Outside of winter festivals that draw hundreds to Old Town, Yellowknife’s oldest neighbourhood is well off the beaten track for most who live in other parts of the city.
But last weekend, scores of people made their way down Franklin Ave. to walk the streets where the city began almost 80 years ago as a supply base and transportation hub for the mining industry.
The occasion was the eighth annual Ramble and Ride, a two-day festival of music, food, arts and crafts that opened Friday evening with a bicycle ride from City Hall to Old Town and ended Sunday with an afternoon concert at the Government Dock.
In between, paddle board voyages on Back Bay, tours of the houseboat community, artisanal preserves, hand-made jewelry, t-shirts and pieces of the oldest rock in the world chipped from an island in the Acasta River were all on offer.
It was also an opportunity to witness the cumulative impact of $1.2-million in public spending on landmarks that languished in disrepair as the city moved up the hill to New Town and expanded south and west.
“This represents what happens when a government invests in its public spaces,” Mayor Mark Heyck said Saturday after he cut ribbons on the refurbished Government Dock and a new park at the base of Pilots’ Monument.
For most of the weekend, smoke and soot pushed Environment Canada’s air quality index scale well beyond 10+, prompting Heyck to joke that someone should print a t-shirt that celebrates surviving 2014 in Yellowknife.
Last year, Heyck cut the ribbon on a reconstructed Wildcat Café, a project that cost taxpayers more than $500,000. The bill for the latest improvements to Old Town reached $700,000 – pushed $200,000 over budget by the demolition of a historic building that was found to contain lead paint.
Pilots’ Monument Park, shaped to resemble an aircraft wing, and the landscaped Government Dock grew out of the city’s Harbour Plan, a document that provoked criticism from some traditional waterfront users.
For Heyck, the value of the change “is in public use and enjoyment of space.”
Not many years ago, Yellowknife’s civic plaza was a decaying arena surrounded by a parking lot.
“Now I see the public enjoying that space every day,” he said.1 comment