Saskatchewan

6 takes on what makes Regina's Wascana park special — and what could improve it

What does and doesn't belong in Regina's Wascana Centre has long been a contentious issue.

What does and doesn't belong in Regina's Wascana Centre has long been a contentious issue

Kayakers on Wascana Lake in Regina. (Daniella Ponticelli/CBC)

As Regina's most-used green space, occupying a large percentage of real estate in a city landlocked by prairie, it's no surprise that residents are fiercely passionate about Wascana Centre and what is — or isn't — allowed in the park.

CBC Saskatchewan hung out in the park earlier this month to find out what folks think about this prairie oasis, how they use it, and what they might like to see change.

Chris Bailey and Susan Holmes walk around the park in the summer and cross-country ski in the area in the winter. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Susan Holmes and Chris Bailey use the park year-round for walking, cross-country skiing, cycling, paddle boarding and reading. Holmes's favourite aspect is that people can always be by a lake, in Regina.

Holmes said things that are good for people and the environment belong in the park. 

"I would stress the environment part," she said. "This is a gem in the middle of the city."

The less mechanical things the better, Bailey added. 

"Even to the extent that bikes and pedestrians are always crossing paths with each other, we need to be able to have safe space for both," he said. "We just have to make it more people-powered."

A dual path with one meant for cycling and one meant for walking would be safer for everyone, Holmes said, as well as natural grass spaces. 

"I think would be ideal if you could find areas to let it just go wild," she said, remembering times when more areas were undeveloped.

To that end, Holmes doesn't want to see more construction in the park.

Jocelyne Hebert and her two-year-old German shepherd, border collie mix, Stella, walk around the park every day, no matter the weather. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Jocelyne Hebert walks her dog, Stella, around the lake daily.

"It's fun to get out and she gets a sniff around and sees all kinds of things, but you can't go too far without being on leash," she said. 

An off-leash dog park would be a good addition to Wascana park, she said, as well as food trucks, dog bowls around water fountains and warm-up shacks in the winter.

While she doesn't want to see larger buildings in the park, she wouldn't mind some small cafés.

Michelle Burns uses the park for exercise, rain or shine, she said. (CBC)

Michelle Burns uses the park for exercise.

"I enjoy watching the baby geese arrive and growing up," she said. "I just love the fact that it really brings Regina's recreational [side] out of us." 

She doesn't mind bicycles in the park but believes the pathways should be separate for pedestrians.

When it comes to businesses, Burns said she doesn't mind more concession stands for food and drinks but not larger developments.

"The park is a place for us to get away from work," she said. 

John Hopkins is the CEO of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce. As a runner, he enjoys the park much more than the popular route around Wascana Lake. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

"I've ran this park many, many times. I love this park. It's one of my favourite places to run in the world," said John Hopkins, the CEO of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce. 

"It really is the jewel in the crown of Regina."

Hopkins said he would like to see some more food options added to the park, but "we're not talking about going overboard and building high-rise buildings."

And he wants development to stick to the periphery of the park.

"We don't want to see any kind of encroachment within the middle of the park," he said.

For example, he supports the new Conexus Credit Union headquarters being built on College Avenue.

"There is no way we want to commercialize the entire park," he said. "That's not what we want to see whatsoever. This is about what's best for the community and we really support this park."

Ernie Manilla said his favourite place in the park is the waterfall on Pine Island. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

"Beautiful, majestic," Ernie Manilla said of Wascana. "If we don't have this, how is our life in Regina?"

Manilla uses the park for exercise and stress relief. 

He would like to see more flowers and a garden, as well as more statues about the people who created the park.

And he wants everything currently in the park to stay.

"I love everything," he said. "[W]e are already exposed to the buildings, big buildings. We should also see sometimes the forest."

With files from Abby Schneider and Heidi Atter

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