Jane’s Walk Festival Starts this Weekend

Jane Jacobs in Toronto.

Jane Jacobs, neighborhood activist and urbanist, famously wrote that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

In this spirit people around the world host “Jane’s Walks” during the first week in May to celebrate their communities and the legacy of Jane Jacobs. These free walks led by community members are meant to spark a conversation about a place, issue, idea, or all of the above. Walks are a chance to learn, tell stories, ask questions, and start a dialogue. Started in 2006, this year Jane’s Walk Festival is taking place in 252 cities in 45 countries and we’re excited that five walks will take place in Saint Paul.

On Saturday, May 6th, Nicole Foss will lead a walk that focuses on West Side quarries, architects, brick masons, and houses they built. Like other Saint Paul neighborhoods, the West Side has clusters of brick homes with remarkable craftsmanship and foundations made of local stone. How do these structures connect us to natural history and create a sense of place?

Later Saturday morning, Tim Griffin will explore Saint Paul Upper Landing’s past and present. Always a point of transition, the Upper Landing was where the Red River Ox Cart Trail met the Mississippi River and now it’s a place where new technology makes new land uses possible.

Sunday morning, May 7th, starts with Monica Bryand and Josh Davis leading a walk focused on birds and their habitat on the West Side. More than 325 bird species use the Mississippi River as their flyway between their nesting grounds in the north and their winter home the south. While looking for birds, you will be invited to talk about what can we do to sustain urban habitat that helps them thrive.

Sunday afternoon, Kjensmo Walker will host a conversation on “The Inclusive City” while walking Dale Street. While using a mobility or other device, able-bodied persons will experience the pedestrian realm and crosswalks from another perspective. What does it mean and what does it take for cities to be accessible to everyone?

On Wednesday, May 10th, Joan Mathison will lead a walk through Lowertown that focuses on historic buildings and innovation. Already a hub for creative entrepreneurs, Lowertown is full of surprises and provocative ideas. This walk is an opportunity to talk with engineers, designers, artists, and organizations who are setting the pace. (It’s rumored that food is involved!)

The capstone event of this year’s festival involves a trip to Minneapolis for the Minnesota premiere of “Citizen Jane” at the Uptown Theater on May 12. The documentary delves into Jacobs’ battles with Robert Moses and his relentless agenda to replace lively neighborhoods with lifeless freeways.

For details on Saint Paul walk times and locations, please go to janeswalk.org and type in Saint Paul, MN. Once you’re there, scroll down to get walk info. Watch local papers for more information about “Citizen Jane.”

Carol Swenson

About Carol Swenson

I have been organizing Jane's Walks in Saint Paul since 2012, when we hosted the first walk in the St Paul Western Avenue Station area. At the time, I was executive director for the District Councils Collaborative. I'm currently coordinating community engagement in the Dale Street bridge replacement and pedestrian/accessibility improvement project for Summit-University Planning Council. Local history, social and racial justice, landscapes and places have been at the core of my work throughout my career. I'm excited about Jane's Walks because they weave all of these together to foster a sense of community and inspire people to connect to the people and the neighborhoods where they live.