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When the COVID-19 shutdown at City Hall was at its most severe in April, I found myself with free time to start up a new project. I chose to investigate the state of the city’s walking/running tracks, a "tour de track" that took me to all parts of the city.
Why talk about this now?
Both provincial and federal levels of government are discussing the need for shovel–ready infrastructure projects to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is a lot of discussion of increasing capacity for cycling, it is worth noting that an op-ed piece by Brent Bellamy in the Winnipeg Free Press ("Rethinking infrastructure after the pandemic," April 6, 2020) described one lesson for Winnipeg as being "...the increased need for easily accessible space to walk."
What did I find after visiting 21 tracks?
While the citizens of Winnipeg can "weather any storm," to use the current Twitter rallying cry, most of our walking/running tracks cannot, unfortunately, weather any storm at all. To be fair, only seven of the 25 tracks are actually on City property (plus one on community centre land) so the sorry state of tracks cannot be blamed on the civic level of government. Additionally, under the current council and mayor, the City funded the new track at Victor Mager School in St. Vital in 2019, the first rubberized 400-metre track in the city since the 1967 track was installed in Pan-Am Stadium at the University of Manitoba.
With the new Victor Mager track, St, Vital ward is in good shape but I recommend fixing up eight tracks in all, with an emphasis on upgrading to rubberized status a track in the northern part of the city, at Sisler High School (city property) and/or River East Collegiate (school division property). In southeast Winnipeg, I recommend upgrading the woeful gravel track at Windsor Park Collegiate/Collège Beliveau (some students from my ward attend these schools), which dates back to about 1971 — this would serve two high schools, many elementary schools and local community residents.
The City does not have money to spend on renewing tracks, but if federal or provincial infrastructure money becomes available, I think our decaying tracks should be given some consideration alongside cycling projects. For example, both Maples Collegiate and Elmwood High School track projects received infrastructure funding in 2010-11 as part of the previous federal stimulus package.
I see many people of different ages and skill levels when I go to Victor Mager track — I hope to see the same in the coming years at Windsor Park and Collège Beliveau.
St. Vital city council ward report
Brian Mayes is the city councillor for St. Vital.
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