Building a pedestrian bridge to network of trails across the river

June 12, 2017. Here's my submission to the planning folk after our day of meetings. This looks at the Hospital area with the point of view of downtown.

December 3, 2016. Updated to reflect parking issues with the new hospital construction.

Whitehorse has a really interesting waterfront opportunity downtown:

This bridge/trail network is one step in encouraging active living, and it makes a walking tourism statement. It's a part of my proposed Yukon Walking Strategy

Main Street pedestrian bridge (graphic to be updated)

...remember, it's hard to justify a bridge by the number of people swimming across a river

A pedestrian bridge (orange line by the old Fire Hall or thin red line at the VRC) across the Yukon River from downtown to the hospital would change the walking dynamics of downtown. It would give the many workers on Hospital Road an easy, quick way of having lunch downtown. It would give people downtown fast access to the hospital trail network. It would add to the presence of the new wharf and encourage tourists to explore a bit more (see Walking tourism for more on this topic), bringing new life to the downtown core. See also Tourism's The historic heart of downtown: The Whitehorse waterfront Yesterday & today.

The bridge would be about 25% longer than the Rotary Centennial Bridge (~105m vs 80m). On the above map, the purple lines show a possible quiet Hospital Trail network with good access from the hospital.

On the financial side, this will be an interesting test in community desire. As a downtown business promotion expense it has a lot of lure. For a health and wellness perspective it would provide high returns. Sometimes we need to spend money to make money.

As an addition to our tourism infrastructure it seems cheap. Downtown workers would benefit for lunch hour recreation. Active transportation would see less stress on the Robert Campbell bridge.

Hospital - Long Lake - Magnusson trails

Whitehorse could become known for having a walking trail network surrounding the hospital. While there are numerous trails in that area, they could be greatly enhanced. A focus would be trails with links to the hospital front door, such that people based at the hospital can have a walk on trails to balance the stress of their hospital visits.

Current hospital expansion construction has messed up walking trails. It would be nice if as part of construction, some of the trail accesses were improved. The 5 entrances from the hospital should of course be suitable for mobility challenged walkers.

Also as part of the construction, a lot of parking for recreational trail use has been lost. Alternate parking needs some thought. FH Collins, Rotary Park, skateboard park, the Education building, SS Klondike are some options depending on time of day and day of week. There's a good switchback entrance near the traffic lights. Having a pedestrian bridge would also alleviate some parking issues at the hospital.

I've chosen 5 loops in the Long Lake – Hospital – Magnusson area that could easily be made to have a link to the front door of the hospital:

Fat Tire Fever, 16.8 km; Hospital – Long Lake, 8.1 km; Broken Truck, 4.0 km; Hospital, 2.6 km; Crocus Bluff - Broken Truck, 4.3 km

Think about a family member visiting from outside because a loved one is in the hospital.

We hiked in the hospital/Long Lake trail area yesterday. As we were standing in the parking lot a woman walked by. I'm not sure how a conversation was begun with her, but it turned out she was from Seattle, was visiting her sister who is in the hospital and was out for a walk. But she didn't know where to go so was probably going to just go downtown. Of course, we invited her to join us and she did and had a great time. This woman could certainly have used a Hospital Trail Map, but she actually got the best deal of all, a group to go on a hike with!

From Yukon Hospital Corporation Information Exchange with City (Sept. 18, 2014)

The largest number of hospital trail users would be people living downtown. With the growth of condominiums, there are increasing number of people living here. The waterfront trail stops near Walmart. Trails downtown are paved and walking can quickly become boring. The hospital trails are the downtown residents' closest wild trails — it's almost the same distance to the hospital trails from downtown as from Riverdale, even using the current bridge to Riverdale.

Another group of trail users would be people working downtown who would happily have a new place to walk during their lunch breaks. For the many who currently use the Black Street stairs for exercise would be elated to have a new exercise destination. Many people commute and don't have time to fit in exercise after work — they could add in physical activity to their work days by going for noontime walks. Progressive managers could adopt walking meetings.

Yet another important group are the people living in the hospital residence. They work long hours and crazy shifts. Considering that we want them happy and relaxed, identifying nice quick safe walks that a visiting specialist could easily do seems a goal. If there are groups that walk as part of a medical perscription, they also need a good set of walks. See also Active Elder walking loops.

We shouldn't forget that There are two schools across the street from this trail network. Having some aspect of trail stewardship seems like an interesting opportunity.

This bridge/hospital trail network would be a tourist attraction. There are constant reminders that we need to compete with many other places for tourists. We already have a constant stream of tourists coming through Whitehorse who could be persuaded to spend a couple of extra days here, to experience a lifestyle that most of us love. Being able to step across the river and walk on a trail would be amazing for many visitors. Visitors coming here on bus tours would even be thrilled with being out in the land of the midnight sun.

A walking destination

The variety, the great views from the river bluffs over downtown and Shipyards Park, Long Lake and many pothole lakes, make the hospital/Long Lake trails a special walking area.

Being offered to visitors walking across from Main Street, trails should be well signed, with a variety of trail surfaces, variety of difficulties. Perhaps a reflexive, meditative hike or a healing hike, could be incorporated? Or, a walk designed around the idea of being visually impaired. Some places offer Mood Walks, a project of the Canadian Mental Health Association. There would be brochures available at the hospital, as well at the Visitor Reception Centre.

The hospital trails are a natural for interpretation. A trailhead kiosk on the downtown side of the pedestrian bridge should be easily able to lure visitors over for a walk. Think engaged tourists and stay-another-day.