If you couldn’t tell from my social media channels, I was in Edmonton last week. I was in town to facilitate a workshop on lean community building for the Alberta Council For Disability Services. I was particularly excited to facilitate that workshop because of the time I spent on a community mental health team working with Edmontonians with developmental disabilities. While working on that team, I found that social isolation and exclusion were huge issues. I think community building projects are a viable way to promote social connection, and so the opportunity to talk to the amazing people working on the front lines in disability services was a wonderful opportunity to share some ideas with people who can really make a difference in our communities.
My trip back to Edmonton was a bit of a rush of feelings. You never really realize how much attachment you have to a place until you return to it after a time of separation. It’s pretty powerful.
Something I recognized right away was how much I missed the river valley. I can remember when I first moved to Edmonton and spoke to locals about what they loved about their city. Almost everyone raved about the river valley. I didn’t really get it until I got a bike and started exploring the trails. Seriously #yeg. You have access to a spectacular network of trails and parks at your fingertips. From most areas of the city, you can get to the river valley with relative ease. Which is huge. To be able to get lost in the woods in the middle of one of Canada’s largest cities is something you shouldn’t take for granted. And it’s something that we’re beginning to understand has implications on our health. Emily Grant, a fellow doctoral student in the Urban Realities Lab is undertaking some pretty exciting research and looking at that exact issue. So there you have it. Get out there and lose yourself (and also probably find yourself) in that majestic river valley. I like that… “Lose yourself and find yourself in Edmonton’s River Valley.”
Another thing that I love about Edmonton is it’s “Make Something” energy. While in town, I had the honour and privilege to participate in the Paths For People City For Life workshop with a number of community builders, the Mayor, some stellar city councillors (Ben Henderson, Scott McKeen, Andrew Knack, Mike Walters), and my favourite cyclist MLA, David Shepherd. Gil Penalosa kicked off the workshop with a talk that really hammered in the importance of putting people first in Edmonton. It was apparent that Edmonton has some work to do in prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists when it comes to the built environment. What really moved me about this workshop (and the corresponding movement that Paths for People is creating) was that it happened because a group of concerned citizens came together to do something about the state of affairs of walkability and bike lanes in Edmonton. It totally embodied what I always tried to communicate about Make Something Edmonton during my tenure on the board: that Edmonton was a place where you could make things happen – that what made Edmonton Edmonton (at least to me) was a special quality about the people who live here. Edmontonians support each other, stand up for what they believe in and work together as a collective to bring change to their communities. I should say that I was also moved to see such strong political representation at the workshop. It was a Saturday morning and none of them had to be there, so I think that says something positive about the political will and interest in improving Edmonton for cyclists and pedestrians. I’m excited to see what happens in Edmonton when it comes to bike lanes and pedestrian safety.
Here are a few other things I missed about the city
- COFFEE – #yeg’s coffee scene is unbelievable. I had a tough time choosing where I caffeinated myself over the week. I ended up stopping in at Transcend, Da Cappo and Elm.
- Old Strathcona – During my time in Edmonton I lived in a few different areas. When I first moved to town I lived in Garneau. Then I moved to Montrose and I also had a brief stint in Bonnie Doon. The last neighbourhood I lived in was Old Strathcona. I don’t need to tell you why it’s an amazing hood. It just has it all. Notable spots are The Next Act (you have no idea how much I had been craving their burgers), steak tartare night at Accent Lounge, and gelato at Block 1912. I also missed my favourite menswear shop, Mr. Derk.
- Sattva Yoga – I’ve been doing yoga for the last 11 years and I can assure you that Sattva Yoga is the best I’ve ever encountered. I made sure to get in there as much as I could while I was in town. I’d recommend checking it out if you interested.
Something else I value about Edmonton is its proximity to the mountains. After my time in #yeg I took off to Banff to speak about poverty and the built environment at the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists conference. I really never realized how amazing it was to be able to be in the mountains within a few hours. You can be sure that I’m very aware of this now that I’m living in Southern Ontario. I’m hard pressed to find a decent ski hill, let alone a mountain range as magnificent as the Canadian Rockies.
Anyhow. This was a bit of a mish mash of feelings and reflections I had wanted to get out on paper and I thought I’d share them.
My takeway point: don’t take #yeg for granted. It’s an amazing city. I always knew this when I lived here, but it took some time away from #yeg for it really to sink in for me.
The old adage you don’t know what you have until it’s gone holds true.
Thanks for reading,