Our communal backyard

my favourite place in Winnipeg is the stretch of Churchill Drive that runs from the pump house just off of Jubilee Avenue and Cockburn Street to the St. Vital Bridge on Osborne Street. It’s a public parkway that follows the path of the Red River. At the start the scrub brush hides a rocky shore where enterprising fathers have taken their children fishing. From the top of the bank you can see the Bridge Drive-In — known simply as the BDI to locals — in the distance. The people strolling across the bridge with their ice cream look miniscule. On a clear summer’s eve you can wave and get a wave back.

The grassy space quickly gives way to trees and dense bushes. In the spring and summer, you can walk through a canopy of green. In the fall, the russet colours are just as spectacular. Even winter is pretty here. A gravel path quickly separates in two: the larger path for sedate strollers and a thinner, well-worn path for cyclists. Along the way there are strategically placed benches with beautiful views of the river and the bank on the other side.

There are always people about — jogging, walking their dogs, playing Frisbee. Despite being so close to the roadway and open to foot traffic, you can always find the kind of friendly solitude that calms you after a hectic day, week or month.
There is a lot of wildlife to see if you know how to look. Beavers and muskrat can be seen along the banks. Geese and ducks lead their little ones in the water. Squirrels and jaybirds sit in the trees. And there’s usually a mom pointing them out to her wide-eyed toddler. It’s as good as a trip to Fort Whyte.

This is the place where every spring I take my first run. If I can get to the bridge — huffing and gasping aside — then I know I’m not in bad shape. If I can’t, then I’ve got my work cut out for me waking up from hibernation.

This is the place where my friends and I go to catch up and talk about plans for the future. Sometimes we spread a blanket out on the ground and just dream.
This is the place where I wander without seeing anything, immersed in plots and plans for various writing projects. I never fail to come away from a walk without inspiration.

It’s a communal backyard for the neighborhood. There’s always something beautiful you can take from your visits there. And one of the best parts: you’ll never be charged admission.