Tuesday 13 January 2009


Saskatoon is quite a nice city, in spite of being located in the middle of The Gap. When I was there it was cold. Brutally cold. Colder than a hairless rat in a bag of frozen perogies. Colder than Winnipeg even. I woke up one morning to -41°c. The ice fog was so thick I couldn't see across the river from my hotel room. The picture above was taken the day before when it wasn't quite so cold. Somehow, the river was not completely frozen over, so mist was rising off the water as it froze, drifting up into the morning sky. Some of the bridges that cross the South Saskatchewan River are reasonably picturesque, and it made for a nice view from the river bank. (One of those bridges, by the way, crosses over the river from downtown to Broadway, which has a walkable shopping strip with small shops and cafes .. in case you're ever there.)

Somewhere along the way, they decided not to develop along the river. The river bank is not all designated parkland, but there is virtually no development between the street and the river as it passes through the city, making that land available for walking paths, green space and recreation. Saskatoon also seems to have better infrastructure than Winnipeg. It is 1/3 the size, but Circle Drive is essentially a freeway, with only a few stop lights on the east side of town. (Ditto for Ring Road in Regina). Previous city planners must have had a longer term vision than here in The 'Peg.

What about current and future development? I am not that familiar enough with Saskatoon to really comment, but the city of Saskatoon web site gives the impression that they actually have a functional planning process. The Local Area Planning (LAP) process really seems well organized. I look at that, and look at the ad hoc crap that we do here (hey, let's put a stadium in South Point Douglas!) and I shake my head. You should read their LAP Brochure, and if you're a city planning geek (you know who you are) there are lots of other reports and stuff to peruse. Of course putting something on paper and implementing it are two completely different things, but there may be a few things we can learn from the S'toon.


Christian Cassidy said...

I got a tour from the Meewasin folks a few years back. I believe the story goes that S'toon began as a temperance colony - folks fleeing the the evils of Toronto life.

They kept the riverbanks free of development - only to be used for public recreation. When they merged with a nearby town formally create the city, I believe it was part of their negotiations that the riverbanks remain free of development forever.

It is a pretty city. Nicely laid out, wide streets, lots of bridges, friendly people, a great history.

cherenkov said...

I knew I could count on you to come through with some interesting background info.

You are also quite right about the placement of the apostrophe in S'toon. I corrected the post. :-)

Graham said...

You know, leaving the riverbank forest intact does infinitely more than wiping it out to "develop" it and then later relying on engineers to attempt to match the power of mother nature at the price of millions of dollars.

I bet they save tens of millions every year by avoiding the need for riverbank stabilisation, just by leaving their riverbank forests intact.

There are no cons to leaving a wide buffer of riverbank forest intact. It looks better. It holds up the bank. You can make nice asphalt paths through it, that could be used both in summer and winter. It's more aesthetically pleasing as well.

cherenkov said...

Or you could wall in the entire river: One thing that amazed me when I was in Europe was the development along the rivers in the big cities. The buildings are build right up to the edge in many cases, with brick walls lining both banks. Just amazing. I can't imagine how much time and effort went into that.

Unapologetic Ex-Winnipegger said...

In fairness to the city's planners, many of their designs never made it to reality. Anyone remember how Route 90/Kenaston was supposed to be an internal ring road a la Perimeter with limited access interchanges? And how long has the Chief Peguis extension and the twinning of Inkster through to the Perimeter been a twinkle in the eye of the city planners?

I remember being at a logistics-type forum where the consultant said Winnipeg had no need for freeways. With a straight face. I drive on the 100-level roadways of Halifax and keep wondering how a city less than half the size of Winnipeg manages to find the will to do it. You don't see any red lights stopping traffic where the 118 nears the new Dartmouth Crossing. If only commuters could say the same of Route 90 and McGillivary...

cherenkov said...

Somebody did tell me once that there were originally supposed to be above grade intersections at Bishop @ St.Mary's and St.Annes. Bishop / Rt 90 should be a freeway. It was probably about the time that they scrapped that plan that they decided to name the two bumps that are Disraeli a "freeway".

CMPerry said...

The Winnipeg "urban beltway" notion arose in Winnipeg in the 50s/60s, and still resurfaces in the form of Pegis-Springfield extension, and Kenaston-Grandin roues. Original concepts envisioned putting a Sturgeon Road extension on an elevated roadway through Woodhaven Park and across the Assiniboine River. The Moray route was the second choice. They also planned the Grant-Brandon Avenue-Churchill Drive route with bridge to St. Vital @ the St.Mary's -St. Anne's junction. These ideas were rightly killed by public backlash. Everything they have done since has been one half-assed compromise or another, and their "beltway" is just a kludge of intersections, driveways, and congested routes. So be it.

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