Category Archives: st. catharines

Mystery Trail

Can anyone tell me what this park is called, and if there are any plans to improve it? Especially toward the south end it is less a trail than a rut in the grass.

It runs from Lincoln Mall straight north to the intersection of Niagara and Parnell. It is probably a former railway.

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Empty Parks

Biking along Walker’s Creek this afternoon I was struck by how empty the park was. It’s a great way to quickly travel north-south without worrying about traffic, but I would expect it to be used by the neighbours as well. As a long, thin park it is near many houses.

Walker's Creek Trail

I wonder if part of the problem is that most houses, and even streets, do not meet the park. Where private property touches the park there are often fences. Entrances from the street are infrequent. Is it a coincidence that the only children I saw were just south of Lakeshore where what appears to be public housing is partially open to the park and its play equipment?

(Or maybe it’s just that there are no splash pads along the trail. They seem to be very well patronized this time of year.)

A quick two-way story

I was biking south on Queen Street when I got to the newly two-directional King Street and realized I could turn in whichever direction I felt like. It was a feeling of liberation – no more biking the long way around a block to get to my destination! Two-way traffic makes navigating downtown so much simpler.

GO finally goes to St Catharines

A GO train trundles out of St Catharines toward Toronto.

A GO train trundles out of St Catharines toward Toronto.

It would be an uncharacteristic omission for this blog if I did not note that today the first four weekend trains between Toronto and Niagara Falls stopped in St Catharines. Apparently more than 150 people got on the first Union-bound train this morning.

I happened (by design) to be in the neighbourhood this evening when a train roared in from the east. It was ten cars long, which seemed to me like overkill, but maybe it’s more trouble than it’s worth to rearrange the cars. There didn’t appear to be 150 people getting boarding this train, though there were probably as many as usually ride the weekday morning VIA.

There were also a number of train geeks there, and I mean no offence (as a transit nerd myself), but I did not want to pull my camera out and have all the other people there think I care about the serial number on the locomotive or whatever it is train geeks obsess over. Since I was on my bike, I made it out to where the tracks sever Ridley Street before the train pulled out and I took the above photo to prove that I’m not making this up.

I am glad that GO has finally extended service to St Catharines, even if the trains are seasonal and even then only on the weekends, and the buses don’t begin until autumn. It is a solid start (although I do have some concerns about the location of our local GO bus stop).

At this point, I am required by the rules of transit advocacy to point out that now the Region has to get its act together and create an intermunicipal transit system.

Urban golf courses

The patrons of Fairview Golf Course are not pleased with rumblings from council that it might be sold next year.

This is a good example of the trade-offs involved in city planning. There are direct benefits to quality of life and health from golfing, and this course seems to be especially popular with the older crowd. It is also nice to have green space in the centre of the city, though perhaps not fenced off as a golf course is.

For all its benefits, a golf course is probably not the most intensive use that site can support, and it is going to cost the city upwards of $300,000 to upgrade.

Ideally, the golf course would be replaced with something that provides at minimum the same quality of life and health benefits, but also pays property taxes. I was just thinking today that this parcel of land, squeezed between Fairview Mall and a large cluster of high-rise apartments, would be an excellent site for a mixed-use development.

Mizner Park, built on the site of a failed mall in suburban Florida

Mizner Park, built on the site of a failed mall in suburban Florida

Imagine an outdoor “mall” in the traditional sense lined with mixed-use buildings only a few stories high – retail and restaurants at ground level with offices and residences above. Properly integrated with the preexisting residences and neighbourhoods, it might actually reduce traffic by encouraging people to walk to their destinations. In addition, it would bring more people within walking distance of Fairview Mall, which is on the small side for a successful mall (and thus has an uncertain future).

It would be a welcome change from the strip malls, car dealerships, and big boxes in that corner of the city. If we are lucky, it might even catalyse the redevelopment and intensification of the neighbourhood. Mizner Park, above, has been called an “attachable fragment of urbanism” because it was an island of urbanism in a sea of parking lots and cul-de-sacs. The other side of that coin is that it is ready for new development to attach to it; rather than being oriented primarily towards an arterial road, new development nearby can build (so to speak) on the success of Mizner Park and itself propgate further examples of good urbanism.