An experiment at the Forks shows more people are skating on trails in Winnipeg than in any other city in North America.
Since the trails opened, upwards of 250,000 people have been counted this season – despite the city’s notorious winter weather.
Dr. Jon McGavock of the Children’s Hospital Institute said laser technology is being used in the experiment, and the numbers researchers are seeing are very promising.
“People have these (laser) counters all over North America, and actually what we’re seeing at the Forks is higher than in any city that’s using these counters to track people who are being physically active and on trails,” McGavock told 680 CJOB.
READ MORE: On-land skating trails open at The Forks
The local study, called Walking on Water, evaluates the number of users as well as their activity levels and the perceived health benefits, and involves researchers from across Canada, in partnership with the Forks, public health organizations and educational institutions.
McGavock said the results of the study indicate that Winnipeg embraces winter outdoor activity, and it opens up the potential – via the Red and Assiniboine rivers – to expand outdoor options.
“It could be expanded,” he said. “Assiniboine Park has connections to the river. Kildonan Park has connections to the river. St. Vital has connections.
“We have all of these opportunities where we could create novel, river-based strategies to get people out there and active in their neighbourhoods.”
Reaching out to newcomer communities, he said, would be a great way to give new Canadians a quintessential Winnipeg winter experience, and increase their levels of physical activity as well.
“For a new immigrant coming to Canada, there’s nothing better than lacing on a pair of skates and going for a skate on the river.
“It’s just a matter of us, as a city, and us as a group as the Forks, reaching out to these communities and saying, ‘You know what? You’re welcome here, and this is a great part of living in Winnipeg.'”