Streets to Parks in Vancouver

Photograph by: Les Bazso , Vancouver Sun

It is, undoubtedly, a modest proposal.

But the fact the city is giving serious consideration to a plan to convert short segments of two city streets in Marpole into public green space is being welcomed by residents who say their community has long been “park deficient” compared to its population. Now, with several high-density housing projects either underway or on the books for the neighbourhood, residents say the need for more park space has never been greater.

“When you look at a park board map and see where the parks are in Vancouver, you can see there are not enough of them in Marpole, and they are not in proximity to where the people live,” said Gudrun Langolf, an area resident who has fought to gain more public access to the Fraser River on the community’s south side.

The Vancouver park board has budgeted $1.93 million over three years for eight to 10 street-to-park conversions throughout Vancouver. Marpole is slated to receive funding for at least two of the proposed conversion projects.

An early plan calls for about a half a block of West 72nd Avenue, between Selkirk Street and Osler Street, to be dug up and redesigned as an addition to the existing Ebisu Park.

The city is also looking to create a mini-park along the south end of Shaughnessy Street, which would extend Shaughnessy Park, located on the Fraser waterfront.

Lindsay Cole, park planner, said Marpole is one of a handful of communities identified by the park board as being more deficient than others when it comes to park space.

Neighbourhood densification has contributed in large part to the problem, combined with budget restrictions that have limited the municipality’s powers to create big, new parks through the purchase of private land.

The benefit of the street-to-park initiative is the city already owns the land, “and so it takes out that cost for us and we are able to use the resources we do have,” Cole said.

Done well and in the right place, the mini-parks will also contribute to the city’s broader objectives to expand active transportation options to cyclists and walkers, Cole said.

An information session with city staff held Saturday at Ebisu Park attracted about 50 residents. A second session is to be held today at Shaughnessy Park between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Cole said the city will move ahead with transportation and technical review of the plans if there is enough community support.

Community gardens and space for dogs were among the suggestions raised at Saturday’s session. Cole said several people also wanted to know how the mini-parks might affect local traffic flow.

Langolf said she questioned the Ebisu conversion plan on the grounds it could devastate businesses in a small commercial centre that has developed along West 72nd Avenue.

But she applauded the idea of extending Shaughnessy Park, saying the proposed addition “would be adding a pearl” to a community initiative to open up the waterfront.

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