For the last two years, I've spent my Monday evenings chauffering my daughter to and from ballet. The class is a twenty-minute drive away, taking us from the city's century-old core into a neighbourhood who's oldest homes were built in the 1970s. Rather than spend the forty-minute lesson in the cramped foyer outside her classroom, I've used the time for grocery shopping or taking a book to one of the few chain restaurants in the nearest big-box strip. Such weekly indulgences get pricey, however, so I swallowed my preferences for prewar homes and stately elms and tried taking a walk.
I first discovered this path in early October. Instead of an alley, there's a bike path between back fences, over-hung with branches from back yard trees. I still missed the elms, but the willows swayed invitingly and the mountain ashes flamed bright. It's a big step up from the garbage-can-strewn alleys that string between the lots of yesteryear, and so well lit I kept up my jaunts even once sunset had crept up before ballet time.
This autumn, I followed my feet in the opposite direction and found an even greater treat: Lake Beaumaris, Edmonton's first man-made lake. It has aged so gracefully since it was first dug in 1979, and is surrounded on all sides by a well-used public path. If I hadn't seen its convenient moat-like shape on the map, I would have assumed it was a relic of pre-city landscape and that the park was built around it.
I'm sometime loath to change my own narrative. Decades of turning my nose at cookie cutter homes and traffic calmed streets may have saved me from getting lost in pre-planned neighbourhoods, but I now have reason to believe I've missed out on a few gems. Urban planning can be done right. Who would have thought?