Monday, May 10, 2010

What's next after Windsor-Essex ChangeCamp?

Windsor has already had its very own Talk20 event.
And the Windsor-Essex ChangeCamp has just passed.

I find it fascinating that not only are there are so many small-scale and local events out there (such as speaking series like The Treehouse Group and Trampoline Hall) but there are now several of these types of events that explicitly lend themselves as a template for others to adopt and bring to their own community - events like Ignite, Jane's Walk, TEDx, GiveCamps, and Podcamps.

I'm wondering what will be next.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Fear of a Tallgrass Planet

Another day, another piece in the Windsor Star decrying the weed-riddled parks that have flourished during the City of Windsor's outside workers 'work-stoppage'. Personally, I think that the emergence of prairie birds in our city parks has been the only positive outcome that has come out of this unfortunate situation that we've found ourselves in. (Actually, that and grass-braiding)

But I know that here where once was a sea of tallgrass prairie - that I'm in the minority. Most people in Windsor love routinely-mowed grass. In fact most people in the Western world love the lawn and the history of this love affair has been wonderfully captured in Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker article "Turf War".

While Kolbert history of the lawn largely equates short-grass with material wealth, there is credible evidence that our love of short-grass is genetically hard-wired into our species:

As a reflection on what lawns mean to people, Gordon H. Orians, a professor emeritus of biology at the University of Washington, Seattle, took photographs of a wide variety of vegetation habitats and asked people around the world to rate them. African savannas were preferred by a large margin. We evolved in a habitat where short green grass provided evidence of abundant grazing mammals; pruned shrubs similarly evidenced lots of browsers; and open spaces meant we could see the dangerous lions, hyenas, and other predators.

So how can we - those of us who are actively working to increase the amount of naturalized land in the Windsor and Essex County to sustainable levels - work around this tendency and keep some of the tallgrass in our public places?

I think I've found an answer in the book, With People in Mind: Design and Management of Everyday Nature by Rachel Kaplan, Stephen Kaplan and Robert L. Ryan. This 1998 work distills decades of research into the design of natural spaces into an easily understandable frame work that designers, public officials and citizens can use to design or evaluate local open space.

I'm currently reading the Leddy Library copy of this book and the good news is that there are strategies that can employed to create public spaces that incorporate natural space while addressing people's fears and preferences to outdoor space.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jane's Walk in Walkerville

The Jane's Walk that we had in Walkerville went over really well. We had around forty people enjoying the warmth of the sun, of the company around them and of the stories they told of their neighbourhood.

These folks were there and they describe the walk better than I can:


One of the reasons why I love the Jane's Walk event is because it is one of the few events I've come across that embodies the ideas it celebrates: community, conversation, walking, neighbourhoods, sharing, accessibility, stories, and activism.

On that note, is anyone interested in a Jane Jacobs book club?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Join us tomorrow for a Jane's Walk in Walkerville

“No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at ... suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities. You've got to get out and walk.”

Jane's Walk in Walkerville
Saturday, May 2, 11 am
starts & ends at Taloola Café

Jane’s Walk is a neighbourhood tour that celebrates the work of activist and urbanist Jane Jacobs and the city life she loved.

Please join our tour guides from as we look at the way Walkerville's historical buildings have been creatively re-used to meet the needs of today's residents. We will also imagine improvements to the neighbourhood and discuss ways to take the best of Walkerville into the future. The walk is on, rain or shine.

For more info, see or

No news is good news from the Windsor Star

Ok, I understand that Chysler's bankruptcy is going to dominate today's news coverage, but why is it that I only learned from Alan Halberstadt's blog that,

Getting back to my alleged subservience to the mayor, I can use last night as a good example to refute such charges. I cast opposing votes on two of the mayor's pet infrastructure stimulus projects that will be forwarded to the federal government -- $30 million to service urban sprawl greenfields in the old Sandwich South, and some $44 million for Eddie's west waterfront marina-canal. One third of the projects cleared last night will be funded by city taxpayers if approved by the senior governments. I was the lone dissenter on the urban sprawl project.

The canal-marina was defeated on a 6-4 vote. I couldn't, in good conscience, vote for a project without seeing any details or a business plan. Dave Cooke turned over the documents to the mayor a number of weeks ago, but the plan has yet to be seen or vetted by Council or the public.

This dodgy voting process occurred two nights ago and there is not a single word mentioned in the Windsor Star about this?

Why do I subscribe to this paper again?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A man. A plan. Something awful

I don't want to spend too much time on the canal proposal that has recently been designated as 'doable' by a small task force. It doesn't seem right to weigh on a proposal that hasn't even been seen by city councilors. But that hasn't stopped the mayor of Windsor from championing its merits and the likes of Gord Henderson to malign detractors of the idea.

But I wanted to make mention of the issue for two reasons. First, Chris Schnurr has recently researched and written a couple great posts about the topic.

From his post, 60 Points of Light:

Mr. Henderson again attempted to paint the canal as the saviour of the downtown by resurrecting the famed Bricktown Canal completed at a cost of $26-million in 1999 in Oklahoma City, population 1-million.... But what Mr. Henderson did not tell us was that the Bricktown Canal was but one of 9 projects approved by voters there known as the MAPS Master Plan...

This master plan includes: fairgrounds renovations, a new AAA baseball park, a bus trolley system, renovation of its convention center and music hall, a new arena and new library and learning centre. Banking downtown revitalization on a canal is not unlike banking revitalization on a marina, the prospect of which was something that Gord Henderson loathed back in 2003.

The central tenant of the canal proposal is that a water feature will lure Windsor households to move downtown. What I find so absurd is that we already have a beautiful water feature downtown. Its called the Detroit River. And we have a beautiful chain of riverside parks that, with a fraction of the costs to add water a couple blocks inland, could become a truly great public place.

That's all I'll say for the time being. Part of me agrees with Ed that the canal proposal is just a distraction from all the ills from the not so bright side of Windsor.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Incubuating small businesses in a Windsor kitchen

Like other local bloggers, I recommend reading Alfie Morgan's Turnaround Plan to Fix City Economy that was printed in yesterday's Windsor Star. I don't agree with everything Morgan proposes in his plan but it contains a world's more sense than some of the hair-brained schemes that the past Windsor Essex Development Commission dreamed up.

Here's one possible way we could encourage the start of new businesses in Windsor. I figure that the combination of our access to prime agricultural products and the ethnic diversity of our citizens should provide the right conditions to grow food-production businesses in our locale. But starting a small food business is not an easy matter as it is illegal to prepare food for sale in one's one home kitchen. I learned this fact from this post from the Taste T.O. blog which goes on to describe the kitchen incubators available in the city to provide industrial kitchen space to entrepreneurs.

Since St. Clair College offers a culinary skills program, they have industrial kitchen space. I propose that a request be made to St. Clair College to rent the space, when not in use, to create a local kitchen incubator for the Windsor Essex region.

Like the suggestions in Alfie Morgan's plan, this proposal is practical, feasible, and the only thing holding us back is will.