Impromptu shortest paths

Last night, a story showed up on Twitter about some OMB settlement for Northdale in Waterloo. Northdale is the name (which I was completely unaware of while I was there) of the neighbourhood bounded by Columbia, King, University, and Phillip and is basically the area in between the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University. It was a standard suburban neighbourhood filled with single-family houses, with Phillip Street containing a housing co-op and bordering UW and RIM. I knew that the area was getting redeveloped, since a bunch of midrises started showing up on Lester in my final year in 2011. I wasn’t aware just how ambitious that plan was until I read about it in the aforementioned story.

But that’s not what caught my eye at first. The story was about the last OMB settlement which gave the city a bunch of land at 275 Lester to create a pedestrian walkway between Phillip and Lester.

I lived at 265 Lester from 2009 to 2011.

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From the map, you can see that it’s a pretty short walk to campus. In fact, it’s pretty much a straight line from my house to my hangout of choice, the Davis Centre. Or it would be if there was a path to get there. But there wasn’t, so the journey would involve going down Lester and trudging over across University.

Or, at least, there wasn’t a path on the map.

People are lazy and are really good at making their own paths where there are none. Think about the diagonal strip of dirt going through an otherwise empty field, worn down by countless people who saw that vast expanse and went ‘lmao i’m not walking around that‘.

The backyard of 265 Lester was right up against a townhouse complex and the adjacent housing co-op and it was fenced. Sometime before we occupied the house, someone had knocked out a few boards of the fence, creating a makeshift pedestrian path in between Lester and Phillip. This was very convenient, even when the hill on the other side of the fence had iced over and we needed to drag ourselves up along the fence.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who found it convenient. There were a lot of students living on Lester who would rather not make a huge detour. So our backyard saw a lot of traffic going through it. It was always slightly amusing to be walking from campus with a bunch of other random students and then zipping inside the house or seeing people feeling unsure of whether they should be going through some guy’s backyard.

We could’ve used the high visibility of our house to put up some funny signs or something but we never did. I think the most that we ever did was one of our housemates put a jar on a chair by the hole in the fence labeled ‘stray cat fund’ and used the few dollars we ended up getting to feed our cat. We did have a traffic light in our possession but putting up outside seemed like a bad idea.

We ended up being the last tenants in the house in 2011, since it was getting torn down to be replaced by some form of higher density residence. This probably meant that the path through hole in the fence would’ve been unusable what with all the construction going on. Very unfortunate.

But it’s nice that the city might actually solve this problem in the future.

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