City Organizer: Carol Swenson
Walk Leaders: Monica Bryand, Kjensmo Walker, Joan Mathison, Penny Miller
Text by: Carol Swenson
Photographs by: Carol Swenson
Saint Paul, Minnesota is excited to report that the 2017 Festival and Eyes on the Street grants inspired new walk leaders with fresh topics to step forward and motivated experienced leaders to engage new audiences. In turn, there were deep discussions about how Jane’s Walk could advance issues that communities and neighbors care about.
Nearly 40 people participated in five festival walks, notably four of the five leaders were new, and they covered topics ranging from bird watching in a flyway to evolution of a river landing from oxcart trails to urban neighborhood.
“West Side Quarries and Masons” focused on houses connected with a brick mason and an architect who lived in the neighborhood. One walker spontaneously invited everyone into his home, which was built by the mason. The rewarding outcome of this walk was renewed interest in surveying West Side buildings, landscapes, and natural features that nurture lasting connections between people and places.
“Lowertown: New Ideas in Old Buildings” was a walking conversation with local entrepreneurs passionate about repurposing old buildings for new businesses. During the walk we toured a 1907 building that is home to collaborating industrial designers and professionals, met award-winning artisans in an historic artists cooperative, and sampled pizza made from locally sourced food.
As part of the Jane’s Walk Eyes on the Street micro-grant program, Saint Paul’s West Side walk leaders worked with five block clubs to organize walks that attracted over 65 people.
There were many highlights of the walks: neighbors meeting each other for the first time and forming relationships; 20 people signing a petition to cleanup a bluff ravine and work with a public artist to create a beautiful wall that deters dumping; a walk participant guiding others along a secret path while sharing childhood memories; and neighbors bundling up for a winter walk in the dark, searching for colorful, delightful transom windows.
Another grant supported refinement of an accessibility walk where able-bodied people experience day-to-day challenges facing wheelchair users. Neighborhood transportation committees went on these walks to better understand how they can advocate for accessible and inclusive community.