Green spaces, which we use loosely as a blanket term to refer to the city’s parks, boulevards, greenways, forests, beaches, rivers and other more natural areas, represent a critical component in the overall public space system. Not only do these spaces provide ample opportunities for play and recreation, but they also fulfil important environmental and ecological functions. As defining features of the landscape they further provide an anchor for cultural practices of many different forms.
A network of greenspaces that provides equitable access to nature for all residents, and fulfils a wide range of social, ecological and cultural functions.
(1) Initiate a program to identify new ways to achieve greenspace or open space in park-deprived areas. The Park Board operates with a planning target wherein each neighbourhood is ideally meant to have a minimum of 2.75 hectares of park space per 1000 people. Some neighbourhoods achieve or exceed this amount. Others have been considered park-deprived for some time. Given the challenges in finding funding for parkland acquisition, and the scarce availability land for parks, a program needs to be developed that looks at other ways that open space might be created. Answering the question ‘How To Make New Parks?’ could lead to some interesting possibilities, including leasing existing plazas, closing off a selection of flanking streets (side streets) and laneways, and opening up fenced-off school fields on weeknights and weekends. Still other opportunities exist to enhance greenspace with better street design – such as through the use of permeable pavers and bio-swales – to better allow storm-water to go directly back into the ground, rather than into storm drains.
(2) Put special focus on the Fraser River, Vancouver’s southern waterfront – Vancouver sits at the mouth of one of North America’s most important river systems: the Fraser River and its watershed. Unfortunately, much of the city has its back to this critical piece of our natural heritage. Vancouver’s False Creek and Burrard Inlet have been the focus of park planning activities over the years, with tremendous results. Now it’s time to bring this sort of rigorous focus and attention to the south side of the city, and to advance a long-range greenspace program for the Fraser River that will showcase the area’s cultural, agricultural, industrial and environmental history. The parks that are part of the Fraser River Trail are a good start, but are still too disconnected. Waterfront park space acquisition is still a Park Board priority, which is good. A bold long-term vision is needed, however, that the entire city can contribute to and get excited about. Momentum from major development projects such as East Fraserlands (in the east) and Marine Gateway (at the foot of Cambie Street) can play a part here, but the vision – and ownership for it – must be embedded in a city-wide initiative.
(3) Create a program to mark (or further mark) the routes of buried streams and ‘lost’ waterways. Plan for one new daylighting project before 2014. Vancouver’s network of buried rivers continues to fascinate residents, but unless people you do considerable research, it’s hard to tell where buried streams and lost waterways are located. Develop a program to ‘mark’ the routes through signage and other landscaping treatment. Take it a step further. Daylighting streams is a significant capital undertaking, but interest in this process is high in many communities. Explore opportunities to do this work with communities rather than for them.
(4) Develop an Urban Forest Master Plan for Vancouver – Vancouver is unique in the world, as it sits in and on the edge of a vast area of coastal temperate rainforest that stretches all the way up the BC coast and into Alaska. Moreover, the city, through geography, the environment, and economics, has always been intimately connected to forests – publicly marked by the presence of a great rainforest on the edge of downtown – Stanley Park. The Greenest City initiative proposed the development of an urban forestry strategy for the city. This idea has a great deal of merit and is long overdue in Vancouver. When doing so, ensure that the master plan recognizes and builds on a variety of principles associated with good urban forestry – the link to good public health, the role of trees in providing habitat and ecological services that boost air and water quality, storm-water runoff and climate change, as well as the cultural and heritage values associated with trees.
(5) Explore new ways to protect natural heritage features that cross property lines. In 2010 a decision was made that could lead to the removal of a massive Tulip tree in the city’s West End because its roots crossed multiple property lines, and because one of those properties was slated for redevelopment. It was a complicated matter, but what it boiled down to is this: current City processes don’t always have a good means of protecting (or providing an incentive for the protection of) important landscape features within the legal framework afforded by private property. Looking at alternatives poses a challenge – particularly given the primacy of property rights – but it’s a subject that deserves careful attention and could draw upon work in other areas of environmental law.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Ideas Competition and other Community-Generated Ideas – There are countless talents in the community – design, construction, fundraising, communications, etc. – that could be tapped for creating new greenspaces around the city, a vision for the Fraser River, or for tackling the tough questions that come with creating new projects and policies.
Continued capital and operational support for current parkland acquisition – The Park Board has seen a number of budget cuts over the years. It is important that investments continue to be made in urban forestry, as well as parkland acquisition priorities (focusing on waterfront land and green space in park deprived areas).
Solicit volunteer support for small stewardship tasks – With limited budget dollars, now is the time to explore ways to maximize the use of paid Park staff on the critical issues – design, development, maintenance. Other aspects of stewardship, such as tending to flower beds or minor landscaping work might reasonably be done in collaboration with local neighbourhood groups.
1> Good spaces to congregate: ensuring more and better places to gather
2> Good spaces for connection: facilitating better, more active and sustainable ways for people to move
3> Natural spaces: for habitat, heritage and recreation
4> Spaces that are healthy, safe and welcoming
5> Spaces for culture, economy, learning and play
6> Spaces for expression and engagement