We can walk from here to there. Say! We can walk to ANYWHERE!

September 5, 2007 § 5 Comments

I’ve been interested in resenting Walk Score the past few weeks. It’s supposed to be a tool for potential home buyers and renters to evaluate the neighborhood they’re considering. Just type your address into the search box and hit enter, and it tots up the various amenities a walkable distance (roughly a mile) from your home and it spits out a numeric score from one to 100. It takes into consideration grocery stores, restaurants, libraries, parks, book stores, cinemas, and so on. It’s a terrific idea, but, for us, anyway, it doesn’t work.

The neighborhood I grew up in gets a Walkscore of 0. Fair enough. Our old neighborhood in downtown Halifax scores 78. Looks pretty accurate. Our new neighborhood in Lunenburg scores 45. And that’s preposterous.

Clearly they’re working out of an outdated directory at Walkscore, because the first place listed is Atlantic Dutch Mart— allegedly a grocer. I’ve never heard of this franchise (I assume it’s a franchise), even having lived in Nova Scotia for most of seven years. We moved here more than a year ago, and the grocery store in question has been an Atlantic SaveEasy at least since May 2006. And shouldn’t there be extra points for having the liquor store attached? Although they don’t have the right grocery name, they have (maliciously?) noted that Lunenburg Hardware has moved out of the Old Town and into a hideous building vacated by the NSLC. Most inaccurately of all among the listings, they cite Wormwood’s Dog & Monkey Cinema in Halifax as the closest movie theater— but to get there, you’d have to travel through both space and time, since it closed in 1994, sadly.

They do get some things right, like the clothing stores and pharmacies in town. But the Knaut-Rhuland House, a museum, is listed as a bar. All of the mediocre restaurants— Big Red’s Pizza, the Grand Banker— are here, but they’re missing the decent, not to mention upscale, dining rooms. In fact, what bothers me most is what’s missing.


I’ve pasted together a bunch of Google Maps and put it on Flickr, noting all the bits and pieces Walkscore missed.

Elizabeth’s Books, a venerable used-book store owned by an enterprising Scot— is located barely two blocks from our house, but mysteriously absent from Walkscore. It lists a Tim Horton’s 1.57 km away as the nearest coffee shop, but misses Historic Grounds Coffee Shop, Sweet Sensations Cafe, and Sweet Moments Cafe; all locally-owned, and all closer than Ti-Ho’s.

The closest park is listed as Second Peninsula Provincial Park, 12 km away. Anyone who’s ever been to Lunenburg knows it’s all parks! Ready? One on the town common, complete with gazebo and playground (with seesaws!); acres and acres of open space on Blockhouse Hill; a tiny park by the waterfront dedicated to the town’s lost sailors; plus the waterfront itself. There’s another park behind the fire station with another playground (that one has a merry-go-round!) and a stage; and yet another playground-park combo just yards away, next to the public tennis courts. The Lunenburg Rebekahs (or some such) have another tiny park planted at the spot the Germans first came ashore from Halifax at the far end of Pelham Street, and six miles of multi-use trail rings the peninsula.

And that’s not even counting my favorite green space: the Old Burying Grounds next to Lunenburg Academy.

As for cinemas; no, we don’t have one. While there’s usually a monthly showing of a recent movie somewhere in town, the closest theater is in Bridgewater, and it shows mostly standard-issue Hollywood horro-action dramodies. We don’t even have a place to rent movies, aside from the library’s dismal collection.

But there’s still lots of opportunity for entertainment; but most of it doesn’t fit on a map. Some of our favorites* are Sunday afternoon concerts at the gazebo and the $5 concerts at Lunenburg Academy every third Tuesday night. And there’s still The Pearl Theatre to house concerts, operas and plays. And the drama club at Lunenburg High give fun performances, too. That’s all within walking distance.

And! If we stick it out long enough— say three, four more years?— the Lunenburg Opera House is going to open again, bringing independent and foreign films, another stage for music, and a recording studio right into the old town.

Schools aren’t listed on Walkscore, but in a town like this, with no public transportation, they must be walkable. And, not surprisingly, they are. Lunenburg Academy is noted on the Flickr map, up in the top left, while the junior high and high schools are about an inch and a half off the bottom left corner.

My point is this: anyone considering a move to this, the crown jewel of the South Shore, as Richard put it yesterday, could easily be put off by Walkscore. Coming from downtown Victoria, Kingston, or Kitchener-Waterloo where nothing is farther than arm’s length, you wouldn’t want to have to use a car to get a latté after dinner. But that’s what you’d have to do in Lunenburg, says Walkscore.

Humph, says I. This is probably the most walkable small town in Nova Scotia, and a score of 45 doesn’t do anyone justice.

*As everyone probably knows by now, our financial situation is marginal and we live hand-to-mouth. But there’s still plenty to do on the South Shore. I’ll do a South Shore on-the-cheap and not-so-cheap later this week.

§ 5 Responses to We can walk from here to there. Say! We can walk to ANYWHERE!

  • gankaku says:

    It’s a sad oversiight, really. Lunenburg is a very old town, and it’s filled with seniors who live in these gorgeous old houses built in the 1870s. The town has tried to attract new blood, through new housing developments and the like, but they haven’t failed.

    Most young Nova Scotians can’t afford Lunenburg’s skyrocketing housing prices, with more starter houses — gorgeous though they may be — starting at about $219,000. So we need to capture the imagination of people from Europe, or the US, or BC — people who think that a heritage Victorian home is a steal, at that price.

    One look at Walkscore, and they’ll look elsewhere.

    And they’ll be missing a lot. Most of the South Shore is a culinary wasteland, but Lunenburg is shiny.

    If you read Chowhound, several posters are suggesting that Lunenburg’s Fleur de Sel is Nova Scotia’s best restaurant, and Trattoria della Nonna is called one of the province’s top three Italian dining rooms. The culinary scene here adds immeasurably to the town’s quality of life, as will the Lunenburg Opera House (once it’s refurbished… I think in two years)

  • I just visited the site and entered one of the places I lived as a kid (I’ve been there recently and it hasn’t changed). 111 West Wilson Street, Streator Illinois. Nowhereville. Podunk. East Bumblefuck. There’s nothing of interest within a thirty minute drive of the place, no museums, parks, decent restaurants, well stocked libraries, cultural attractions, nothing. No Starbucks. Liquor store? Sure, but the only wine it sells is jug “Burgundy.”

    111 West Wilson Street, Streator Illinois got a score of 69.

  • Alice Burdick says:

    Hello there,

    I noticed you wrote that you can only find movies at the local library. You can, but there is an amazing selection available from Chris at Elizabeth’s Books, as well. And you get to hang out with maybe the most loquacious character in Lunenburg to boot!

    Here’s hoping that anyone who wants to live in Lunenburg would actually visit the town and walk it, rather than make a decision based only on ‘Walk Score’. Although this might be a good opportunity to develop a scam involving the Atlantic Dutch Mart. Become a Manager at the esteemed Atlantic Dutch Mart! You will become a millionaire and be able to afford the 5-star Big Reds!


  • kristina says:

    Thanks for the tip, Alice. We just sauntered down to Montague and picked up Duck Soup and Batman Begins.

    Guess who chose which.

  • Mike says:

    Walk Score is a very useful service i think. Location is one of the main factors that determine your choice when buying a house. And walk score certainly helps to find out how walkable your neighborhood is. But people go by car much more often than on foot nowadays. Thats why it could be useful to count your Drive Score as well. I ve seen this tool at fizber.com

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