The city is preparing to spend $20 million on new active transportation routes. But could one of its ideas steal away one neighbourhood's most active spot?
At the edge of Wolseley, residents are mobilizing to protect a popular toboggan hill they say is threatened by two city proposals for a $1-million bicycle bridge over tree-lined Omand's Creek Park. "(The toboggan hill) is part of our life here," said resident Laura MacDonald as she walked up the hill. "As soon as school's out, it's packed."
Two weeks ago, the city floated two proposals at a small meeting with residents. One would put a 75-metre-long cyclist bridge high over the creek, anchoring on what is now the toboggan hill on the west side and Raglan Road on the east. The other would move the bridge further south, but block a smaller hill used by younger children.
Either option would mean concrete supports could potentially be located in an area where children zoom down the hill, also creating a worrisome target for graffiti and a dent in the rolling natural landscape, residents said.
Although residents may disagree with the proposals, Roe stressed that meetings with city developers have been "very constructive," and praised their openness. Other plans on the table include setting a new bridge one to two metres over the current one, reducing the flood risk but maintaining the hills.
On Saturday afternoon, kids tackling the toboggan hill were passionate about keeping it bridge-free. "It's part of the community," said Quinn Friesen, 11, who was sledding with brother Isaac. "If you put a bridge across it, not as many people are going to come."
Roe's son Cameron, 11, agreed. "I've been sliding on it since I was born," he said. "You make friends here. It's good for us not to be playing video games all day."
A community meeting with residents and city organizers is scheduled at the Portage Avenue Mennonite Church Thursday, March 18. The open house begins at 5:30 p.m. and a meeting will start at 7 p.m. City planners will be on hand to discuss the bridge proposals.
"The social cost of the way the park is currently used is too high," said Raglan Road resident Chris Roe, who said she is organizing "hundreds" of residents to speak out against the proposal. "We can do better. We have something beautiful here."
The bridge crossing Omand's Creek was proposed because a current, low-lying footbridge is underwater about two weeks out of the year. But some local cyclists feel nipping up to nearby Portage Avenue when the flooding happens is not a major detour.
Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2010 A5
Cycling infrastructure is good. Discussing community planning is great. Being part of the democratic process is great! Have a voice, be involved, make a difference in your community.