take transit. If we installed space heaters on major bus stops, it would send the signal that everyone deserves to to travel with dignity. And for anyone to choose transit over the warm interior of their car, we must take comfort seriously.

Wait, right, Halifax Transit is already on this. In November, they installed the first heater in Highfield Park, and they are soon installing more. Dave Reage, director of Halifax Transit, told council the idea is proving popular. “We’ve had contractors out there installing them getting hugs from passengers.”

3. Design for winter

Edmonton has become a leader in Canada for establishing design rules to improve streets in winter. Colourful buildings, sun access, snow mounds and trees to block wind—they have a whole list of good ideas that would work here too. We should bring one of their experts to teach us how.

And… he arrives Feb. 8, speaking at Dal, as part of Winter Bike Week. Robin Mazumder is one of this new wave of planners who empirically measures what makes us humans happy, and then uses it to improve design.

Felix Webber-Rillie, aged 3, yells as he speeds down the back side of Citadel Hill on Jan.17, 2016.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Felix Webber-Rillie, aged 3, yells as he speeds down the back side of Citadel Hill on Jan.17, 2016.

4. Tuques off

Let’s build on these great ideas. The Oval is our most successful winter destination, so let’s create a festival that spans Citadel Hill, connecting it to the downtown and the waterfront, with toboggan races, lights, mulled wine, and snow sculpture contests. We should set up glass domes, like these, where we can eat and drink in warmth but still feel outside.

We should also plant more evergreen trees wherever there’s room for wide, lower branches. Green colour and branches holding clean snow can do wonders for a street.

5. Let’s keep letting people into the Public Gardens

Snow on streets gets dirty fast. We need access to parks where we can escape to where the snow is actually beautiful. The Public Gardens provide a quiet repose, where an icy stream and snow on statues could remind us that postcards can be of winter too.

Which is why it is awesome that they did open it up for the first time officially this year. Thank you.

We may remember 2018 as the year Halifax embraced winter. Let’s make every winter better than the last.

Learn more:

Robin Mazumder on Winter Happiness. Thursday, Feb. 8 - 7 p.m. Exhibition Room, Medjuck Building, 5410 Spring Garden Road.

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