Waterloo gives the community a walk to remember

“It’s sort of fun to learn what was here in the past,” Janet Seally, manager of information services and local history at the Waterloo Public Library, said regarding the walking tour of Waterloo Park she led on August 12.

Oftentimes, we seem to take our surroundings for granted and we don’t think about local history. Even us history majors can tend to think of far-off lands rather than our own backyards.

“There’s so much innovation in the region that it’s nice to see the foundation — where it all started,” Jenna Hazzard, an employee of information services and local history at the library, stated.

That could have been why the Waterloo Public Library’s historical walk was so entertaining — we were forced to acknowledge the history that happens all around us and how our university city came to be what it is today.

“People do love walking around and learning history at the same time,” Seally stated. Seally had taken several walking tours in the past, but this was her first-time leading one.

As we learned on the walk, a lot has changed in the 127-year history of the park and, for one thing, everyone seemed to have a lot more fun when there were no safety standards to worry about.

From skating and swimming to massive toboggan hills, Waterloo Park was a massive hit with students and families right from its beginnings.

 That, of course, hasn’t changed. Despite some unsavoury weather, the walk drew quite the crowd and the park was full of life during our trek.

Umbrellas in tow, we marched around the park, hearing stories of noise complaints, sports teams, cannons and even the former resident bear. 

It’s no coincidence that the walk happened this summer. In a year when Canadians are examining our history more thoroughly than ever, the library also picked up on the historical buzz. 

“We kind of thought of it as a way to celebrate the 150th of Canada,” said Seally. This historical walk was one of several that the library thought of and executed this summer. 

For those who missed the walk, there’s no need to fret. The history of Waterloo Park is extensive, but it’s manageable due to the resources the library provides.

To learn more about Waterloo’s local history, you can visit the Alice Little History Room at the main branch of the library during regular library hours. In addition, there are also many pictures and references online for the public to view.

 “Visit anytime and we can show you around and if you’re looking for something in particular, we really focus on Waterloo… so you can do that too,” Seally stated. 

Hazzard, who is also a fourth-year Laurier student in English and medieval studies, also encouraged students to use the Laurier archives in the basement of the library.

“I always want people to go down there… there’s lots of cool stuff down there too,” she continued.

For more events like these, as well as other events that the Waterloo Public Library is hosting, more information can be found on their website and social media pages. The adult program guides are also printed quarterly and can be found in-library or online. 

“It’s so close to Laurier too that it’s really easy to get there,” Hazzard continued.

Educational or fun, the library is a great way to get involved in the community without breaking the bank. It’s not far outside the Laurier bubble and, in my opinion, getting a card is well-worth the Albert Street walk.

All in all, I think Hazzard’s positive message summed up the walking tour the best: “I think it helps you to form an attachment to the place you live when you understand what happened and you want to invest and make it better for the future.”

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