TransCanada Trail, Winnipeg: Part 8 - Waterfront, St John's Park, Kildonan Park
Distance: 10.1 kms
This is walk number 8 and we are just cruising along! We met at our end point just one street North of the Chief Peguis Trail at John Black Avenue. We drove back to McDermot and started out walk from there. When I told friends where we would be walking, they thought we were made. Some of the neighbourhoods in the core area are not known to be safe, especially for two women walking alone. I wouldn't do the walk at night but I think daytime would be fine.
We walked along McDermot to Waterfront Drive where there are some very expensive riverside condos. This area has now been "gentrified" and depending on how you interpret that word, it could mean prettying up the neighbourhood and making it safe but generally it
means displacing many poor and homeless people to make way for high income property which is exclusively the domain of the wealthy. Displaced people then have to find other housing in other poor neighbourhoods because they can no longer afford to live where they once lived.
We headed North along Waterfront Drive then right to the trail that leads to Anabella Street. Now this street has an interesting history. It was once designated as part of civic planning as the official red light district! According to the Manitoba Historical Society:
Winnipeg’s second segregated district existed for approximately four years between 1909 and 1912. It was the brainchild of Police Chief John C. McRae and the Board of Police Commissioners, a civic grouping of aldermen, the mayor, and other law enforcement officials, whose ideas were borne out through the collective efforts of madams and prostitutes. Across the prairies, most police officials believed the sex trade was inevitable and, because of a lack of manpower, that it could not be stopped. In many western cities, civic officials and police unofficially tolerated organized areas of ‘vice’ and prostitution in the hopes that these problems could be managed and somewhat controlled.  Winnipeg had followed this pattern for approximately twenty-five years prior to 1904 when numerous brothels functioned openly on Thomas Street, an area which was shut down only after pressure from the local citizenry and social reformers came to be too much for police officials to bear. The Winnipeg Board of Police Commissioners and Chief McRae, then, were following a familiar pattern of civic planning similar to that of other prairie cities when they set to work creating another ‘red light’ district in 1909.
I should mention that my first summer job in Winnipeg in 1971 was in this area. I worked at a company that made electric frost shields (for those of you who remember having them installed on your car windows so it wouldn't fog up in the winter. The factory was located two blocks West of Anabella Street and Higgins Avenue on Gomez Street. It was hot warehouse and I had to climb to the third floor where I worked with a lot of other immigrants who could hardly speak English. We all needed jobs but I was fortunate that mine was only for the summer. Many of the women I worked with were doing the job as their full-time job. I promised myself after that summer that I would not have to do that kind of work again. The work was honest work but it was a no-skills, low pay job. I found a way to make some extra money though. I could work very fast so the foreman offered us "piece work." Basically we would be paid extra for each frost shield we could string together over our daily minimum quota. I worked so fast and so accurately, that I made more money than the most senior person working in that part of the factory, including men. Of course in those days, men were paid more than women.
We connected to Rover Avenue going under the Disraeli Freeway which is being re-built. The bridge was opened in 1960 and was in desperate need of replacement as it is a main thoroughfare for connecting the East and West parts of the city. From the work that is being done, it will be a nice bridge. We walked through the park at the back of the Norquay Community Centre and stayed on the trails through some smaller parks to get onto Burrows Avenue.
We made a small misstep on Burrows but quickly realized that it was a misstep when we almost approached Main Street (which was not a part of the trail I had looked over last night). There is a side path on the right shortly after we got onto Burrows but with no signage, we didn't realize we were supposed to turn there to connect to the south side of Redwood Park which starts on Alfred Avenue. We passed the Paddlewheel Queen and Princess riverboats at the Redwood docks and continued to St John's Park. We then connected to Saint Cross Street backing the St John's Anglican Cathedral and the St John's Cemetery. This cathedral is the oldest Anglican parish west of the Great Lakes and the cemetery predates the cathedral. I went to this church once and it had an air of history with its grandeur. Close to this location is St John's High School where Robin did high school English during night school back in 1966. He and his family lived on Manitoba Avenue back in the day and it was not a safe area even back then. No wonder he didn't like the idea of us walking through this area now.
We walked to Cathedral Avenue and turned right toward Scotia Street. Then it was North on Scotia until we got to Forrest Avenue. I usually hear about Scotia Street during the Spring floods in Winnipeg but had never visited this neighbourhood. The street, like Wellington Crescent is closed from 8:00 am to dusk during the summer months so there was no dodging traffic while we walked. There were several cyclists, walkers, and joggers along the way and almost everyone had a friendly "Good Morning" to offer. That's what we are: "Friendly Manitobans." The homes along this street are almost as splendid as the ones on Wellington Crescent. They were not as big but certainly as beautiful.
We walked West along Forrest Avenue to Marymound Way where the Marymound School is located on a scenic and park like area right along the river. The school was originally occupied in 1911 as a kind of alternative place to house girls who would otherwise be in prison. The place is still used as such a facility in some cases with secure living units but it also offers a host of other programs for families. We continued walking East along Leila to the continuation of Scotia Street. If you are driving, this would be awfully confusing and if you are walking, even more so.
We entered the South gates of Kildonan Park and continued along the trail that runs beside the river, past a little creek that runs through the park, then behind the golf course to the underside of Chief Peguis Trail and then to John Black Avenue bordering the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery.
Again, this was a fabulous walk through some interesting, amazing and superb historical neighbourhoods of Winnipeg. Most of it was the first time for me. Again I would encourage to click on the links to learn more about some of the places I mentioned.