The Pulse: May 17, 2023

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  • 20°C: Sunny. High 20. UV index 7 or high. (forecast)
  • Blue/Green: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and green for World Neurofibromatosis Awareness Day. (details)

A graphic describing the elements of healthy and safe communities, including active transportation, recreation, and mobility, plus healthy food environments and social connections, at the levels of neighbourhood, site, and building

Conference explores what it takes to build a healthy city

By Paula Kirman

Experts from around the world will gather in Edmonton at the end of May to discuss how to build places that are healthier to live in at the Fit Cities Fit Towns Conference.

The third annual event, organized by Housing for Health on May 30 and 31, will take a deep dive into best practices from Canada and beyond to create environments conducive to a healthy lifestyle and strong community.

"In particular, we are interested in improving three key protective factors for health and wellbeing: active living through active transportation, active recreation, and active mobility in buildings; healthy food and beverage access; and social connections," said Housing for Health director Karen Lee, who published a book called Fit Cities in early 2020.

This year's conference will focus on the soon-to-be-released Healthy Community Guidelines, which Housing for Health has been developing with more than 100 partners across Canada and the U.S.

"The guidelines themselves give evidence- and practice-informed strategies to help provide a health lens on the development, planning, construction, and operations of our neighbourhood, site, and building environments so they are more routinely supportive of active living, healthy eating, and social connections," Lee told Taproot.

This aligns with Edmonton's City Plan, which treats health as an integral part of the decisions to be made as the city grows toward a population of two million. Coun. Ashley Salvador will deliver remarks at the conference, as will Leduc Mayor Bob Young and St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron.

Fit Cities Fit Towns is open to anyone interested in the connections between health and where we live, "from developers and municipal planners, to designers and architects, to those involved in housing and transportation policy, to health sector folks who work on these issues, to researchers from different fields, to community residents interested in these issues and in finding ways to get involved with making their communities healthier," Lee said.

"We hope that all attendees will leave the conference with inspiration and knowledge that they can make a difference and play a role in improving their community and building environments, in both their professional and personal lives," she added.

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Headlines: May 17, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • City council voted unanimously on May 16 to approve $4 million in funding to keep day shelter spaces open at the Bissell Centre and Boyle Street Community Services. The funding will allow the organizations to provide Edmontonians experiencing homelessness space to shower, eat, do laundry and access other support and resources. Council also passed a motion to call on the provincial government to provide sustainable funding to support continued day shelter spaces as well as bridge housing. "What we are looking for is a logical, sensible plan, whole cloth, from the provincial government on how to deal with and how to repair and heal the situations on our streets and the people who suffer them," said Coun. Aaron Paquette.
  • The city kicked off its 2023 construction season, with 200 projects on the go or ready to begin. In a release, the city highlighted its continued work expanding the LRT system, the ongoing Yellowhead Trail Freeway Conversion, the Terwillegar Drive Expansion, and the 124 Street Renewal project, which will enter its final year of construction this spring. Work is also underway on the William Hawrelak Park Rehabilitation Project, which is expected to be complete in winter 2025/26, and the Neighbourhood Renewal program, which will see 100 kilometres of roads and sidewalks plus 23 kilometres of alleys renewed across 17 neighbourhoods. The city's traffic disruptions map provides information about road closures, delays, and project timelines.
  • Strong northwest winds have caused wildfire smoke to blanket much of Alberta, including Edmonton and Calgary, and increased fire risk in central and northern communities. On May 16, Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement due to reduced visibility and the health risks of inhaling even low concentrations of wildfire smoke. Air quality was expected to improve on May 17, but officials warn that the forecast in coming days will increase the risk of extreme fire behaviour and make conditions on the ground more dangerous. As of May 16, there were 87 wildfires burning in forest protection areas, with 24 considered out of control. Evacuation orders have been partially lifted for Drayton Valley and parts of Brazeau County.
  • Labeled, an eight-episode docuseries about Edmonton's sex industry produced by Andrea Heinz and Guerrilla Motion Pictures, hopes to debunk the glorification of sex work in pop culture and empower people who want to leave. The fifth chapter, called "The Missing, Murdered, and Forgotten," tells the story of three women including April Eve Wiberg, founder of the Stolen Sisters and Brothers Awareness movement. The chapter was screened May 7 at Metro Cinema as part of the NorthwestFest film festival, but the series is not currently set for distribution.
  • An Edmonton man who committed an unprovoked attack against an elderly woman at the Health Sciences/Jubilee LRT Station in April 2022 was sentenced to 22 months in jail, with 80 days left to serve after time credited for pre-trial custody. The sentence will be followed by a 24-month probation. The man pleaded guilty to aggravated assault as well as assault with a weapon for a separate incident at Churchill LRT Station. The attacks sparked discussions about violence on transit and promises by officials to improve safety.
  • The first two weeks of May 2023 were the hottest ever recorded in Edmonton. The average high for the city from May 1-15 was 23.8°C, which is more than six degrees higher than the long-term average of 17.7°C.
  • Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers told the media the team will have a "cup or bust" mentality going forward. "When you look at the group here, everyone is signed on for the next number of years," said McDavid. "Everyone is in the prime of their career." Postmedia columnist David Staples noted there has been "no shortage of criticism" toward Oilers players, coaches, and management since the team was eliminated from the playoffs following their loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on May 14.
A side view of Mayor Amarjeet Sohi delivering his 2023 state of the city address

Provincial election roundup: May 17, 2023

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Here's a summary of useful things to know heading into the provincial election, including the leaders' debate and various candidate forums, as well as efforts to put Edmonton on the provincial election agenda.

Events and dates of note

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A newspaper clipping with the headline "Town Approves Hospital Plan"

A moment in history: May 17, 1955

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1955, the town of Jasper Place was trying to secure healthcare for its booming population.

For a place that would eventually get the nickname "The Young Giant," the town of Jasper Place had a slow start. For much of the early half of the 20th century, the area had little more than a few scattered farms that took advantage of the fertile soil to grow grain and raise livestock.

That started to change in the 1930s. Edmonton was going through a population boom, taking it from around 69,700 residents in 1928 to almost 94,000 in 1941. The growing city required more infrastructure, which was paid for through increased taxes. Jasper Place became an attractive alternative to those looking for cheaper land and lower taxes.

Soon, the town was experiencing its own boom. Centred around what is now 149th Street and Stony Plain Road, newcomers to Jasper Place built new homes at an astounding rate. The demand for building materials was so high that many families would dig out only a basement to live out the first winter before finishing the rest of the house the following year. Others would repurpose old train cars as makeshift homes.

Jasper Place and Edmonton were growing nearer to one another, although there was still enough of a distance to make travelling into the city inconvenient. As a result, people had to be largely self-sufficient. Many residences featured tiny houses on large lots, allowing people to grow much of their own food.

In 1940, Edmonton extended its trolley system to Jasper Place. Now it was possible to live in town and easily commute into the city, further fuelling the boom. The discovery of oil in Leduc in 1947 kickstarted an even bigger boom for the entire Edmonton area, and Jasper Place continued its meteoric growth. The hamlet of Jasper Place became the village of Jasper Place in 1950, with a population of 8,900. It was double that size in just two years and was incorporated as a town.

A hamlet of a few hundred has very different needs than a town of 20,000. Jasper Place needed new services to support its enlarging population. Water and sewer lines were installed in 1953, connecting to Edmonton's system. Three years later, storm sewers eliminated the need for the deep ditches dug in front of most homes to carry away rainwater. In 1960, construction started on a school and a sports complex.

By 1964, the distance between Jasper Place and Edmonton had dissolved — only a single street separated the two municipalities. Jasper Place was home to 37,429 people, making it the largest town in Canada. This unrestrained growth had taken its toll on the town's finances, leaving it heavily in debt. The town's leadership voted to amalgamate with Edmonton, and on Aug. 17, 1964, the town of Jasper Place ceased to be.

The old town's footprint now encompasses more than a dozen neighbourhoods in west Edmonton, including Lynnwood, Youngstown, and West Jasper Place, as well as many of the businesses along Stony Plain Road. While much has changed since the dizzying growth of the post-war era, the future of Jasper Place has received recent attention. The city is in the midst of a revitalization plan for the area that seeks to guide its growth for the next decade or so.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.