A group of Port Alberni residents is walking to take back the Uptown streets.
An increase in property crime, especially in the Third Avenue area, has left many business owners frustrated. In response, a few citizens are walking the Uptown streets after dark to keep the area feeling safe.
“We’re walking to make the streets fuller,” explained Tami Netzer, one of the group’s founding members.
“Lots of people don’t hang out in this part of town anymore,” added another walker, Kyle Thomson.
Netzer said she had attended a Chamber of Commerce dinner meeting in January, where a number of Third Avenue business owners spoke up about the troubles that had been plaguing the Uptown core.
“How are we going to solve the problem?” Netzer wondered afterwards. “Nobody had a solution. The solutions that were proposed were costly, time-consuming for the businesses.”
Netzer is a recreational walker, although she usually walks along Johnston Road in the evenings because it is safe and well-lit. She thought that a group walk could give a little life to the Uptown streets and bring positivity to the area.
“It doesn’t cost anything, and you don’t have to commit to it,” she said.
The walks usually last around 45 minutes, starting at Harbour Quay and covering upper Third Avenue.
“We try and stretch it out as long as we can,” she said. “Eventually, we hope to cover more ground.”
Netzer stressed that the group is not an organized community block watch—they have no intention of patrolling the streets on the lookout for crime.
“It’s just for fun,” she said. “If we’re walking, we might as well walk together.”
Netzer said she has heard positive feedback from business owners in the area. Cheryl Iwanowsky of the Blue Fish Gallery often puts out chalk for walkers to leave messages and colourful illustrations. Kevin Wright of Steampunk Cafe plays music from the speakers outside of his shop.
“I think just people being in the area helps because it makes people feel safe,” said Netzer.
The group was started on Facebook, and grew quickly to almost 200 members in just a couple of weeks.
“It started out with just my little friend group, and now it’s 200 people,” Netzer laughed.
The group usually walks Thursdays at 7 p.m., but they walk other days, as well. You can find and join their Facebook group, “The Uptown PA Walkers – Walking To Keep Uptown Feeling Safe.”