Council gets presentation on Winter City Strategy ideas

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Fort St. John councillors got a look at some of the strategies proposed by consultants on how to improve resident quality of life by embracing the nearly six months of winter experienced at our latitude.

Chad Carlstrom and Dan Penner from Urban Systems were joined by Project Coordinator Jennifer Decker at Monday’s Committee of the Whole presentation. Carlstrom spoke about the five-year strategy that the City wants to adopt that maximizes the positive aspects of the winter season while mitigating the negatives. The strategy was started after a UNBC study done fourteen years ago found that a cold climate that includes six months of winter “is a marketing weakness” for attracting permanent residents.

Carlstrom said that Urban Systems looked at inspirations from other cities at northern latitudes for inspiration, including attending the Winter Cities Shake-Up convention in Edmonton. A strategy team was also formed that comprised city councillors and staff, along with members of the local community.

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Some of the ideas brought forward on winter city design. Photo by Urban Systems.

Urban Systems came up with four principles of planning a winter city. The first focused on a city’s physical environment, and how it responded to winter conditions. Items such as brightly-coloured buildings to offset the shorter days, planting of trees to form windbreaks, and providing ample opportunities for light to reach sidewalks and pedestrian walkways were among the suggestions.

Street orientation and design was another aspect, which included designing roads that cut down on the ability of city blocks to act like wind tunnels. Yet another principle that was found to be an affordable solution is to promote and extend the use of exterior lighting on long winter nights.


Other principles focused on the social, economic, and policy principles. Among the many other ideas brought forth by Urban Systems to implement the strategy were:

  • Winter park enhancements including outdoor skating rinks, outdoor fire pits with seating, winter patios, and warming huts;
  • Sidewalk shovelling competitions;
  • Winter packages for newly-arriving residents;
  • Winter fashion shows; and
  • Improved community trail lighting.

Mayor Lori Ackerman also mentioned a possibility of having crosswalk “Walk” symbols be displayed by default when a traffic light turns green to improve accessibility for pedestrians in the winter.

The City has budgeted $475,000 over the next five years to begin implementing the Winter City Strategy. The full presentation to council can be found below.


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