Winter is inevitable in the prairies, so stop complaining—Maclean’s magazine reports that complaining about the cold is Canada’s favourite pastime—and get outside. The City of Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy, now in its third year, combats winter hibernation by transforming the city into a more livable place during the chilly months through a 10-goal plan—broken down into four pillars: winter life, winter design, winter economy and winter story. Some of these goals are already in effect, while some of them are more long-term.
Susan Holdsworth, WinterCity coordinator, has the details on how the city is following those goals this season.
Goal 1 | Make it easier to “Go Play Outside”: Provide more opportunities for outdoor activity
• The new Victoria Park Pavilion has opened, and the facility serves as a centre for outdoor activities and skating. Dogwood Café is also serving brunch out of the Victoria Golf Course Clubhouse.
• The Freezeway Pilot Project is now open to the public. The project features a 400-metre skating trail through the trees in the river valley, which extends off of the Victoria Park skating oval. The area is also lit up by art installations, created by Dylan Toymaker, hung from the trees. The trail is expected to extend to 800 metres in length next year.
• Cross-country ski trails are being groomed in these areas, too.
• The ice castle in Hawrelak Park is officially open to the public, and it will run all winter long. Tickets must be purchased to visit the giant ice sculpture, and general admission is $12.95. Visit Ice Castles for hours of operation and ticket sales.
• Enter your winter garden into the Front Yards in Bloom: Winterscapes competition. Nominations for Winterscapes will be accepted until February 21. Visit edmonton.ca for more information.
Goal 2 | Improve winter transportation for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users
• Improvements to making public transit better in the winter are still in progress.
• The city is running pilot projects on 106 Street (southside) for clearing snow on bike routes.
• Driving roads currently get first priority for snow clearing.
Goal 3 | Design our community for winter safety and comfort and
Goal 4 | Incorporate urban design for winter fun, activity, beauty and interest
• The Winter Design Guidelines are in draft form, but they will be finalized soon and will be presented to city council, according to Holdsworth.
• A Creative Lighting Master Plan is currently in the draft form, but should also be finalized soon. The plan details strategic use of lighting on buildings around the city to tackle winter darkness. A pilot project is underway that will light up heritage buildings around the city.
Goal 5 | Increase the capacity and sustainability of edmonton’s winter festivals
• There is a shared inventory, provided by the City of Edmonton, for winter events and festivals, so that festivals don’t have to buy their own supplies. The inventory available includes fire pits, tents, portable heaters, batteries, power cords, lanterns, chairs, sandbags and other winter-related items.
• The city hopes to change the advocacy for winter festivals by developing a different funding model better-suited for festivals held in the winter. (Currently, winter festivals are funded in the same way as summer festivals, but the expenses are 30- to 40-percent higher than summer festivals due to the extra equipment needed, Holdsworth explains.)
Goal 6 | Develop a four-seasons patio culture
• WinterCity Farewell to Winter Patio Party, which will be held in April, encourages businesses to open up their patios. Last year, the event had 75 businesses involved.
Goal 7 | Become a world leader in innovative winter-related business/industry
• Still in development.
Goal 8 | Celebrate the season and embrace daily living in a cold climate
Goal 9 | Promote edmonton’s great northern story locally, nationally and internationally
Goal 10 | Kick start and lead implementation of edmonton’s wintercity strategy: apply a ‘winter lens’ to our city
• Goals 8, 9 and 10 make up the Winter Story pillar. These goals are more difficult to distinguish since they are measured through the residents’ overall perspective and feelings towards winter. The City of Edmonton promotes Edmonton’s winter story through its WinterCity strategy and use of social media.
• Holdsworth says that the perspective of Edmonton’s winter is changing. People are realizing that there is a lot of sun during the winter months, that it’s not as cold as previously believed, and that people are becoming more aware of the activities that can be done in the winter.
• Holdsworth also notes that better photographs of winter are in the city’s inventory, whereas before it was all gloomy images. Sharing these photographs helps to promote a better representation of Edmonton living during its coldest months.
• The “Winter Lens” is imperative in everything within the WinterCity Strategy. Park developments, infrastructure and businesses are encouraged to have a “winter lens” on, meaning that developments need to be made in a way that it works for both winter and summer seasons in Edmonton.
“Make sure it’s going to work year round, not just in summer conditions,” Holdsworth says.
On Twitter, follow @WinterCityYEG