Plenty of places to walk with Jane

Participants in Saturday's Jane's Walk will be invited to stop, think and talk.

I came across the work of urban thinker Jane Jacobs long ago, while studying the general idea of "The City" for my postgraduate work in English lit. I'm thrilled to see it's still taking hold, and taking hold in Brockville.

Jacobs, if I recall, had a particular bias toward larger cities. She called Toronto home, after all. But Saturday's Jane's Walk in Brockville demonstrates that, while Jacobs's theories may not always be geared toward small cities like ours, the spirit behind them can be found wherever people gather in an environment that is recognizably urban.

In fact, it is a good thing for any city dweller, big or small, to pause and take note of his or her surroundings. Sometimes, as may be the case with trees and urban wildlife, noticing those surroundings is the first step toward ensuring we do not lose them.

At other times, noting one's surroundings is the first step toward fixing them.

The priority status the Brock Trail still enjoys -- tentatively -- on Brockville's capital projects list would suggest the kinds of urban-forest treasures Dale Chisamore is intent on preserving with Saturday's walk will be safe. And the intensity of debate and preoccupation over the waterfront, even as we go about lining it with condo towers, suggests we are not losing sight of the need to maintain a balance there.

It would be interesting to see other Jane's Walks develop in the coming years in other parts of Brockville, a city which, in spite of its size, has an incredible diversity of built landscape.

An obvious walk would start, perhaps, at the railway station and walk down Perth Street to the arts centre. Neighbourhood residents have in the past tried to revitalize that stretch of Perth Street we are tempted to call a "slum," while others have lately focused on yet another of that area's urban realities, the danger posed by truck traffic.

Here's another idea for an urban walk: the railway tunnel. Not the inside of it, mind you, until the city fixes it up as imagined in that same capital plan. I mean starting at the north end of the tunnel, long known as a solemn resting place for shopping carts and other relics of urban life, and comparing it with the pristine southern end, known as the elegantly attired centrepiece of Armagh S. Price Park, and the place where Riverfest met its demise because so many people slagged the INXS concert -- but I digress.

I can only imagine the details that would emerge from a walk in the north end. If you started at the very tip of Kensington Parkway, for instance, and made your way to the plaza at the corner of Laurier, you could span entire social strata, and maybe discover some trends in subdivision development.

Doing the Jane's Walk story has reminded me that Brockville is not only a city, but a miniature urban laboratory. We have an interesting diversity of urban existence here, all within an enclosed and accessible space.

And while people like to complain (boy, they like to complain...), we also have an opportunity to get things right.