Want to show the world all the many splendours of your neighbourhood? Share your pride in Ottawa by being a tour leader at the 2014 Jane’s Walk.
A community celebration and festival of walking tours, the annual Jane’s Walk is the legacy of Jane Jacobs. As an urbanist, activist, and legendary public communicator, Jacobs championed the importance of walkable, diverse cities and neighbourhoods. The walk in her honour started in 2007 and, to date, over 800 events have been held in more than 100 cities in 22 countries. Last year in Ottawa alone, there were 53 walks, 44 conducted in English and nine in French. And about 2000 people participated. “We expect 2014 to be similar to 2013,” notes Leigh Thorpe, one of the local organizers.
This year, Jane’s Walk takes place Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and 4. But first, there’s a kick-off event that’s slated for Thursday, May 1. And you’re invited to lace up your walking shoes and join in. Better yet, guide a tour. The outcome can be serendipitous. And incredible.
Leigh talks about the time a fellow volunteered to be a marshal on a tour through Wrightville in Gatineau. “He hadn’t been on a Jane’s Walk before,” she notes, adding, “He was so fascinated by the neighbourhood.” The man noticed a house for sale and he was smitten. “He went home, collected his wife and they bought the house.” Another time, a local tour leader steered people through the neighbourhood where he’d grown up. “He took them down the alley shortcuts he used to take when he was a child.”
Leigh has lived in the capital city since 1986 and she laughs when offering her initial impression: “When I first came it was abominable.” It wasn’t until the early to late 1990s, in her estimation, that the city really developed some personality. “Over time, things opened up and got a lot more interesting.”
Today, there are all sorts of people who feel passionate about Ottawa and its many attractions. And just like the tour guide who steered newcomers through the labyrinth paths of his yesteryears, now you can lead the way— your way.
Jane’s Walk “is by Ottawans for Ottawans,” Leigh explains. “The idea is to get out and walk around and hear from your neighbours about what’s cool about your city.” When you volunteer to be a leader, you get to select your very own theme or topic, plan a route, choose the stories you want to tell and guide a captive audience through your favourite part of town. You can choose the streets and events, details and anecdotes you want to share. You’re also welcome to share guiding duties with friends or neighbours.
Even if you’re not ready to be a guide, Jane’s Walk offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore the city and enjoy an urban adventure. Ask questions, take photos and make new friends as you discover even more to love about Ottawa. For details, see janeswalkottawa.ca. For information about leading a walk, call 613 563-4922 and email firstname.lastname@example.org.