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Strong Blocks building strong communities

EarthCare’s Strong Block partnered with Open Streets Thunder Bay to celebrate a south side neighbourhood.

THUNDER BAY - A pair of events on the city’s south side show just how strong a community can be by celebrating dense neighbourhoods and opening them up to everyone.

On Saturday, EarthCare Thunder Bay hosted its first Strong Block event alongside the second Open Streets Thunder Bay event along Simpson and Victoria Avenue.

“A strong block is a representation of a vibrant, high amenity street built for people,” said Rena Viehbeck, climate adaptation coordinator with EarthCare. “We are trying to showcase, even if it’s just temporary through the use of pop ups, what it feels like and what the benefits are of having dense neighbourhoods, both from a community perspective and an environmental perspective.”

According to Viehbeck, the Simpson Street and Ogden Street area are one of the most dense neighbourhoods in Thunder Bay and the Strong Block event is a way of highlighting the community and businesses in the area.

“It brings out the community and the entire city to rediscover a great neighbourhood and see its potential,” she said.

It is also a way to utilize areas that are already built, expanding inward rather than outward, and preserving the natural areas in the exterior of the city.

“We are also bringing people to live, work, play, shop, all in the same area so they are not dependent on vehicle mobility,” Viehbeck said. “They can commute easily and comfortable by foot or on their bike.”

Adding to that message was the partnership with Open Streets Thunder Bay, which saw Simpson Street between Pacific Avenue and May Street, as well as Victoria from Simpson to Vickers Street closed to all vehicular traffic and allow pedestrians access to the entire space.

“The more often we run the program the better because then people become used to it, they become more familiar with it, but they also get better access to physical activity,” said EcoSuperior program coordinator, Ashley Priem. “It’s good to reach different communities as well because everyone deserves the same opportunity.”

Priem added that holding Open Streets alongside Strong Block was a perfect fit because they both share similar goals.

“They are very similar in reimaging public space, reinvigorating neighbourhoods and reconnecting people in their neighbourhoods and helping the local economic and boosting local businesses,” she said.

“Working with Open Streets was really beneficial from a logistic perspective because people have become familiar with that event and what it promotes and what they can get when they are here,” Viehbeck added. “And some of our goals are the same, which is promoting an active lifestyle, non-vehicle mobility, and we are looking at bigger picture of celebrating community and promoting the value of density from an environmental perspective.”

For Andrew Foulds, chair of the EarthCare committee, the Strong Block and Open Streets events help build stronger communities and a stronger city.

“We shouldn’t be building out as a community, we should be intensifying,” he said. “It’s a more effective and efficient way to deliver service. It’s also more environmentally sustainable and people getting out and enjoying each other is just a good thing for a city to do. It builds communities and it builds strong communities.”

EcoSuperior will be hosting its third Open Streets event on Sunday, Oct. 1 on Court Street.  

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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