I have an idea: an idea in placemaking and in honouring those who have risked their lives to protect our country. 97 Street, north of the Yellowhead, leads directly to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Edmonton, and therefore, we should rename this segment of the road to the ‘Canadian Forces Trail.’
There was a previous effort to rename this main thoroughfare to ‘Heroes Boulevard,’ but there were some challenges with that phraseology. To me, it sounds too American; Canadians are too shy to voluntarily call themselves ‘heroes.’ Also, if I may be so bold, ‘Heroes Boulevard’ sounds a bit cheesy, and it is too similar to the name ‘Highway of Heroes’, in Ontario.
Although I respect these previous efforts, which I understand came from Dr. Randy Crowell and was supported by Thomas Lukaszuk and other politicians, the problem was that Mr. Lukaszuk did not have the authority as a provincial politician to implement the change. This type of name change needs the support of a city councillor.
In Edmonton, we have a road named ‘St. Albert Trail,’ which leads to St. Albert. We have ‘Calgary Trail,’ which leads to Calgary. It is with these as models that I suggest 97 Street north of the Yellowhead be renamed ‘Canadian Forces Trail,’ as it leads to CFB Edmonton.
A named street provides an identity for an area. It is a form of placemaking—which is a fancy urban planning term for saying that people will want to ‘live, work, and play’ there. People will be able to make positive associations with the area, based on their association with the name. Much of the newly built areas in Edmonton are currently naming their roads for the same reasons. Basically, a name adds more character than just a number: our roads are more than just numbers….
Those who serve in the military don’t ask for much, but recognition goes a long way (which is the idea behind service medals, which are mostly symbolic). Thousands of soldiers use this road weekly to get to their work. They live and shop in this community, which is why many of the businesses along 97 Street offer discounts to military members. Since the business owners voluntarily do this, I anticipate that they would mostly be in favour of this proposed change. I intend to survey the stakeholders soon, but in the meantime, I will be a champion for this initiative.
A name change is not expensive. It is mostly symbolic, with some administrative hassle. But I believe it will bring increased business to this corridor, and therefore it will be a good investment. As much as anything, it makes business sense. This change would be easy to implement; we just need the political will at the municipal level to get it done. Furthermore, businesses could keep either 97 Street, or adopt the new name, and receive their mail regardless. ‘97 Street’ and ‘Canadian Forces Trail’ would be analogous and interchangeable, as is the case with Whyte Ave and 82 Avenue. This would prevent business owners from being required to change signs and business cards until they are ready.
Even though the ‘Heroes Boulevard’ idea from years past was stonewalled by the City, I believe that my proposal could be successful if the right people are on City Council to advocate for this initiative.
As final note, many neighbourhoods have what is known as decorative street signs (which is a deviation from the standard). How cool would it be if the new ‘Canadian Forces Trail’ was on a backdrop of reflective CADPAT, the distinctive green digital pattern of the Canadian Army’s combat dress?
Although I am member of the military myself, I want to make it crystal clear that this is my own initiative. I am operating in my capacity as a private citizen.
Afterword: Recently a veteran that I met while door-knocking suggested that the ‘trail’ aspect of the name could be played with to create a parallel walking/hiking path along 97 Street. Along the trail could could be sign posts and placards highlighting significant local people and events to celebrate our heritage (such as the Edmonton contribution to the victory at Vimy). From Griesbach north there appears to be sufficient land within the 97 Street right-of-way to accommodate a trail/path. This trail, leading to the base, could be used by all Edmontonians, including marching soldiers. I love this idea and will be exploring it more.