© Austin M. Davis
It may be a hassle for pedestrians, but when the sun hits it just right, the view from the Ninth Avenue Bridge is quite nice.
South Hill is a marvel.
Considering the neighbourhood’s physical separation from the majority of Moose Jaw, it’s amazing South Hill is so safe.
It’s literally “on the other side of the tracks” from downtown Moose Jaw; divided from city hall, the police station and most of the city’s grocery stores.
These are not small train tracks. A big chunk of South Hill could fit inside the land occupied by the rail yard.
It was some premium real estate, and kudos to Canadian Pacific Railway for holding it down.
But the consequences of this geographic divide, for a city with a vibrant and growing community, are real.
The physical separation of communities goes beyond symbolism. A physical divide creates a social divide.
Strictly speaking in terms of city planning, a Moose Jaw without the rail yard is a much more open one. Sure, the creeks might prevent further development, but that’s fine too.
The issue, as it exists right now, is access.
There are three main traffic arteries to get in and out of South Hill: Ninth Avenue Southwest, Fourth Avenue Southwest and Main Street South/First Avenue Southeast/Snowbirds Expressway.
You either have to cross over a bridge or cross under a bridge to get to the south-most parts of the city.
It’s not a major inconvenience for those with vehicles. The bridges and underpass are well enough maintained.
The walking paths however, especially on the underpass, are troubling even without snow on them. The Ninth Avenue Bridge only had one side available for pedestrians.
Moose Jaw is not the only city with train tracks in the middle of it. But the presence of the rail yard is stronger here than anywhere else. And that doesn’t just mean the constant banging and screeching that can be heard across the city, or the mooing of cows at nighttime.
Oddly enough, I find the sounds of cattle and trains mostly calming. Occasionally the sounds from the train yard are so loud I think something must be wrong. But there’s only been one minor derailment during my time in Moose Jaw, and I was out of the city when it happened.
The rail yard doesn’t make me feel unsafe, it’s just frustrating. South Hill is an awesome community, but it’s physically hidden. I doubt many tourists make it across the tracks.
Crossing the rail yard could be encouraged by the construction of a pedestrian bridge that connects South Hill to Manitoba Street.
I chose to move to South Hill after a former Moose Javian told me how rough the neighbourhood was. If working at the Times-Herald didn’t let me know how wrong she was about South Hill, living there certainly did.
In six months, I’ve had one non-violent incident — which I detailed at length in this space on Oct. 23 — and I don’t hold a grudge over it.
Despite the odds, South Hill is a great place to live. It’s been good to me, and it’s definitely worth crossing a bridge for.
Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306-691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theAustinX.