Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Treasured oasis on Assiniboine

Small, well-maintained Munson Park 'a nice place to relax'

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Munson Park, with its small strip of trails on the banks of the Assiniboine River, is framed by a wrought-iron fence spaced at intervals with Tyndall stone gates. Most everyone who visits comes in ones and twos.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Munson Park, with its small strip of trails on the banks of the Assiniboine River, is framed by a wrought-iron fence spaced at intervals with Tyndall stone gates. Most everyone who visits comes in ones and twos. Photo Store

The city of Winnipeg has more than 3,300 hectares of green space, made up of parks, gardens, trails, grasslands, forests, ponds and streams. Assiniboine Park, modelled after New York City's Central Park and home of the multimillion-dollar Journey to Churchill exhibit, gets most of the attention. But there are dozens of lesser-known parks throughout the city. In this summer series, Free Press reporters shine a light on some of these under-the-radar ecological gems.

The sign says Munson Park, but everyone knows it as Richardson Park.

Daily, an average of 8,500 commuters drive past 475 Wellington Cres. to the Maryland Street Bridge from River Heights, Crescentwood and Osborne Village in the morning and evening rush hours.

Hundreds of local residents pass through its pillared stone gates to breathe in its peace, a small strip of trails on the banks of the Assiniboine River.

The park is a treasured oasis, outlined against a summer canopy that lines the crescent. In winter, the park is framed through column of trees lit by street lights.

"It's a nice place to relax and to get some peace and quiet," said one of its regular visitors, an office worker from the nearby MTS Building on Corydon Avenue.

'It's a gorgeous area. The architecture is stately'

Richard Reidulff can be found here most lunch hours, strolling through the park, watching the Assiniboine River flow down to the Red River at The Forks.

"The park is well-maintained. It's a gorgeous area," Reidulff said, gesturing to the brick palaces that line the crescent across the street. "The architecture is stately."

Located on one of the city's most elegant boulevards, the homes on the crescent date back to the city's earliest business leaders.

Probably the best-known is the Ashdown House, now the location of a upscale restaurant named for its address, 529 Wellington.

Munson Park occupies most of the north side of the crescent, framed by a wrought-iron fence spaced at intervals with Tyndall stone gates.

Inside, city crews keep flower beds with their Tyndall stone flanks clear of weeds and well-watered.

Solitary joggers run its paved pathways; dog walkers, too. But most everyone who visits comes in ones and twos.

It's that kind of place.

Girls in their school uniforms, from the nearby St. Mary's Academy on the corner of Wellington and Academy, are about the only groups who visit.

"To tell you the truth, there's not a lot of people using this park. When school is in, you'll see more kids but that's about it," Reidulff said.

That's its charm, he said.

At night, urban lore tells a different story. The park is known as a party place for teens from nearby affluent neighbourhoods. Groves camouflage the revelry from passing police patrols.

One quiet afternoon, an empty bottle of Smirnoff vodka lay next to a patch of Virginia creeper, a reminder of the park's Jekyll and Hyde role as a nocturnal haunt.

Once this park was an estate, the former home of the Richardson family.

Tucked away on the eastern corner of the property, a set of crumbling stone steps leading to the river appears to be the last remnant of its residential days.

James A. Richardson bought the Wellington Crescent riverside property in 1919 and raised his family there in a wide two-storey house with a broad veranda. The family lived there until 1976 when they donated the property to the city for a public park.

The park is named in honour of its first owner, J.H. Munson, an Ontario lawyer who moved to Winnipeg in 1881 and founded a law firm that handled business of the Canadian National Railway and the Winnipeg Electrical Railway Company.

Munson called his home Crescentwood House. The original property was larger and much of it was sold before the Richardson era to developers who turned it into the residential neighbourhood of Crescentwood.

A plaque at one pillared gate into the park notes that long ago, this was a link in an ancient network of river trails along the Assiniboine.

In the fur-trade era, it formed part of the trail used by aboriginal people and settlers to reach Upper Fort Garry.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2014 A6

History

Updated on Monday, July 28, 2014 at 7:31 AM CDT: Replaces photos

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