Favourite COVID-safe date activity

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

1. Taking a walk in the park
2. Stay home and watch a movie
3. Picnic

Earlier this year, Zach Fleisher held a Twitter poll to determine the most beloved Winnipeg park, the full voting bracket of which lasted several days. The final vote came down to FortWhyte Alive and Assiniboine Park.

Sorry to the voters, but frankly, that it came down to those two admittedly beautiful and probably ecologically critical parks (I am not a ecologist) speaks to the tendency among some Winnipeggers to ignore some of the best things this city has to offer in favour of any space that allows them to forget the city exists at all.

I have gone on some lovely dates at both of those parks, but my favourite park walk dates have not happened at either of them. Instead, they’ve happened at the myriad of tiny, postage stamp-sized parks and river-adjacent greenspaces that get shoved into the nooks and crannies of the city.

The ideal Winnipeg park walk date IMHO involves stops at multiple parks, strung together with visits to coffee shops and corner stores, with time in nature and neighbourhood alike.

These parks are (in my experience) the ones most often neglected by the City of Winnipeg, despite being the public greenspace most accessible to a huge portion of the city’s population. These are the ones where you can’t forget where you are, that are full of neighbours on hot days and desire paths on frozen ones, where you never stop hearing the traffic, but you also hear birds and kids playing and snippets of conversations.

Not investing in and celebrating these parks is not just an issue of romanticization and escapism. It also has material consequences. The health of the tree canopy impacts neighbourhood temperature and air quality, urban ecosystems, noise pollution, energy use and even road safety. I still really enjoy walking in the sprawling greenspaces, but the parks that have grown truly entwined with my relationships are always the ones already entwined in my day-to-day life.

Published in Volume 76, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 2, 2021)

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