Family Trees

What makes a heritage plant? And who decides it’s a heritage plant in the first place?

Before I answer that, allow me to tell a few stories.

In the early 1920s, Walter Holowash fell in love with Vienna’s chestnut trees. He was in the Austrian city studying violin. Walter then smuggled at least one seed in his luggage when he returned home to Edmonton. His father, Sam, planted it in their backyard.

While the Holowash family home is now long gone, Walter’s chestnut seedling stands 40 feet tall and wide, in an alley just off of Jasper Avenue and 106 Street. Its chestnuts are not edible. Still, the Holowash chestnut is an uncommon sight in Edmonton — especially placed between downtown office towers.

East of the Holowash chestnut, at the funicular, you can see another tree that came from elsewhere: wild goji berries. These trees cover the north slopes of the valley. Edmonton’s wild goji berries are
believed to be the holdouts of at least one of 15 Chinese market gardens that dotted the river valley in the early twentieth century. Goji, a Chinese culinary plant, whose berries and leaves often end up in soups, were brought to Edmonton by early Chinese immigrants wanting to grow familiar fruit and vegetables.

The plants now cover large portions of the core — the funicular, Hotel MacDonald, the Shaw Conference Centre, Louise McKinney Park and Riverdale all have goji patches.

But while Holowash’s chestnut is a recognized heritage tree, there is there little recognition of the historical and cultural value of the city’s wild goji.

So back to the question: what makes one a heritage plant and the other not?

From what I can tell, four things give a plant heritage status and protection in Edmonton. Novelty. Historical reference. Time. And, as cliché as it sounds, love.

Most importantly, somebody needs to care enough about a plant to advocate on its behalf. Somebody needs to say, “I think this is worth acknowledging, preserving, and knowing about.”

The Holowash chestnut had that. To quote Heritage Trees of Alberta, a 2008 book published by the Heritage Tree Foundation of Canada: “A developer proposed to clear all the trees for a parking lot, but agreed to save the chestnut when Earl Andrusiak, a bank official, authorized a purchase loan contingent on the tree’s survival.”

Andrusiak cared. Developers, city planners, citizens — and in this case, bankers — won’t preserve what they don’t care about. But why care at all? Are plants that important to downtown Edmonton?

I think they are.

According to estimates by OpenTreeMaps.org, each year, Edmonton’s downtown trees save half a million kilowatt-hours of energy needed for heating and cooling. They suck up 1.7 million gallons of water, remove 12,000 pounds of air pollution, and remove half a million pounds of carbon from the atmosphere. Trees moderate temperature extremes, calm the wind and make urban streets welcoming for humans.

Trees are living monuments whose lives span human generations. Heritage trees, offer a simultaneous connection to our past and future. Heritage plants nod to the people and cultures that planted them.

Twenty feet down from a goji patch, sandwiched between the Shaw and the Courtyard Hotel, stands a mature native balsam poplar tree, dated 1932. While it is old by Edmonton standards and undeniably beautiful, I know nothing of its backstory. Other than that someone cared about it.

I recently contacted the City’s Historic Resource department who primarily deal with the built environment. While they confirmed that heritage trees are in the City’s heritage inventory there doesn’t presently exist a clear path forward for nominating new plants.

I would love to see this change. And I would like to work with the community to identify tomorrow’s heritage plants. So, if you love a tree and think that it’s worth acknowledging and preserving, be in touch.

Dustin Bajer is passionate about integrating nature into cities. He is an educator, beekeeper and urban tree farmer. Send him an email at history@forestcityplants.com

How to Summer

It’s here, Edmonton: summer. And this year, you’re going to make the most of it. No more missing an event because you didn’t hear about it. No more sitting at home when you could be out there, soaking it in and adding yourself to the community spirit. But how do you maximize it all? Well, we’ve got you covered. We approached the question of how best to experience summer from a multitude of angles. How do you summer if you’re a family in the core? If you’re hoping to move about? If you’re a newcomer? If you’re looking to network? And we interspersed this how-to advice with an events listing tailored to life in the core.
So get out there, dear reader. Go get that summer.

 

How to Summer for Newcomers

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

Edmonton is a fun city with a lot of things to do in the summer,” said Oliver resident Laura Vega. “But the hard part is finding people to do them with.”

The city has a history of attracting enterprising souls in search of jobs or dreaming of commercial opportunities. And whether those opportunities are real or perceived, the 2017 Canadian census reported that immigration to Edmonton is on the rise. But, as Vega says, the life of a newcomer can be isolating, and full of unexpected challenges, making social connection especially important.

Vega came to Edmonton from Costa Rica two years ago to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Alberta. She found activities easier than making connections. “You can go to the farmers’ market or explore the neighbourhood, but you just kind of, get your stuff and you go home. Finding people to hang out with can be tough when you’re not connected to anyone.”

She has made friends, however, through her classes and her job at the U of A, but found it challenging. Vega tried volunteering to build community connection, which has also had mixed results.

“I once decided to volunteer to help clean up garbage in the river valley, but then they sent out a notice that we should bring a friend in case we all got separated, so that wasn’t very helpful,” she said, laughing.

As an animal lover, volunteering at the Edmonton Humane society has been a positive experience for Vega. She recently adopted a dog, which she says has been a great way to connect to the community.

“When I take her for walks, way more people are likely to stop and say hello. She’s just so cute and everyone loves her.”

The question is, who is responsible for welcoming new residents to overcome the challenges of social isolation? According to Coun. Scott McKeen, the answer is not a simple one.

“I suspect gaps exist in our systems to welcome and engage newcomers,” he said. “Numerous agencies, such as the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Catholic Social Services, and Action for Healthy Communities work in the ward and across the city in settlement, language training, employment, etcetera.”

When it comes to support and connection to overcome social isolation, McKeen said the City of Edmonton has various programs to help newcomers access recreation facilities and transit. They partner with numerous agencies around everything from arts to anti-racism, but informal social ties seem to be the most effective.

“The City is also studying the concept of access without fear, to allow newcomers with expired or disputed status to remain active and involved with City facilities and services,” McKeen said. “In Oliver, the obvious access point would be the outdoor pool.”

The infrastructure to support new Edmontonians has yet to catch up to the need, making it challenging for people to get settled, said Marco Luciano, director of Migrante Alberta (pronounced me-grunt-ay), a chapter of an international organization that supports foreign workers across Canada. Alberta is seeing a growing number of agricultural workers from the Caribbean, Mexico and Guatemala, so there is a great need for advocacy work, migrant services and settlement, Luciano says.

In the meantime, Luciano encourages the community to get curious about their neighbours.

“I think it’s important for all residents of Edmonton to look beyond their backyards to see that there’s a lot of really good people out there that can contribute our community,” he said. “I think in these times of uncertainty a community composed of different folks, regardless of their status, is an awesome thing to have.”

By Kirsten Bauer

 

How to Summer: Get Networked

Summer is Social, so Here’s How to Do It

Summer is a time to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and meet your neighbours. We’ve chosen three of the best (and active) ways to network in the core.

The November Project
Originating in Boston, the November Project is a free fitness movement for all ages and abilities. Since 2013, former Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference and his sister, Jen, spearheaded the now dedicated group of Edmontonians who meet at 6 a.m. every Monday at various locations, Wednesday at the Royal Glenora Stairs and Friday at Walterdale Hill for a 30-minute workout. It’s about kickstarting your day rain or shine, even through those cold, winter months. The best way to learn more about the November Project and its members is to follow them on social media and just show up.

“November Project has become a huge part of my life and I rarely miss a workout,” said Lisa Brown, president of OCL and dedicated November Project-er. “Having a group of people caring that you are getting out there every Monday, Wednesday, Friday reminds you that what you do counts, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re making great connections.”

WEB: november-project.com/edmonton-ab-canada/
WHERE: Monday – Various locations,
Wednesday – Royal Glenora Stairs,
Friday – Walterdale Hill
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: Comfortable clothes, runners and a water bottle

Alex Decoteau Community Garden
If stairs aren’t your thing, maybe gardening is. Alex Decoteau Park officially opened in September 2017 and is the first new park in downtown Edmonton in 30 years. Named after the first Indigenous police officer in Canada, the park features a fenced off-leash dog park, a community garden with raised garden plots and green grass turf that adds a bit of colour to the neutral concrete of the surrounding area. Community gardens promote community building and healthy recreation, and with 33 gardeners and 25 names on the waitlist, Alex Decoteau Park’s community garden is the perfect space to connect with others.

“Our intention is to host community events for the public,” said Erin Bayus, DECL’s garden director. “We have a community bed for people who wish to partake in plantings for food donation and we encourage folks to volunteer with our garden committee and site maintenance.”

WEB: www.facebook.com/ADCGyeg/ or email gardening@decl.org
WHERE: Corner of 105 Street and 102 Avenue
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: Seed donations (carrot, beet, peas and beans)

Coffee Outside
Coffee Outside began as a group of bike enthusiasts who exchanged stories on Twitter of cycling in Edmonton. Well-known enthusiast Darren Markland decided to continue the discussion in person, and add coffee, and it has now become a weekly meet-up at Constable Ezio Faraone Park. Everyone is welcome. Just bring a cup and join the conversation.
“Bicycles are easy to stop and they frame conversation. So, we stop once a week on Friday mornings in all weathers to say hello and share stories of pedalling in the city,” said Glenn Kubish, who has been attending Coffee Outside since it began over three years ago. “I think the movement will keep growing. Being on our bikes puts us closer to people we can support in different ways.”

WEB: twitter.com/coffee_outside
WHERE: Roughly 97 Avenue and 110 Street
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: A bicycle

By Jasmin Joe

 

Edmonton Pride Festival June 8-17

Celebrate diversity and identities along the LGBTQ spectrum by catching events throughout the city. The top drag performers and queer artists will perform at parties at Evolution Wonderlounge (10220-103 Street), and there will be more events to meet other queer people at mix and mingles, literary events, and other celebrations. Various venues, edmontonpride.ca

Nuova Opera & Music Theatre Festival Through June 30

In honour of their Nuova Opera’s 20th anniversary, this special festival will offer a free lunchtime concert every Monday at 12:30 p.m., featuring three singers and a pianist. These concerts will showcase the accessibility and enjoyment of opera and add an inspiring break to your work day. City Hall, 1 Sir Winston Churchill Square, operanuova.ca

 

How to Summer: Party Time

Gather Your Friends and Get Grilling at These Bookable Hot Spots

Pining for a yard this summer while living your closed-in, downtown condominium life? Well, stop: You don’t have to live in the suburbs to stretch out on the grass – grilled burger and fresh lemonade in hand — and soak up the sun and vibes of a BBQ. Several beautiful parks in the downtown area have bookable sites for outdoor parties, or you can round up your neighbours and
host a block party on your street or alley (though, do be prepared for a lot of paperwork and door-knocking on that last idea).

Here’s our guide to find out where and how to host your outdoor event. All you’ll need to bring are the beef and veggies for grilling and a cooler filled with chilled drinks (alcohol-free).

Idea: Party in the Park
Many downtown parks have shelters and BBQ pits you can rent for an afternoon or evening with your friends. Or you can choose a drop-in location for an impromptu party that’s inspired by a shopping trip at one of the several farmers’ markets within a walk, bike or otherwise to the core. Some of these spots even allow you to bring a bouncy castle to get the party jumping!
View the details on the various parks near the downtown core below. All sites are available until 10 p.m., and you can discover how to book them on the City of Edmonton’s website here: edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/picnic-sites.aspx

Emily Murphy Park
11904 Emily Murphy Park Road
Nestled in the beautiful river valley on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River, this park is named after the well-known women’s rights activist.
Bookable sites: 2 (includes a canopy shelter)
Drop-in tables: 24
Inflatable play equipment: Yes (on site #1)

Government House Park
9938 Groat Road
With the river as your party’s backdrop, this park offers plenty of green space to explore.
Bookable sites: 1 (includes a BBQ pit)
Drop-in tables: 8
Inflatable play equipment: No

Grant Notley Park
116 Street and 100 Avenue
This small and quaint park features a rentable gazebo that overlooks the river valley. It’s the perfect spot to mark a special occasion or toast an achievement.

Louise McKinney Park
9999 Grierson Hill Road
The Chinese Garden Gazebo here is open to public bookings. You’ll want to plan far ahead though, as its close proximity to the large flower garden makes it a very popular destination.

Victoria Park
12130 River Valley Road
This wide-open park offers plenty of space for lawn games such as bowling, cricket and horseshoes.
Bookable sites: 6 (includes canopy shelter)
Drop-in tables: 54
Inflatable play equipment: Yes (on sites #2–6)

Note: Liquor is not permitted in any public areas.

Fire Bans: Before lighting a fire anywhere, visit www.albertafirebans.ca or call 311 to find out if there’s a fire ban within the City of Edmonton.

 

Idea: Host a Block Party
A great way to build a sense of community and connect with your neighbours is to host a block party. Permits must be submitted a minimum of 14 days before the party, and your celebration needs the support of all the residents affected by the street or alley you’ll be closing. So get to work.

Tips and tricks on the best ways to go about informing your neighbours and collecting their signatures can be found on the City of Edmonton’s website. Learn more of the rules and find the application form here: edmonton.ca/residential_neighbourhoods/neighbourhoods/block-parties.aspx

Idea: Where to Stock Up
What’s a party without delicious food? Here’s where to get some of the best.

The Cavern
10160 104 Street
This exquisite wine bar offers many of its gourmet cheese to go — perfect for picnics. thecavern.ca

Chocorrant Patisserie & Café
10328 124 Street
Pick up fine French pastries, including savoury and sweet croissants, to add some fancy flair to your party. choccorant.com

Italian Centre Shop
10878 95 Street
While outside the core, with its wide range of imported European meats, cheeses and antipasti, this is definitely a one-stop shop for all your BBQ needs. italiancentre.ca

Arno’s Fine French Pastry
10038 116 Street
Pastry chef Arnaud Valade uses the culinary skills he learnt in Lyon, France, to craft chocolate croissants, sweet macarons and fluffy quiches. facebook.com/ArnosPastry

Lucky 97 Supermarket
10725 97 Street
With a large variety of imported foods, this Asian grocery also makes for a great place to pick up Vietnamese subs, sweet red bean buns and fresh veggies. luckysupermarket.ca

By Matthew Stepanic

 

Improvaganza June 13-23

One of Canada’s largest improv and sketch comedy festivals will bring in actors from across the country to compete in Theatresports matches, host innovative workshops, and have the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter! The opening night gala on June 14 will feature Canadian legends and Whose Line Is It Anyway alum Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie. Citadel Theatre, 9829 101A Avenue, rapidfiretheatre.com

Make Music Edmonton June 21

The business fronts of 124 Street will be transformed into sidewalk stages at this family-friendly music extravaganza, with more than 40 live performances. Emerging to established musicians will celebrate the diversity of music, including a showcase of Indigenous musicians to celebrate and acknowledge National Indigenous Peoples Day. 124 Street, makemusic-edmonton.ca

Works Art & Design Festival June 21-July 3

Take some time out of your work day or evening on a tour of more than 50 art exhibits in the downtown core. Every year, this festival unleashes art and design, creating a giant outdoor gallery, and the Works Street Stage will feature live performances from noon to 9:30pm every day. Federal Building Plaza, 108 Street and 99 Avenue, theworks.ab.ca

Jazz Festival June 22-July 1

This annual festival explores a variety of musical genres from bluegrass to zydeco, with some of the hottest jazz acts from around the world. Experience a jazzed-up evening with the smooth and
sharp sounds in performances from Sheila Jordan & Cameron Brown, Snarky Puppy, Johnny O’Neal and more. Various venues, edmontonjazz.com

House of Hush Burlesque June 22, July 13

At these speakeasy-style burlesque shows, you’ll travel back in time to an era of luxurious outfits and cocktails, where some of the top burlesque performers from Alberta will perform an intimate and extravagant show. Sip a craft cocktail while you take in the glitter and glamour of gin-soaked revelry. Crash Hotel, 10266 103 Street, houseofhushburlesque.com

Taste of Edmonton July 18-29

Savour sample-sized treats from some of the city’s best restaurants in the Taste Piazza at this popular festival —it’s the perfect way to turn your lunch or dinner into a culinary adventure. Relax a while in the expanded seating area and catch some evening entertainment of live music. Runs from 11am to 11pm. Capital Plaza, 108 Street and 99 Avenue, tasteofedm.ca

Looking for the Edmonton Street Performers Festival? 

This thrill-filled fest will take place in Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park (Gazebo Park) from July 10 – 15. edmontonstreetfest.com

 

How to Summer: Family Edition

The Core is a Playground for Kids and Parents Hoping to Make Connections

A few years ago, Rachel Jones started approaching strangers with children in downtown coffee shops and grocery stores. She had a good reason. Jones noticed that, just like her, the people were new
parents.

Jones is 30 and lives in a downtown loft with her husband, Mark, and three-year-old son, Alex. When Alex was a baby, like many new parents, Jones said she felt isolated. So, when she talked to other new parents who lived in the community, she suggested they connect on social media. This turned into a Facebook community, which also turned into a blog for new parents who live
in downtown Edmonton. It’s called edmomton.com.

On the blog, Jones and others write about resources available to new parents in the core, list kid-friendly business and explain different family-geared summer activities.
For example, there’s the “downtown mom hack,” as Candace Rogers Haughian, 32, describes it. (Conveniently, it works for parents of all genders.)

Haughian lives in Westmount and takes her two-year-old son to parks and playgrounds all around the core — and grabs a coffee along the way. What’s the hack, then? Pairing the parks with the pots (of coffee).

“There are a couple pretty awesome combos,” Haughian said. Duchess Bakery (on 107 Avenue) and the playground on 126 Street between 106 and 107 Avenue. There’s also Elm Café (on 117 Street), or The Art of Cake in the Brewery District, and Kitchener Park (at 114 Street and 102 Avenue). Or there’s the Barking Buffalo (on 124 Street) and Edmonton Grads Park (on 121 Street), or the 104 Street farmers’ market and Alex Decoteau Park (105 Street at 102 Avenue).

Parks are important for families who live centrally. And in the summer, with most parks come pools. The general consensus is Oliver Pool (which will be free again this summer) is better for older kids, while splash parks like the ones at Kitchener Park, Glenora Park, Alex Decoteau Park and Queen Mary Park are great for younger kids. The Alberta Legislature pools and grounds are also very popular with families on a hot summer day.

For those who grew up in Edmonton, the Green Shack program is also a familiar summer activity for families. Rose Pink is 41 and lives in Westmount. She and her family take advantage of the
shack in the park around the corner from their house all summer, when they’re not biking around Oliver, downtown and the river valley trails.

“The staff are there for a good chunk of the day and they get to know all the kids’ names while they do planned activities and crafts and things,” Pink said. “We lived in Halifax before and they didn’t have things like that there. It’s wonderful that they have these programs for kids to encourage them to be outside.”

What exactly is the Green Shack program, though?

Dee Dee Carr, supervisor of neighbourhood recreation experiences at the City of Edmonton, said the program continues to exist after more than 50 years. Green Shacks provide crafts and activities for kids during the summer in neighbourhood parks across the city, including a new program called Flying Eagle, which teaches kids aboutIndigenous history and culture.

“The program is great for everyone, and lately it’s been very important to newcomer families. It’s a great way for kids to play with a variety of children that they might not have the opportunity to meet otherwise, even at school,” Carr said. “A lot of the staff that come on with us participated in the program growing up.”

The Green Shack program runs through July and August in the mornings or afternoons in most locations, although a few locations have programming all day long. To find a Green Shack close to you, visit edmonton.ca and search for “green shack” to find the drop-in guide. Guides are also available to pick up at City of Edmonton facilities.

But what is there to do when it’s not so nice outside? Jones said she and her family like to walk the halls of MacEwan University and visit Rogers Place when it’s raining. “We wander around the different levels, take Alex for ice cream. There’s tons of other little siblings of kids who play hockey and they always play with our little guy,” she said.

And then there’s always laughter. Matt Schuurman, 33, his partner and 13-month-old daughter live close to downtown. Schuurman is the artistic director of Rapid Fire Theatre, and their show, Kidprovisers is great for families, he said. The last show of the season is at the Citadel Theatre on June 17 — Father’s Day.

“It’s a show starring kids as young as six, so it’s great for families to both watch and participate in,” he said.

Improvaganza, Rapid Fire Theatre’s international improv theatre festival, runs June 13-23 at the Citadel and is good for older kids. It’s a great date-night option — and for Jones, that’s important for downtown families, too.

“Our hidden secret is our lovely 82-year-old neighbor, Donna. She babysits for us, and in exchange, we help her with chores. We don’t want to move just because she’s there.”

By Lana Cuthbertson

 

Yellowhead Market: Afterhours July 20

This adults-only event mixes together a craft market with a twisted party, featuring electronic DJs, pole dancers, drag queens and more. Splurge on some late-night purchases from local vendors, and
then get ready to party. The $5 entry includes a free pint of beer. Runs from 7pm to 2am. Yellowhead Brewery, 10229 105 Street, yellowheadbrewery.com

Cariwest August 10-12

This three-day arts festival celebrates the colourful and vibrant music, costumes and cuisine of Caribbean culture. A Saturday parade will fill the streets with the sounds of carnival, and Mas Bands and other entertainment will keep the joy going all weekend in the Caribbean village. Various venues, cariwest.ca

 

How to Summer: Get Moving

Walk, Bike or Drive – Or Do As These People Do and Get Moving

Do you just travel through Edmonton’s core from one spot to the next? Or are you moved by your travels? I spoke to four people who do the latter. Each takes pleasure in moving about the core and does so in interesting ways. So, as you consider how to move about this summer in the core, consider their stories as an inspiration for what’s possible.

Unicycle
I met 67-year-old Shawn Loates just off Jasper Avenue as he was chatting with his neighbour while holding his unicycle. Loates spun tales about his career on the unicycle: he once performed in the circus, as well as stage shows, festivals and movies. To explain his passion for the unicycle, which he rides about Oliver, the retired entertainer insisted I mount the big wheel myself. “Don’t worry,
I’ve got you,” he said, as he held me upright. “Now, close your eyes. Do you feel it? With your eyes closed you can find your balance instantly. That’s the feeling I love.”

Paddleboard
Each summer morning, Suzane Couture rides her inflatable, standup paddleboard down the North Saskatchewan River before working the evening shift at Mountain Equipment Co-Op in Oliver. Living in the core allows Couture, 53, to drop into the river, ride the current northeast to Hermitage Park, then deflate the paddleboard and take transit back into town. Or she will travel to Fort Edmonton on the bus and float home to the core. “If you can take a backpack on the bus, you can take a standup board on the bus and that’s what I do,” she said. Being on the water is “peaceful,
majestic, and occasionally unpredictable,” Couture said. “Sometimes I jump in the river, float down for a bit, and then walk back up and do it all over again.”

Longboard
Chef Eric Hanson of Prairie Noodle Shop said he enjoyed the thrill as he competed in longboard races as a young man. He learned his board craft in Mexico, Thailand, Australia and other countries, where the longboard was his transportation. Now, the Edmonton Gold Medal Plates winner finds riding his longboard to the Oliver restaurant he works at a more mindful practice. “It’s a feeling. You get to take your line, take your long slow curve, and if you’re listening to a song and it all comes together you’re transported,” he said. “I just get a smile on my face. It doesn’t matter how bad my day is, everything is better.”

Power wheelchair
Jenna Hoff spoke with me using augmentative communication device from her power wheelchair. She has been living with a severe form of chronic pain for 19 years. “For two years now,  I’ve had to negotiate with someone every time I wanted to go somewhere,” she said. That’s changed with her wheelchair, which she has named Sophie. “To have freedom again, to take Sophie downtown and meet my husband on his lunch hour  is truly exciting,” Hoff said. Instead of being housebound by chronic illness, Hoff said, “Riding Sophie is freedom and joy.”

By Chris Sikkenga

 

Dragon Boat Festival August 17-19

Begin this weekend of inspiring athletic ability with the traditional Blessing of the Boats by the docks on the Friday evening at 6:30pm. The dragon boat races kick off Saturday morning, with an opening ceremony featuring cultural entertainment. Hang around after the last race in the beverage gardens to party with the paddlers. Louise McKinney Park, edmontondragonboatfestival.ca

Events Listing by Matthew Stepanic

DECL Summer Events

FRIDAYS
Urban Kids Playgroup

Our playgroup meets weekly for parents and tots 0-5. Coffee and snacks provided! 10:30am – 12:30pm, DECL (10042 103 Street)

 

JUNE 15, JULY 20 AND AUGUST 17
Urban Kids Family Night

Our monthly family night continues for kids and parents. Join us for games, talent shows and more. 6 – 8pm, DECL (10042 103 Street)

 

JUNE 16, 9 – 11:30AM
Annual Pancake Breakfast

Join us for pancakes, sausages, coffee and juice just $2. Want to volunteer? info@decl.org  9 – 11:30am, DECL (10042 103 Street)

 

JUNE 16, 5PM TO LATE
DECL at Fruit Loop Pride Wrap-Up Party

Celebrate Pride Week Downtown with a block party at 103 Street and 103 Avenue. Visit our booth for free popcorn! 5pm to late, in front of Denizen Hall (10311 103 Avenue)

OCL Summer Events

JUNE 15
Walking Pub Crawl

Join your neighbors and explore the nearby bars — and make new friends in your community.
Locations TBD; please check up on OCL’s Facebook page. Meet at Oliver Park, 8pm

 

WEDNESDAYS
Bike Club

We will meet on Wednesday evenings at 6pm at the Oliver Park to go for bike rides around the river valley. More details can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OliverBikeClub/ Meet at Oliver Park, 6pm

 

JUNE 11, JULY 9 AND AUGUST 13
Civics Committee

Join this fully engaged committee that meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. Grace Lutheran Church,
9907 114 Street

 

JUNE 22
Paul Kane Park opening

Come to the official opening. There will be some light refreshments and activities. From 5pm to 7pm

 

JULY 1
Pancake Breakfast

Always our most popular event. Come celebrate Canada Day with your fellow neighbours. 9am to 11am. Location to be announced.

It’s Time to Talk Cannibis

We’ve heard for some time about government legalizing cannabis. But do we know how this new legislation from our governments will affect our communities in Edmonton?

There are many issues to consider: will consumers choose to smoke, vape or eat cannabis? Where will you be allowed to sell it, and where will you be allowed to consume it? What are the costs to citizens and are there any public safety considerations?

Whether or not the sale and consumption of cannabis is legalized on July 1, as once expected, by the federal government, local governments have nonetheless been preparing for it for a significant amount of time. Edmonton City Council has debated many questions and potential problems around the issue, and has asked residents for their opinion on many aspects of how the drug
will be regulated here.

One aspect the DECL board has been dealing with is in regards to sales. The city is anticipating hundreds of applications for cannabis retail stores the day pot goes legal. Already we are seeing signs around the core advertising new pot shops that are ‘Coming Soon’.

Once legal, companies will be permitted to open a cannabis retail store in many areas of the downtown, but not just anywhere. Proposed zoning regulations suggest a 200 metre separation between stores, as well as separation from public health facilities, schools, libraries and parks. While Calgary is making cannabis sales discretionary in most zones, here retail sales will be permitted in many zones, assuming you meet all other criteria set out by the regulations.

The DECL board is supportive of cannabis sales in many of our downtown zones, including our mixed-use residential zones like the Heritage Area (HA) Zone of 104 Street, and the Urban Warehouse (UW) Zone. The board feels those living and working in pedestrian-friendly areas should have cannabis stores within walking distance. It also feels these stores could fill some vacant retail
spaces.

But, that said, there will be limited locations in the downtown that will satisfy all of the City of Edmonton’s criteria. And cannabis sales are unrelated to potential future cannabis lounges
or cafes, which will not be permitted on the same premises. These will not be dealt with by the city in the first year of legalization, nor have been consulted on yet.

While Canada leads the world in the decriminalization of drugs like cannabis, how it’s sold, consumed and its effects on our community are a work in progress. If you have any thoughts and concerns, we would love to hear from you at info@decl.org.

Chris Buyze
President, Downtown Edmonton Community League

Re-creating Recreation

Now that the snow has melted there are so many reasons to get out of your pad (this issue is chock-full of ideas). Go outside and enjoy.

But in Oliver, where the vast majority of us do not have backyards, public and private spaces take on new yard-like aspects.

Where do you find yourself heading on a hot summer day? Maybe a public park or a private patio? Out on our main streets, Jasper Avenue and 124 Street? In our bike
lanes and multi-use trails? On the deck of Oliver Pool or in a place of worship?

About 20,000 people call Oliver home.

Breathe, the City of Edmonton’s 2017 strategy on open spaces, indicates that Oliver has less open space available for residents than in any other part of the city. Oliver also
hosts one of the most diverse populations in Edmonton. This means that not only do we need more community spaces, but a one-size-fits-all solution will not work here. We don’t just need spaces and places to be physically active, or that cater to one age group. We need to nurture the whole person — physically, intellectually, spiritually — and we need to nurture our connections to one another.

Coun. Scott McKeen recently requested a report on the engagement strategy and process for assessing the need for recreation, cultural, education and community space in Oliver. The Oliver Community League will be working with the city to ensure the proposed process will capture our diverse and numerous voices — and we will be pushing to see an engagement and needs assessment for Oliver that will begin the process of developing much-needed community places, spaces and services.

Speaking for my own approach to this challenge, last June, I joined November Project Canada (see page 16), a free outdoor fitness group. This past winter was one of our longest on record in Edmonton, and being part of this supportive community helped me to push through the freezing conditions and achieve my fitness goals.

This is a community that shows up for each other year-round, no matter the weather. They motivate me to push forward and through accountability to one another.

Like November Project, Oliver is stronger when we pull together as a supportive community — we need your ideas, your initiatives and your support. If you have a vision for the future of this neighbourhood, share it. We are all accountable for creating what we see around us. While it could take years to see significant changes, we must be motivated now and into the future to speak
out about what we need in our neighbourhood.

Lisa Brown
President, Oliver Community League

Words on the Street

Natalie remembers the day she finally broke into tears.

It was hot out, June or July, and the 27-year-old was headed back to her apartment in Edmonton’s newly minted Ice District after a dip to cool off at Oliver pool. She’d thrown a simple summer dress over her bikini for the journey. Natalie says she can’t remember exactly what the man yelled as he sped past her in a car while she waited for the light to change on 104 Street near 104 Avenue, but it was something about that dress, how it revealed her body, how it was, in his opinion, too short. It wasn’t the exact words that got to her anyway. It was the fact that they just wouldn’t stop.

Constant sexual harassment wasn’t what Natalie expected to encounter when she moved into Square 104, across from the Mercer Warehouse, in August 2016. She was excited to be part of downtown’s revitalization. And she was exactly the kind of young, urban professional the city and developers say they’re hoping to attract to the area, engineered around Rogers Place. But after the $600-million-plus facility opened in September 2016, both Natalie and her roommate, Brittany Davey, noticed the change. Their neighbourhood became a hostile place.

They first noticed the trash. On mornings after events at the arena, the streets were papered with fliers for a nearby strip bar. And then they noticed they were increasingly targeted by groups of often drunk men who flocked to the area. “Every single time I would leave the apartment I would get catcalled, or someone would yell at me or approach me and just, like, make me so uncomfortable,” Natalie says. “It got to the point where if I was just getting approached by a random person asking for directions or for money, I would jump.”

The hostility extended into their home. Davey says she was catcalled while on her balcony overlooking 104 Avenue. “I was definitely yelled at a few times,” she says. “Something like ‘Show me your tits,’ which is really nice when you’re trying to enjoy your home.”

Whether it was due to the type of crowds heading to events at the arena, or just that more people were coming to the neighbourhood, the women can’t say, but their response was to retreat. They started staying home on game nights, keeping off the balcony and altering the routes they took through the neighbourhood. Natalie even changed how she dressed. “I would put on what I wanted to wear and look in the mirror and be like, ‘Is this going to encourage someone to approach me?’ If the answer was ‘Yes’ I’d change,” she says. “I hated that. I hated that so much.”

When Davey moved to Ontario this past fall to go to school, Natalie chose to move out of the area, too. “I haven’t been back since.”

BURDEN OF SILENCE

We don’t often associate street harassment with the egregious examples of sexual misconduct that have brought powerful men to their knees in the era of #MeToo, but it’s all part of a sexual violence continuum that pervades our culture, says Mary Jane James, executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). The degradation, humiliation and fear women face while on city streets — particularly in hyper-masculine ecosystems fueled by alcohol and sports, where women are regarded as props for the evening —makes many women feel unwelcome and unsafe in their own communities. And yet, too often, we don’t take it seriously. “People do not think of street harassment — catcalling and all of those things — as sexual violence because it’s been allowed to be normalized,” James says. “It’s been going on since time began and women were just taught to just suck it up and move on.”

The prompt closure of The Needle Vinyl Tavern in November, after allegations of sexual assault and harassment surfaced, shows that Edmonton — like the rest of North America — seems to have drawn
a line in the sand around workplace sexual harassment. Since The Needle closed, demand for a pilot program SACE has offered with the U of A Sexual Assault Centre since February 2017, to make bars and clubs safer for women, has skyrocketed. However, once people leave those bars, women are often still seen as prey, James says. Compounding the problem, many men who would never see themselves in the same category as Harvey Weinstein, or even Aziz Ansari, think nothing of a drunken catcall on a night out with the boys.

“I really don’t think that a lot of men who engage in street harassment view this as harmful, as a part of sexual violence,” James says. “But it starts there. Rape culture is what’s allowed this issue to be present in our lives for so long, because it’s surrounded in silence.”

“Right now in Edmonton there are no consequences for street harassment. At what point do men start to realize that this is damaging and hurtful, and there are consequences for this behaviour?”

– MARIELLE TERHART

How best to break that silence, however, is a puzzle. Groups like Hollaback Alberta have surfaced in recent years to support women in reporting street harassment, collecting their stories and tracking harassment hotspots in the city. A 2015 report from the group examined more than 1,000 reported incidents of street harassment in Edmonton, with the vast majority occurring on city streets, in malls and on transit. Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue were two of the top areas identified by respondents. Edmonton Police Service spokeswoman Cheryl Sheppard, meanwhile, explained that while isolated catcalls are not technically a crime, women can and should call police when they feel they are being harassed. Collecting data on where harassment occurs can help create long-term strategies to improve police presence, lighting or correct other environmental factors that put women at risk, Sheppard says. But the fact remains that faced with harassment in the moment, most women feel powerless.

Marielle TerHart isn’t used to keeping quiet. The 28-year-old social media consultant, comedian and downtown loft resident says frequent street harassment is her “number one problem with living downtown,” a community she otherwise loves. To deal with her humiliation and anger in a healthy way — and to try to educate men on its effects — she often makes harassment part of her standup comedy routines. With her propensity for outspokenness it’s frustrating that in the moments harassment happens — say that time she was asked for her underwear while walking downtown — she feels silenced. “Yelling back doesn’t seem to help and it’s almost always when I’m alone, so in those situations I’m not in a position of power and I don’t feel safe,” she says. “It’s also often shouted at me from cars, that seems to be a real trend.”

Equally frustrating for TerHart is that she doesn’t feel street harassment is a central concern for those with direct interest in the health of downtown. TerHart said she recently met with Coun. Scott McKeen to discuss street harassment but felt nothing happened as a result. (McKeen, on the other hand, says he plans to follow up with TerHart and discuss hosting an anti-harassment event downtown and that women who face harassment downtown should contact him.) TerHart also says sexual harassment and assault were absent from the safety section of a recent survey conducted by the Downtown Business Association; homelessness, meanwhile, was mentioned three different ways.

TerHart says she uses her privilege and the channels available to her as a white, educated woman to advocate for herself and other women in the neighbourhood — she’s cognizant of the fact sexualized violence disproportionately affects homeless, marginalized and Indigenous women. Still, she says she’d like to see at least some of the responsibility placed on the perpetrators. “Right now in Edmonton there are no consequences for street harassment. At what point do men start to realize that this is damaging and hurtful, and there are consequences for this behaviour?”

LEARNING WHAT IT FEELS LIKE

That’s exactly what Zanette Frost, supervisor of programs and initiatives at the City of Edmonton, says the city is working to encourage through its Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Initiative. Convened in 2015, the council initiative has been working with groups like Hollaback Alberta, SACE and Men Edmonton, a group that aims to promote healthy masculinity, to educate the public, particularly men, on what gender-based violence is. They also aim to encourage bystanders to safely step in when they see it happen.

So far, projects have taken place in pockets. For instance, the council conducts lunch-and-learns with corporate or religious organizations and has partnered up to present public screenings of the documentary, The Mask You Live In, which explores how our narrow definition of masculinity affects men and boys. An interactive art exhibit, This Is What It Feels Like, made a mini-tour on the U of A and MacEwan campuses just before Christmas, giving men a chance to step inside a booth where they were subjected to harassing comments that women had reported receiving on the streets of Edmonton.

While art installations and documentaries might seem like a soft response to what is a serious social problem, Frost says getting men to realize how they are complicit in or contribute to sexualized violence is the first step toward shifting a culture that promotes it. “My thinking has always been that if it prompts a couple of questions then there’s something changing. That’s what we hope for,” she says.

In 2018, the City of Edmonton will roll out a widespread awareness campaign dubbed “It’s Time” (to end gender-based violence) with a website, video and coasters distributed at bars and restaurants.
The council has also partnered with the Edmonton Eskimos, the Edmonton Sports Council, 630 CHED and other organizations, with the aim of bringing the campaign to sports events, festivals and other public events. According to Frost, the city hasn’t yet reached out to the Oilers Entertainment Group to join the initiative due to limited staff, but it may do so in “phase two” of the project.

This spring, the city is also due to complete an exhaustive scoping study of how and where gender-based violence takes place in Edmonton. It started this as part of the United Nations Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces program, which it joined in 2016. Results of the study will inform policies and initiatives to combat violence against women going forward. “We’re really working to end all that violence within a generation,” Frost says.

All of that’s hopeful, but it’s still a Band-Aid solution for the arena district, says Kyle Whitfield, an associate professor in planning at the University of Alberta who specializes in planning for vulnerable communities. She describes the area as one that seems to have been planned around hyper-masculine industries without regard for the experience of women. She also notes that planning is still a male dominated field, and, as a result, the design of public spaces seldom looks at the needs of women — even as accessibility for other groups, such as those with disabilities or seniors, are now routinely taken into account. “It seems kind of old order to say we need to plan about issues related to women,” Whit eld says. “This is 2018, you’d think we’d be way beyond that, but we’re not.”

The city has recently adopted a policy to apply gender-based analysis to all of its decision-making, from budgeting to planning, Frost says, but that wasn’t in place when the arena district was developed. It’s unclear whether the tool will be applied to the remaining phases of the development.

In cases where vulnerable populations haven’t been included in the planning process, inviting them to assess the space afterwards can be crucial in correcting elements that make them feel excluded or unsafe, Whit eld says. “If we got a group of 50 women and we said, ‘Come and assess the Ice District in general and tell us how this suits your needs and how it doesn’t,’ I think there’s some value in doing that.”

Susan Darrington, executive vice president and general manager for Rogers Place, says her organization held two years of consultations with community stakeholders, including community leagues, the Downtown Business Association and social agencies such as Boyle Street Community Services, prior to the arena opening. While the issue of community safety was a frequent topic of discussion, she says women facing street harassment was never identified as a specific area of concern. Going forward, however, Darrington says the Oilers Entertainment Group would consider partnering with the city on a gender-based assessment of the Ice District or a public education campaign. “We’d be open to having a meeting with them on anything they’re taking a look at,” she says, noting half the arena’s patrons are women and that her organization takes their safety seriously. “Our safety and security plan is for all patrons as well as people who are living and working in the downtown core.”

Angela Larson has a simple suggestion for making downtown feel safer: provide more reasons for different types of people to be out on the streets. Larson is the owner of Swish Vintage, located in Manulife Place, and says she’s perceived a marked decrease in street activity since she got her first job downtown at the age of 13. Over the decade she’s been in business at her current location, she says she feels downtown’s mall-like areas have started emptying out as well, a reflection of changing shopping habits and a challenging retail environment. Swish is now one of the only street-facing retailers left on 102 Street and increasingly, the only people Larson sees outside her door are either marginalized or “up to no good.” Men frequently come into her shop and verbally assault her. Compared to when she was younger and catcalls were more suggestive in nature, Larson says at 52 the comments she gets now are more aggressive — “women-as-bitches kind of thing.” She even had one guy grab her phone and start to make a drug deal. As a result, Larson, like many other retailers in Manulife Place, doesn’t stay open in the evenings. During the day, a security guard is supposed to check on her once an hour, “to make sure I’m alive.”

“If we got a group of 50 women and we said, ‘Come and assess the Ice District in general and tell us how this suits your needs and how it doesn’t,’ I think there’s some value in doing that.” – KYLE WHITFIELD

While the arena promised to breathe new life into downtown, Larson says she’s seen little evidence of it. Thousands of people now live in new condos in the area, but there’s nothing drawing them out onto the street. Rents along 104 Street are too expensive for small retailers, she says, and retailers don’t stand to benefit from evening crowds heading to the arena. “If I’m going to a concert, I’m not going to go shopping first and bringing my bags with me,” she says.

Getting the right mix of businesses and more life on the street downtown is an ongoing challenge, says Downtown Business Association Executive Director Ian O’Donnell. Bars and restaurants are often the only businesses that can afford the higher rents on 104 Street, although smaller retailers are starting to populate more peripheral areas such as Jasper Avenue or Rice Howard Way. While O’Donnell confirmed the DBA didn’t ask directly about street harassment in their 2017 survey, the issue did surface in the results — some people wrote it in under “other.” “Certainly that topic was brought to our attention through that, but not at a significant level,” he says. According to the survey, general perceptions of safety downtown have increased since the last one was conducted in 2010, with the arena drawing more interest to the area and boosting the police presence by 50 per cent.

Still, O’Donnell acknowledges that if women are feeling unsafe in the area, at any time of day, that’s going to have a detrimental impact. “The arena has certainly brought a lot of people a lot of money, and it’s helped the downtown from an awareness and an exposure standpoint,” he says. “But if there are negative impacts and incidents, then that’s going to slow that. So we certainly want to make sure that we’re a part of that solution.”

Just what that solution is may be not be clear just yet, but dedicated residents like Larson and TerHart are game to be a part of it.

“There’s a lot of big positives to living downtown,” says TerHart. “One community needs to make the effort to bring these changes.”

Women Say We Need Change

These are important times for women. Strong women are finding their voice, having been silenced for so long. Women everywhere are being empowered to share their stories. The issues we’re seeing come forth on television, in Hollywood are now happening in our own downtown streets.

Our spring issue is dedicated to the women of Central Edmonton, the women in our lives that do so much and are the lifeblood of our families, friends and community. Even today these women face challenges, prejudice and other injustices that make us collectively shake our heads in disbelief.

The Yards decided to tackle these tough topics, like the abrupt closing of The Needle Vinyl Tavern, and the rumours that surrounded it. The Needle was a wildly successful bar that supported LGBTQ events and was host of local bands. The news of alleged inappropriate behaviour came as a shock. Little did we know that the opening of Rogers Place would also see women residents raise intimidation and safety concerns. Many visitors don’t see downtown as a neighbourhood where people live, let alone women.

We also wanted to celebrate the many achievements of women who contribute to creating a safe, welcoming and vibrant downtown neighbourhood. And we wanted to highlight the stories of those who work in downtown’s culinary scene who have gone above and beyond to show us how the hospitality industry can show leadership by addressing some of the issues women face.

One such program that helps women feel safer in bars is the Best Bar None program by Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. The program “demonstrates a continuing commitment to providing top-notch service in well-managed and safe environments.” In February 2017, the voluntary program expanded to include a written policy that covers sexual harassment. At their eighth-annual awards night in November, several downtown bars, including Central Social Hall and Kelly’s Pub, were recognized for their efforts.

What recent events have shown us is that these policies are not enough to ensure people feel safe working in, living in and coming downtown. We must admit we have a problem and all take steps to work collectively to ensure our communities are safe for all people.

Chris Buyze

President, Downtown Community League

Design Can Limit Safety

IN FEBRUARY 2014, I TORE TWO ligaments, my meniscus and tendons while skiing. I would two require surgeries. I spent six weeks on crutches in 2014, as well as five weeks in 2015 and four weeks in 2016, all during winter months. The injury allowed me, if only for a short time, to see our city through the eyes of a woman with a disability.

It wasn’t until our board started discussing concepts for this issue of The Yards that I recognized how vulnerable I was while I recovered. I couldn’t put weight on my right leg so I couldn’t run. Being an able-bodied woman, I had always taken comfort knowing I could at least sprint if I had to escape an unsafe situation — a tactic I’ve had to use in the past. But on crutches, if someone had followed me home or tried to hurt me, I would have had little defense. Given that it was winter, I was often traveling in the dark, too.

Perhaps naïvely, I did not reflect on my safety at these times. Still, it became apparent Edmonton is not disability friendly. My only modes of transportation were walking (or more accurately, crutching) and public transit. And Edmonton’s design flaws became apparent: Ramps from the sidewalk to the crosswalk often deposited me right onto the roadway, if a ramp existed at all. Pedestrian-triggered crossing lights often had “beg buttons,” and these were placed so inconveniently that it was difficult for me to flick the button and cross the street in time. Streets coated in ice and snow made my movements treacherous and risky. Even door power-assist buttons were awkwardly placed, resulting in me being hit by a door more than once.

Many argue city designers should adopt a limited-mobility lens in order to accommodate not only those with disabilities, but seniors, children, parents with strollers, and people with carts and walkers. Doing so, some argue, will see cities create pedestrian bump outs, ramps at every crossing, shorter crossing distances on roads and the accommodation of pedestrians through construction zones.

I agree with this view. From improved sidewalk lighting to land-use planning policies that increase the number of people on the street, there are numerous way to make our cities safer — for all. We’ve all been young and, hopefully, we’ll all be old. Our mobility will eventually be limited. That’s why inclusive design and policies must include each and every one of us.

Lisa Brown

President, Oliver Community League

Around the Core: Spring 2018

Edmonton the Big City

Crashed Ice | MARCH 9

This is the series finale for a Red Bull-sponsored extreme sport that feels right at home in Edmonton: ice cross downhill. For this time around, following the first event in 2015, the course location has yet (as of press time) be confirmed but those in the know predict a spot near downtown in Rossdale with a hang-out zone at the Shaw. The last time Crashed Ice came, more than 70,000 people came downtown for it. Expect crowds.

We Like to Party

La Traviata | MARCH 1,2,3 & 8,9,10

Go back to the pleasure-crazed 1920s through a Verdi classic opera staged in the most unlikely, and yet, most perfectly suited of downtown venues — Chez Pierre Cabaret. Don your jazz age clothing and prepare to escape into a Paris of another era. Doors, 6pm; show 7pm sharp. Chez Pierre Cabaret, 10040 105 Street.

3rd Annual GLOW Festival | MARCH 22-24

Everyone loves a parade. This one is right on the edge of the core, in The Quarters, and it’s a night parade of animated lanterns that have been made by community members. This is a great way to celebrate the equinox and the coming of summer’s long, late nights of twilight. 6pm – 8pm (March 22 & 23); 7:30pm – 11:30pm (24), Boyle Street Plaza, 9538 103A Avenue.

Edmonton Beer Fest | APRIL 13-14

If you love beer, and learning about beer, and sampling beer, and talking beer snobbery,
and generally anything else about beer, this is probably your version of heaven. Five-hundred beers to try, entertainment — and one imagines very long lines to the washrooms at peak periods. Go thirsty! 4pm – 10pm each day, Shaw Conference Centre, 9797 Jasper Avenue.

Let’s Build Community

Drop-In Basketball | BEGINS MARCH 9

Enjoy a pickup game or just shoot some hoops at this regular drop-in basketball event open to the whole Oliver community. 7–9pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street.

We Believe: Let’s Move Forward Together | MAY 16

The fifth annual fundraising and awareness gala for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton will feature Tarana Burke, a co-creator of the international #MeToo movement. 5pm – 9pm, Shaw Conference Centre,
9797 Jasper Avenue.

City Market Downtown | MAY 19

It comes outside again on May 19. 9am – 3pm, 104 Street/102 Avenue.