A Venue For Broadening the Conversation
Prince George, B.C. – The first two Jane’s Walk events in Prince George were held on Saturday and it appears there will be more in the future.
Jane’s Walk is a Toronto-borne grassroots movement of citizen-led walking tours which are locally organized and bring people together to talk about matters in their neighbourhood and environment. The host of any event picks the topic and those wishing to take part can.
The two walks here on Saturday dealt with discussions on resource development and its effects on rural and urban life in the north, and creative ways to shape a liveable, vibrant downtown. Both were well-attended, mainly by relatively young adults, and generated considerable discussion on the topics at hand.
Rebecca Hasdell, one of the co-organizers of the year’s walk, says “walking is a great way, and actually being in the spaces where the issues are taking place, is a really interesting way to have a conversation about some of the big issues that are facing Prince George. For example resource development, that can sometimes be a contentious conversation.”
“It’s certainly something that’s very instrumental in shaping how the city has developed and so having a chance to be here along the Fraser, which has been central to how that industry has developed, is an interesting way for people to be able to actually see and experience the issues but also be able to talk about them in that space with other people who might bring their own lenses, their own histories, their own experience and perspective to the issue as well.”
Hasdell adds “our hope is that as people experience the walk this year that they’ll get inspired to host walks and we see this as being a yearly event. Of course people can go walking whenever to host walks on issues that they’re passionate about and to see this as a format and a venue where they can host those same types of conversations.”
She says “I moved to Prince George about a year ago from Toronto where Jane’s Walks was founded, and I just thought it was a great way to have some of those bigger conversations in Prince George.”
Chris Buse, who organized the walk dealing with resource development, says “I think the thing that appealed to me about leading a Jane’s Walk is the idea that everyone who lives in the community is an expert on some topic, and we’ve all got a unique story to share.”
“So for our walk, resource development, it’s a huge thing that’s relevant to everybody who lives in Prince George, and everybody has something to share about it. So we’re of the mindset that people are hungry for opportunities or platforms or venues to talk about this stuff and share their ideas and their stories. I think that’s what I liked about it, is that we’re this group from UNBC but we don’t pretend to be the experts on this stuff, we have the same amount of expertise as everyone else who lives in this community.”
“So we view it as an opportunity to think about what’s the past of Prince George been like, what’s the present like and where are we going? How can we have that collective conversation about where we want this city to move into the future?’
Mark Groulx, who was part of the central organizing committee for Jane’s Walks and helped organize the walk dealing with creative communities downtown, says on the subject of downtown “I’ve come into contact with so many creative and passionate people, what seems to me to be necessary is finding a way to bring them all together to get engaged in a shared conversation rather than conversations that might be pulling in different directions.”
Groulx says “we need lots of different types of forums to have this conversation. Not everyone’s going to be comfortable at a town hall-type setting to stand up and talk about their ideas, so these informal settings I think broaden the conversation and engage people who maybe aren’t part of the usual suspects you sometimes see out at community engagement events.”
“So this is the first, we’ll maybe be as bold as to say annual Jane’s Walk in Prince George. I’m happy to see a good turnout and excited for today, but also excited to see how things might grow. We had a walk added kind of last minute, and that’s what it’s all about, people seeing an opportunity to get engaged, jump on board, find something they’re passionate about and they do it on their own terms.”