(Photos by Barry Gray)
The Jane’s Walk in Stittsville took place on May 4th with a record crowd of approximately 120 participating — many coming from outside of Stittsville. Since Glen Gower began the Stittsville Jane’s Walk in 2016, he was again at the helm for his fourth year. Being a newly elected Councillor would not deter Gower from leading ‘something that is very important and meaningful to him’. In Glen’s introduction, he took us through the history of the Jane’s Walk and why these walks are so important to community members allowing them to share their stories, connect with neighbours and learn the ‘secrets’ of their own backyard. For those who hadn’t, Glen encouraged people to read Jane Jacobs’ book – ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. Jane’s Walks began in Toronto in 2007, led by Jane Jacobs whose work theme was “to ask whether we are building cities for people or for cars”. Albeit Jane Jacobs was an economic theorist, her greatest impact was on urban planning for cities.
Here in Stittsville, the group commenced our Jane’s Walk from the Village Square Park and led us north to the Royal Canadian Legion. The Legion building was built in 1930 to house the Loyal Orange Lodge No. 210 (LOL) that served as a community hall for several years. The Legion purchased the building and to this day there are still relics of LOL in the attic. The ground floor of the building was once used as part of the public school which had outgrown the number of students it could hold. The Legion is currently in fundraising mode to construct a new building that will be a vibrant addition to our Main Street. The old building has served its purpose and upgrades are discovered to be too costly. Glen also added the importance of the ‘white building on the hill’ across the street from the Legion. This building, the former MacDougall Sales & Service, was once the Church site for the Methodist Camp that was located in Stittsville. That is another whole story upon itself that I plan to share in Stittsville Central at a later date.
From there we proceeded to the Frederick Banting Alternate School, that had once been the Stittsville Public School. Glen explained some of the history, then described how the back expansive meadows of the school could and should be used for picnics and family gatherings. He informed the group that the Stittsville Community Design Plan has emphasized that this area remain in its park-like state.
We moved then to Alexander Grove Park where we were told about its importance to the community with its ball diamond and park. How the Johnny Leroux Community Centre came to fruition with many sponsored walks and BBQ’d chicken dinners held by the community to raise the needed funds to have it built. It was a proud moment for all of Stittsville the day it opened its doors in 1971. The Methodist Camp just lay beyond the outfield fence of the ball diamond at Alexander Grove and is now a subdivision with soccer fields in place of the pool and summer camp tents.
We proceeded back to Main Street to stop on Abbott Street to learn about a discovered wheelwright’s stone. An impressive circle of stone once used to make carriage wheels. It was a secret uncovered and located about 500 metres westerly down Abbott. If you didn’t catch it – check it out.
On we went to the entrance to the Trans-Canada Trail (or The Great Trail as it is often referred). At this point, Glen explained the importance of the railway to the history of Stittsville, with the last Via Rail train passing through town in January 1990. Stittsville was also the hub and virtually the crossing point to get to anywhere by road – Richmond, Munster, Ashton, Carleton Place, etc. The importance of which has been lost with so many new roads and highways replacing the old routes.
As time was of the essence, it was time to return to our starting point at Village Square Park. One interesting attendee at this year’s Jane’s Walk was the great-great-granddaughter of Robert Grant who shared some of her family history. Mr. Grant a well-established resident and former Member of Parliament, perished in the Great Fire of 1870. During the walk, there were many questions asked and answers given. Glen gave a wrap-up, thanking everyone who came out. Then more questions were posed with much conversation stirred among the audience.
I know that I am certainly looking forward to the next Jane’s Walk in 2020, where I am sure much more will be uncovered in our growing community of Stittsville.