Editorial – Walkers Unite

Published: June 7 2017


“Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal outright” continues to be my favorite line from the television show The West Wing, one because it’s said in a comedic moment that comes after a moving speech that tied together a complicated story line on hate, terrorism and hope, and second because as I looked up its origin it itself has been borrowed or stolen (depending on how you feel about Aaron Sorkin) from Oscar Wilde or Pablo Picasso or T.S. Eliot.

It is this thought that strikes me now as I toddle and troll through back issues of our publication in search of a topic to fill this week’s column inches. After a year of quick hits and a weekend spent “unplugged” I am looking to beg, borrow or steal an old idea.

In a small town when the same thing happens year after year most likely on the same weekend reoccurring themes are hard to get away from. Most of our articles can be cut and paste from previous years – doctors shortage, budget shortfalls, production targets and the most evident recently, crumbling or non-existent infrastructure.

In 2011 a former editor wrote an editorial adeptly named “Walkers beware” presenting the challenges facing a mother out for a leisurely stroll around town.

“For one thing, there aren’t a lot of sidewalks. This is especially true for Cochenour, Madsen and McKenzie Island, but is also the case in Red Lake…with the exception of one residential neighbourhood, sidewalks are limited to the community’s business district. It is nice to have pedestrian laneways running from the Hospital through town but unfortunately many of these sections are impossible to navigate,” she detailed at the time and what struck me while reading this passage is that I could write a very similar account. In six years have we seen much, or any improvements in how we proceed around this community by foot?

The staff here at the NSN joined onto the Northwestern Health Unit “Hike it or Bike it” challenge encouraging us to give up on motorized transportation and see where our feet will take us. I have walked to work and back a few times and outside of the sidewalk that passes by the front of our building my feet were on gravel, asphalt and in some sections sand. This experience did not change while out trying to log longer miles when tackling both the Madsen highway as well as Highway 105 past the high school.

This is typical of small towns where budgets are tight and aging water and sewer piping takes precedence, however, there has to be something more that can be done. Prior to moving to the district I was an avid roller blader, I would blade back and forth to work in both cities I lived in and the second I arrived here I looked around and hung them up for fear of my safety. (Although after Dickenson Rd was paved I got some use going up and down the street a couple times for old-time sake).

We live in an outdoor enthusiast’s haven and in smaller hamlets that don’t actually take up a large land mass. It’s the distance between us that makes transportation options seem limited. Hiking and biking are great ways to save the environment some carbon dioxide and improve our individual health, however, if it means sharing the roadways we need to spend more time and money figuring out how to do so safely. Walking from the Hospital to Water Buffalo has gotten marginally better, but you can’t win an office challenge by strolling 500 metres. 

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