Old concrete blocks, tangled grass and piles of driftwood along the Red River might have been seen as just a mess on the riverbank, but two artists from Point Douglas saw possibility and potential.
With a little investment and cleanup, this could be a beautiful view on our riverbank that could be shared by all for years to come.
On July 26 our community celebrated the official opening of the new Annabella river access walkway. The project includes a new Tyndall stone staircase and a refurbished pathway providing access to the Red River off of Curtis Street.
Three years ago local Point Douglas artists, Louis Bako and Jordan Van Sewell, called my office with an idea. We met on the riverbank by Curtis Street where they explained their vision of how this point along the Red River could provide river access for Winnipeggers. More discussion followed and we connected their idea with Point Douglas city councillor Mike Pagtakhan to get the City involved.
The project was completed over three weeks last November. The whole undertaking, or as Louis named it "300 Tons of Stone Rearranged," was built with Manitoba limestone — from paving stones, to crushed gravel and huge boulders out of the Stonewall quarry. Louis, a former City of Winnipeg urban planner, explained how his design of this project works with the landscape, using what is available to create a structure that fits in naturally with the space.
The project’s goal was to expand access to the river by creating a recreational platform and small watercraft launch site for the public. The rivers have always been an important part of our lives in Manitoba. Historically it has served as a meeting place for Indigenous people, and today it’s a meeting place for all Manitobans. As Louis says, "The river should be accessible to everyone to use and enjoy."
This spot along the riverbank is a special place with an incredible tree canopy, where you can sit down and watch the river flow by. People already use it to fish, star gaze, and watch fireworks at Whittier Park and the Forks. Now it has become a hub for active transportation — from biking and walking on the Trans Canada Trail, to canoeing and boating from its permanent dock.
With pride in their neighbourhood and city, Louis and Jordan have shown us a creative way to make the natural beauty of our river system available to everyone.