Monday, April 30, 2012

Nashville's first ever "Jane's Walk" this Saturday in North Nashville

On Saturday a small group of North Nashvillians will meet at Morgan Park (corner of 5th Av N and Hume) at 10:30 a.m. and walk to Bicentennial Mall State Park (corner of 6th Av N and Jefferson)  in commemoration of the life and influence of urban activist Jane Jacobs. After the walk, we will have a picnic (bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages) and engage in kid-friendly activities like kite-flying and chalk art. The event will end at 12:30 p.m.

Our community has a strong history of holding kid-friendly events. One of those events we called "Kid Klatch," which has been operating off and on for the past two years among Salemtown and Germantown parents, their with pre-school and school-age children and other adults who are children-at-heart. We tend to gather at various places in our community to underscore the importance of the local community and the priority of Metro programs and infrastructure to support families.

This year our first Kid Klatch supports Jane's Walk, which has grown into an international event but has yet to be held in Nashville as far as we can tell.

There are two Jane's Walk organizations, one in the US and one in Canada (Jacobs lived both in New York City and in Toronto).

What Saturday's event is:

Jane’s Walk is a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves.  Since its inception in 2007, Jane’s Walk has happened in cities across North America, and is growing internationally.

Jane’s Walk honours the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership.

Jane Jacobs was a community organizer who helped save her neighborhoods from destruction by the hands outside interests.  She invited everyone to see how cities actually work through experience, to go out and see what makes a neighborhood thrive, or to see what makes a neighborhood struggle.  And she opposed those who insisted on the same solutions to fix the unique challenges in cities.

We honor Jane Jacobs by helping people leave the isolation of their homes to come together to experience areas of their city outside of the automobile.  Our mission is to help people walk, observe, and connect with their built environment.

Photo credit: Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images
There is a point of contact between Ms. Jacobs' writing and our event in the shadow of Capitol Hill. Ms. Jacobs once mentioned Nashville in a 1958 Forbes piece called "Downtown is for People":

What will the projects look like? They will be spacious, parklike, and uncrowded. They will feature long green vistas. They will be stable and symmetrical and orderly. They will be clean, impressive, and monumental. They will have all the attributes of a well kept, dignified cemetery.

And each project will look very much like the next one: the Golden Gateway office and apartment center planned for San Francisco; the Civic Center for New Orleans; the Lower Hill auditorium and apartment project for Pittsburgh; the Convention Center for Cleveland; the Quality Hill offices and apartments for Kansas City; the downtown scheme for Little Rock; the Capitol Hill project for Nashville. From city to city the architects' sketches conjure up the same dreary scene; here is no hint of individuality or whim or surprise, no hint that here is a city with a tradition and flavor all its own.

These projects will not revitalize downtown; they will deaden it. For they work at cross-purposes to the city. They banish the street. They banish its function. They banish its variety.

We want to celebrate a walkable North Nashville and show our local children a fun time in an urban environment. While Jane's Walk happens once a year, Kid Klatch events will continue throughout the season as weather permits.

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