Jane’s Altona Forest

“You’re doing this backwards” I thought, “And you really are not the right person to do this at all.”

Just over a year ago, I decided that Altona Forest should have a Jane’s Walk. I don’t usually lead hikes in Altona Forest. I don’t consider myself an expert. I just love the forest and have a curious mind. It was a crazy idea really – since I tend to shy away from these things.

However, the idea stayed with me so I got in touch with the Jane’s Walk organizers and then set up a page for our city on their site. I planned and set up 2 walks in Altona Forest – I asked the Stewardship Committee Chair to lead one and I’d lead the other. In between there was photography, writing and structuring a city page, putting up a few posters, posting the hikes online and in our local paper’s events section (Kristen Calis gave our first Jane’s Walks a great little shout-out), imagining what I’d talk about during a walk.

It came down to one simple thing – we are so lucky to have Altona Forest in our midst – with nature and easy walking trails and yet only a few people know about it or embrace it. Why not share it?

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Jane’s Walk is an international walking festival that takes place on the first weekend of May each year. The premise is that since each of us has experiences and expertise about our neighbourhood, anyone can lead a walk. A Jane’s Walk is as much about the sharing and openness as it is about the learning and walking.

Central ideas of Jane’s Walk are these – the walks are always free, are ‘walking conversations’, embrace a ‘just show up’ attitude, and each walk leader creates and  publicizes their walks themselves. These walks encourage people to share stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect on a human scale.

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The walks are inspired by community activist Jane Jacobs – who’s ideas that neighbourhoods are shaped by the people helped change rigid planning paradigms half a century ago. She was a NYC and Toronto urbanist who got people talking about a human-centered approach to city design.

I knew nothing – less than nothing – about Jane Jacobs. I still barely know anything. But, here’s what I find inspiring: while builders build a neighbourhood, its soul and energy comes from the daily lives and activities of the residents. Function shapes form.

Forest and access to green-space greatly improves the lives of local residents – science is understanding this more and more – and in turn the neighbourhood can give back to the forest. It’s about interest, understanding and synergy with our surroundings.

This blog is titled ‘My Altona Forest’ honouring our collective ownership but individual viewpoints within public spaces. Our personal engagement with the forest. While gorgeous still-wild areas exist around us, we each take away something unique. Our learning, sense memory, the feel of the trail will be different for every person and depend on our own histories, stories and interests. The more times we visit, the more layers of memory are made.

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Altona Forest will be different for you than for me – but together it’s ours. Ours to learn about. Ours to protect. Ours to share. And maybe that’s why we should have a Jane’s Walk every year – and why it’s perfectly Jane’s Altona Forest. Make it yours – join in on the Jane’s Walk in our woods.16831087_10154227829481727_3737420471899133250_nResources ~ Begin Your Reading Here

About Jane’s Walk (from Jane’s Walk HQ)

Jane’s Walk Altona Forest

About Jane’s Walk (1.45min youtube – from an experienced Walk Leader)

Remembering Jane Jacobs (5.37min on youtube)

Jane’s 10 Big Ideas

Park Use Improves Perceived Health

Urban Green Inspiration – NYC’s High Line (full 1hr episode) Being a fan of both cities and green spaces, a walker and a gardener, I found this hugely inspirational in how it re-imagines, embraces nature, engages, creates community in the heart of the city. A grassroots effort – it’s perfect representation of possibilities of post-industrial-use urban green.

“You Can’t Opt Out of Geography” – interesting ‘rivers’ article by a TO Jane’s Walk leader

Jane was both friend and foe to areas like ours – because she had a distaste for connector highways into cities and thought suburbs were ‘parasitic’ to the city. Controversial? Yes – and wouldn’t it be fun to consider/discuss this?

Jane’s Altona Forest ~ © 2017 Natasha G

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