Closer to Home: Victoria Promenade

Editor’s note: once a week here at Transforming Edmonton we’ve been sharing some of our favourite places in the city. The pandemic has shortened the travel horizon for many. And that’s okay, because there are plenty of gems in different parts of our city that are worth a visit. Each week a different City of Edmonton team member gives you a story about a fave spot closer to home. This is Ryan Barkway’s view.

The Victoria Promenade is one of Edmonton’s jewels.

Take a stroll during the day and you’re treated to a vast prairie sky and the lushness of Edmonton’s river valley. In the evening, take a seat on one of the many memorial benches dotting the Promenade to watch a city settling in—the bright lights of the High Level Bridge twinkling to your east and the pink and purple hues of the sunset washing over the sky to your west.

The Promenade stretches from 117 Street to 121 Street just south of Jasper Avenue. From Grandin LRT Station, it’s a 15-minute walk through the tree-lined streets of Oliver. I’m lucky enough to live in a building perched just above the Promenade’s eastern edge; from my vantage I can sit sipping my morning coffee as I take in the sights and sounds below.

From morning until night, Edmontonians are out enjoying its views. Some stroll with a cup of coffee in hand, and others sit for a chat with a neighbour or friend. The myriad pedestrians and cyclists and scooter-riders going by offer endless people-watching opportunities.

It’s those sights and sounds that beckon me. Once on street level, I am immersed. I cross the street where I now crane my neck up at the Oliver Convergence, a sculpture and fountain created by Alberta artist Tony Bloom. I miss the sound of the water cascading over the steel. It’s funny how COVID-19 impacts us all in different ways. I miss the sound of the fountain and look forward to hearing it again next summer.

As I keep walking I encounter the set of stairs that connects the Promenade to the river valley below. Descend and you can explore the beckoning river valley trails and get closer to our spectacular North Saskatchewan River. You can also head over to the Victoria Golf Course and hit a bucket of balls at the driving range. Or, if you’re like me, you might skip the golf altogether and beeline for the clubhouse for a plate of tasty nachos and a cold beer (which make the eventual trek back up the stairs a bit more bearable).

The Promenade is a beautiful space that connects us to our river valley, our history, and to each other. When the global pandemic hit earlier this year and our world changed seemingly overnight, I was reminded of the importance of connection and community. Those first few weeks, from my perch over the Promenade, I could see the important role it could play in both.

As we all learned of the need for physical distancing, it became even more important to provide a safe way for people to enjoy the outdoors. I woke up one morning, looked down and saw the pylons go out and signage go up and there was suddenly extra room for walking and cycling through the City’s shared streets initiative.

Pretty quickly, we began enjoying the space in a new way. Outdoor concerts began springing up, music reverberating through the neighbourhood. Everywhere I looked, I saw a community coming together around a beautiful outdoor space. I remember hearing Indigenous drumming coming from Grant Notley Park and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra playing from the rooftop next to me. Interestingly enough, a lot of beauty came from such a dark time.

It was a good reminder to be more grateful for the beauty surrounding us closer to home—to be able to get out and enjoy it. You just have to commit to putting on your shoes and getting outside.