by Laura Mueller
What do you love about your city? Its people, stories and history? Its lively streets and hidden laneways? Its greenspaces? How about its potential to get even better?
If you like to get outside and you’re enthusiastic about the city you live in, come volunteer as a walk leader with Jane’s Walk Ottawa! Jane’s Walk is a festival of free neighbourhood walking tours given by locals who care passionately about where they live, work and play. It is a pedestrian-focused event that improves urban literacy by offering insights into local history, planning, design, and civic engagement through the simple act of walking and observing.
On Saturday, May 3, and Sunday, May 4, Jane’s Walk Ottawa will bring urban enthusiasts together to create their own Jane Jacobs-esque “sidewalk ballet” in neighbourhoods across Ottawa and Gatineau with more than 50 free walking tours. Your help is needed to make it happen.
You don’t have to be a Jane Jacobs expert to lead a tour. Jane championed the practical and experiential knowledge of local residents and pedestrians over the formal, analytical expertise of architects and planners. As a local resident, you are an expert on your area of the city. You decide what’s important. This is a prime opportunity to learn more about your community, find out its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and vulnerabilities, and use this information as a foundation for building a better community, encouraging people to get involved and take control of their future. Leading a tour involves choosing a topic or theme, planning a route, and thinking through the stories, places, and people you want to talk about.
Jane’s Walk began in May 2007 in Toronto, and quickly expanded to New York City. Ottawa’s event is one of the most established Jane’s Walk events, with 2,000 participants last year. More than 60 walk leaders helped educate and inspire participants during 54 walks last year—the event’s sixth year in the capital. As well as walk leaders, Jane’s Walk Ottawa relies on a large team of volunteer marshals. Marshals help Jane’s Walk run smoothly by assisting the walk leader to manage the group, carry flags so people can see where the group is going, keep the group together, keep an eye on safety, take a headcount, and report back to the organizers after the walk.
You can find out more about Jane’s Walk Ottawa at www.janeswalkottawa.ca.