During COVID restrictions, many citizens increased their time outdoors. Droves of Winnipeggers were on the river trail during the cold season, many experiencing it for the first time. That is likely to translate into permanent increased use post-pandemic.
Progressively drier summers have meant steeper banks along the river due to the decreasing water levels. The situation necessitates additional safe access points to the river trail.
I have heard Osborne Street North residents complain about limited access to the trail from their neighbourhood. I accessed the trail from Crescentwood regularly last winter.
The Wolseley Winter Wonderland committee is an ad hoc group of the Wolseley Residents Association.
"The group raised some funds to install ramps to the river trail and are exploring other options and working with the City of Winnipeg," a WRA spokesperson said.
According to ad hoc committee organizer Michael Bennett, the river bank is only accessible to able-bodied individuals.
"We have acquired materials and architect-designed plans to dramatically improve access at key points along the ‘Wonderland’ including wheelchair access," Bennett said.
"Make it accessible, and they will come."
The city maintains a couple of access points to the river trail - one to the Red River on the northeast side of the Norwood Bridge near the Forks, and another to the Assiniboine River from the Hugo Street dock off Wellington Crescent. The Forks offers a third access point.
According to a 2014 City of Winnipeg-endorsed draft vision document entitled, Go...to the Waterfront, Winnipeg has over 240 kilometres of river waterfront, nearly half of which is publicly owned.
According to a city spokesperson, "The draft waterfront plan remains ‘an active planning document for the City of Winnipeg.’"
I am heartened that the City of Winnipeg is granting greater public access to our two rivers in summer.
Three kayak/canoe launch locations currently exist. One each at John Bruce Road and Crescent Drive Parks and another at the Louis Bakó river landing off Waterfront Drive.
An additional non-motorized access point was scheduled to open in mid-summer.
"This year, a new kayak/canoe launch is being constructed in LaBarriere Park that will include a boat drop-off and turnaround area as well as an accessible path into a new beachfront launch," said a city spokesperson.
"The City is non-committal regarding the implementation of additional entry/exit points to the river trail," the spokesperson added, when asked. "It is examining its options for next winter but no decision has been made."
We are fortunate to experience the beauty and enjoyment of a river trail most winters. Let’s facilitate its use for all citizens during the long, cold season as well as during the summer.
Armande Bourgeois Martine is a correspondent for Crescentwood. Reach her at email@example.com