Turning Winnipeg’s rivers into a hub of activity: setbacks and solutions

23/11/2018 Posted by admin

WINNIPEG —; For centuries, people used the Red and Assiniboine rivers like highways. Whether it was transporting goods, fishing, or promoting immigration – the waterway was a necessity of life for many.

Today, Winnipeg’s rivers are used for recreational use, such as rowing and kayaking, but the amount of traffic on or near the water has steadily deceased over time.

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    “People aren’t even thinking of [rivers], which is funny because it’s how the city was first established and how our indigenous population was moving around. It’s what the Forks is all about,” Forks-North Portage CEO Paul Jordan said.

    “For 6,000 years these rivers defined this place, and yet in the last 100 we have really turned our backs to it and aren’t paying attention.”

    Jordan said people from other cities come to Winnipeg and wonder why we don’t do more with out rivers.

    READ MORE: The sinking tourism on Winnipeg’s rivers

    The issue surrounding the use of the city’s waterway, may not be the “image” of the rivers, but the flooding, he said.

    “The floods have been difficult. But for me, that’s not a reason to stop thinking of them. There are ways to adapt and make this a very interesting city,” he said.

    “We’ve treated both the Red River basin and the Assiniboine basin as ditches,” he added. “I don’t think we should be surprised when the rivers start acting like ditches.”

    Riverbank development

    John Kiernan, the director of Winnipeg’s planning, property and development, said the key challenge with the riverfront is flooding concerns and riverbank stabilization.

    “Basically the riverbank is 30 ft. deep and it moves around, and it’s a little bit unstable,” he said.

    But Kiernan was quick to add that a lot has happened in Winnipeg over the years in terms of riverbank development, such as Waterfront Drive.

    RELATED: Eroding riverbank: Winnipeg couple watches land disappear before their eyes

    In the case of the land in the Exchange District, the city invested in public spaces along the stretch of the Red River and has leveraged significant private investment, creating many condominium for people to live.

    In 2013, the city approved a program that allowed a $10,000 forgivable loan to be used towards a down payment on a condominium in the Exchange Waterfront neighborhood.

    WATCH: Ten thousand dollar incentive for Waterfront Drive property 

    “We’re a city that grows steadily,” Kiernan said. “On Waterfront Drive, there has been a lot of development – more condos, a restaurant and a hotel.”

    Kieran said he would love to see a marina in downtown Winnipeg and believes this would help bring people to the water.

    Building a river city

    In 2014, the city adopted a 20-year blueprint that envisioned a river system with The Forks as the hub, pedestrian bidges, picnic stops and trails moving people from the city’s main parks to downtown Winnipeg.

    The ‘Go To The Waterfront’ plan was adopted, but not a lot has been implemented.

    Blueprint in Go To The Waterfront

    “The vision imagines a strategic network of city sidewalks, scenic drives, parkways and active transportation trails connecting each neighbourhood to the downtown,” the document reads.

    RELATED: No easy fix for Winnipeg’s flood-prone riverwalk

    Jordan agrees with the 20-year blueprint and said he would love for the city to start thinking of the rivers as a way to connect communities, in the summer and the winter.

    “People are thinking of the streets and downtown. No one is thinking about the rivers.’

    He said economically it’s easy to benefit when you build on the water, but the first thing to do is to change people’s mindset.

    “I can think of about 20 cities that we can follow. All of them have very interesting waterfronts. They suddenly realized the economic powerhouse for waterfronts.”