Enjoying the great outdoors during the COVID-19 era


IN times of high anxiety and uncertainty, many people turn to physical activity as a means of stress relief.

With gym closures and the city’s parks a little too crowded to keep a safe physical distance, many people are turning to the city streets to get their fitness fix by walking, running, biking and even — depending on snowfall — skiing.

Though the April weather is unpredictable, here are five places Winnipeggers are getting a breath of fresh air right now, and you can join them — just make sure to stay at least two metres apart.

Harte Trail, Charleswood

Ridge Romanshin, 23, is an apprentice stage manager in Winnipeg’s temporarily closed theatre scene. To keep himself busy, he’s been going for plenty of walks in his neighbourhood of Charleswood, which boasts a semi-rural atmosphere full of trails and places to walk.

Though Romanshin admits that some of the sidewalks are still icy — he’s been walking on the roads instead — he does have one favourite place: Harte Trail.

The 6.5-kilometre walkway is part of the Trans Canada Trail and, according to Romanshin, is in decent shape for this time of year.

“There are some pretty icy patches but it seems to be melting quickly,” he says. “The gravel is starting to show.”

Wellington Crescent

“My running route is the Wellington-Wolseley loop,” says Jack Maier. “I live about a block away from Wellington Crescent in North River Heights, so that’s where I start.”

The route has served 22-year-old Maier well for the past three years, but spring weather and increasingly large numbers of people outside initially made it trickier than usual for Maier to maintain a safe distance and stay dry.

“The sidewalks are soaked right now,” he says, “especially the central walking path on Wellington, which has basically turned to mud. Your options are running on the road or trying to leap and sidestep over the puddles.”

Just a few days after Maier took to running on the road to stay dry, the city opened the seasonal Sunday and holiday bike routes to cyclists and pedestrians seven days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The four roadway closures are Wellington Crescent between Academy Road and Guelph Street; Lyndale Drive between Cromwell Street and Gauvin Street; Scotia Street between Anderson Avenue and Armstrong Avenue; and Wolseley Avenue between Raglan Road and Maryland Street. Motor vehicles are restricted to one block of travel on these routes.

Central sidewalks

For people living in Winnipeg’s central neighbourhoods, the best trails seem to be the ones right outside the front door: sidewalks.

While many folks in suburban areas report a higher number of pedestrians than usual, Charlene Van Buekenhout, who lives in the West End, has noticed the opposite.

“The sidewalks are slushy, icy nightmares,” says Van Buekenhout, “but there haven’t been many people out.”

Van Buekenhout has even noticed one huge positive: “People have been waving to us from inside their houses, which never happens,” she says. “That’s been a nice development.”

Pedestrian activity in the West End, Downtown and the Exchange District is light, so if you live in one of these neighbourhoods, there’s a good chance physical distancing won’t be a problem.

La Barriere Park

“The sidewalks suck,” says Dolores Rintoul, “but the streets being virtually free of vehicles means we can walk on the road in a lot of cases.”

Rintoul joins the ranks of many other pedestrians who have found sidewalks too icy, too wet or too narrow and have instead taken to walking on the road… but her partner goes one step further.

“My partner goes for a ski by the river every couple of days, or to La Barriere Park.”

While skiing may be out of the question now that the snow has mostly melted, Rintoul says that La Barrière Park — located south of Winnipeg in Ritchot — has plenty of room (and 2.9 km of trails) to safely move around and get some vitamin D.

Bike riding, anywhere

“The average city sidewalk is 1.5 metres (wide), and the recommended amount of space that individuals must have between them is a minimum of two metres,” says Mel Marginet of the Green Action Centre. “To ensure Winnipeggers are safe when walking and biking, the city must act quickly to reallocate road space.”

While Winnipeggers wait for additional safe spaces to walk, there’s no better time to start cycling now that traffic has been reduced, and many bike shops in the city, such as Natural Cycle at 91 Albert St. in the Exchange, are still open as of Monday morning to help with all of your cycling needs.

A complete list of bike routes in Winnipeg is available at wfp.to/bikeroutes


Twitter: @franceskoncan