Thursday 28 June 2012

Yurts, Spruce Woods & Cacti

Camping is one of the many things that white people like. You may not know this, but even some white people don't like camping. For people who don't like camping but still want to "camp", God gave us yurts.

Actually, according to Wikipedia, Turkic nomads gave us yurts. For those who are unfamiliar with this ingenious invention, it is a round soft-walled structure that provides actual shelter from the elements, and is able to contain actual furniture like beds and tables.

The variety that you'll find in Manitoba campgrounds more like a rustic hotel room that's missing its bathroom. It has electricity, a locking door, a heater for those cool nights, track lighting and a covered porch with a stainless steel counter. There is no air conditioning however. You will have to make do with the plug-in fan that is provided with the yurt.

A few people have asked me about these things, so this post is for you. The cost is higher than a normal camp site, but it's perfect for small families .. or people who don't like camping.

Did you know that Manitoba has cacti? I have photographic proof. Here's a little pincushion cactus in full bloom that I found while hiking at the Spruce Woods spirit sands.

Some more pics:

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Winnipeg Roof Tops

Due to a lack of time, this week's blog post has been substituted with a photo of downtown exchange-area roof tops.

Close-up: "The Agitations"

A quick Google search shows that The Agitations are a Winnipeg band:  The may want to review their advertising strategy.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Another Swiss Chalet for Winnipeg

Manitobans love their Swiss Chalet. It's amazing we went so long without one. We love Swiss Chalet so much that a blog on the return of the restaurant was "by far" John Dobbin's top post last year.

If you're a fan of the tasty half chicken dinner, you'll be happy to know that there's another location opening up in Winnipeg. This one will be at the corner of St.Annes Rd and Bishop Grandin Blvd in St.Vital, in a small retail expansion off the Home Depot parking lot. It's not that far from the first location, so if you can't get into one, you can always try the other!

With the addition of the Swiss Chalet and some other yet-to-be-determined business, What used to be a simple shopping area has suddenly become a "Festival". St.Vital Festival. Look out Seasons of Tuxedo, here we come!

Okay .. now a couple of things about this location:

1) The location seems terrible to me. You can only get to it by driving through a Home Depot Parking lot. If you're heading west on Bishop Grandin you can get directly into the Home Depot parking lot, but otherwise you have to get in from St.Annes which forces you to drive past a Boston Pizza, Sobey's, and Michael's before traversing the entire width of the Home Deport parking lot.

2) The area highlighted in orange below is owned by (who else) Shindico. However, the majority of the parking will on Hydro property in the red area just above. This area needs to be rezoned to commercial. That almost happened this past Monday, before representatives of Bishop Grandin Greenway fought to have it put off by a month.

We've been here before. A few years ago a similar development was proposed before being fought off and killed by Bishop Grandin Greenway Inc, but this time Shindico got all their ducks in a row and it's unlikely anything will get in their way.

3) If you enjoy walking or biking along the Greenway, you may enjoy it a little less with this development going up very close to the trail. There is also, I am told, a leopard frog population that will get paved over by the Hydro parking lot.

Coincidentally, Swiss Chalet is adding Rotisserie Frog Legs to its menu. Okay, I just made that part up.

Monday 11 June 2012

Simplicity in parking

While I was loitering on the streets of Montreal recently, I snapped a photo of their parking system downtown. I was struck by how clear and how simple it is. In downtown Montreal the parking spaces are marked on the roads in lines and each pair of spaces has a marker like this:

Pay at the station and go. These are the times that you have to pay. Everything is easy to read ... even the French. The actual meters that dispense the tickets are equally simple. It's all explained here on an equally clear and simple website.

Winnipeg's parking meters, by comparison, are a dog's breakfast:

 There's a lot going on there. Let's take an extreme close up of the main part:

What does that say in the blue? Minimum Change? Minimum Charge? It's Mon to Sat but it's enforced daily? What is all that little typing at the bottom of the dark yellow section?

I've been told that we get two free hours of parking on Saturday, but I don't know how the hell I would tell that from this label. If somebody has poor eye sight or a bad hangover they wouldn't even be able to read the days and times.

To make matters worse, the rate is different depending on where you are because certain meters are operated by different authorities like Forks-North Portage or Health Sciences Centre, and then there are the proposed "high demand zones" with special rates. See the 34 page presentation for more information, including the "parking triangle" that tells us that we cannot have "convenience", "availability" and "price".

Much like Montreal, Winnipeg's parking authority has a web site. That's where the similarity ends. Winnipeg's web site features 39 paragraphs, 860 words, and zero diagrams. It contains useful information if you want to park downtown, such as:
Payment for the full 4 hours of parking is required if you park at a 2-hour paystation and use payment methods other than coins or a credit card (ed. note: WTF?)
If you like to leave your heater on defrost, fan on high, and start your car from inside fifteen minutes before your appointment is over, your receipt will end up on the floor.
Always check for signs indicating parking restrictions before you pay for on-street parking. If more than one sign is posted, look at the signs starting at the highest sign and work your way down. (Translation: if our meters don't confuse the fuck out of you, our signs will.)
Fortunately the web site also links to a video called "How Pay Stations Work". Unfortunately, it shows up as nothing more than a black screen using Firefox.

Our pay stations are so complicated that they have their own language.

If you're planning on visiting Winnipeg, my advice to you is:
- make sure your contact lens prescription is up to date.
- leave plenty of time
- when in doubt, you had better put in money. But just remember:

"In rare cases, the paystation may accept payment when it should not."

Wednesday 6 June 2012

The Crescent Drive Affair

You should know that I make some tremendous sacrifices for you readers. Tonight for example I attended a community gathering hosted by OURS-Winnipeg co-chair Ron Mazur and Councillor Jenny Gerbasi regarding the future of the Crescent Drive Golf Course. And "Park" ... apparently.

Let me set the stage: There were no free cookies. The small meeting room at CanadInns south was packed with about 140 people, somewhat resembling a community gathering on The Simpsons. Person A: "It's like the City is setting the golf course up to fail." The rest of the room, all together: "Yup" "Setting up to fail" "She's right, it's a set up" "That's for sure". The median age was 60-70 years old and the general sentiment in the room was that Jenny Gerbasi was too pro-development.

During the meeting, Jenny took a lot of heat for voting for a nordic spa development on the site of the struggling golf course clubhouse and parking lot. The residents of the area were quite peeved that they were not consulted on the spa development ahead of time and therefore were not able to exercise their veto over such development matters, as enshrined in the unwritten Constitution Act of -insert person's name-'s Brain.

Ron Mazur was co-hosting as part of a new golf course-specific group called Crescent Park Rescue, in response to the City's request for expressions of interest in developing certain money-losing golf courses. If you haven't picked up on it yet, "park" and "golf course" were used interchangeably throughout the night. As far as I know Crescent Park is not in jeopardy and does not need to be rescued. In fact, at the meeting, Jenny announced that she will be putting forth a motion to pump $1 million into the park for repairs, and that Sam Katz was open to the idea.

Both Jenny and Ron mentioned that the vote of 2/3 of council is required to sell park land, and they were counting on certain votes to save this golf course. What they didn't seem to realize is that a golf course is not a park. I checked the City of Winnipeg web site just to make sure that the definition of a park is not "if it's green and doesn't have houses on it ..."  Sure enough, the definition is more traditional:
Park: Land that is privately or publicly held that has been developed for multiple recreational and leisure-time uses. This land benefits the entire community and balances the demands of the public for outdoor recreational facilities and other amenities, such as pathways, plazas, picnic areas, playgrounds, water features, spaces for free play and leisure.
A golf course does not fit this description at all. It is a single purpose development that does not have spaces for picnics and certainly not "free play"; although you may find water features. I asked Ron Mazur if he had checked the city's definition of "Park" and he had not. Somehow it was just assumed ...

Again, I want to point out that there were NO FREE COOKIES.

There was one guy wearing a Skeleton Canada t-shirt who attempted to be a voice of reason, and even dared to suggest that possibly one or two courses might need to be sold as an alternative to increasing taxes, but that did not go over well. (If you're reading this, Skeleton Canada guy, send me an email.)

There was a promise by Ron to keep fighting to save the park or golf course or whatever, and pleas from Jenny for people to show their support for her, and her lonely fight against the establishment at city hall. Other updates: apparently the nordic spa developer has applied for a development permit, which is good because the old clubhouse has already been torn down; and the golf course is in terrible condition.

Since the nordic spa developer is leveraging the golf course for it's business, I wonder if they bothered to respond to the city's call for expressions of interest in the golf course, to protect their .. you know .. interest? They do have a right of first refusal on the land, or something to that effect, but I'm not sure on the details of how that works. I did not get a chance to ask.

Almost two hours in and it was still dragging on. I had to leave. Next time I'm calling in advance to see if there will be cookies.

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