New parks plan for West Van
Lifelong West Vancouverite Rebecca Buchanan was just a year old the last time her municipality undertook a parks master plan in 1977.
So when the chance to join a citizen-led working group tasked with drafting an updated parks scheme popped up a year and a half ago, Buchanan signed up. In order to ensure community greenspace is well maintained and reflects the wants and needs of residents, she thought, there needed to be a new roadmap.
“District staff were having to make decisions on an ad-hoc basis without community input in a meaningful way,” Buchanan told The Outlook.
“And this plan was to access what West Van residents want their tax dollars to do in parks. The goal is to maximize every penny spent in parks.”
And on Wednesday evening, after 18 months of working with district staff, community members and various organizations that operate within the parks system — the West Vancouver Streamkeepers, to name one — a draft of the new parks master plan was presented at the Gleaneagles Community Centre.
It’s a sweeping text, involving not just recommendations for West Van staff but philosophies on why parks are important. On the advisory front two items stand out: the protection of current and acquisition of future park lands.
A number of the district’s parks are not officially dedicated, meaning they operate as parks but do not enjoy sanctioned bylaws protecting them. Some of these areas are even, according to the draft plan, considered “key” plots such as Eagle Harbour Beach Park and portions of both Ambleside and John Lawson parks.
“One thing that really unfolded in this process was that residents think certain areas are parks but they aren’t. They are really just bits of land,” said Lori Williams, another member of the parks working group.
“We want to protect and properly designate those areas.”
As for the acquisition of more greenspace, the draft plan discusses the potential for such additions both above and below the highway. Possible park land south of Highway 1 will be obtained by following the district’s decades-old system of acquiring lots on the waterfront — as has been done along Argyle Street — or as an amenity contribution from developers.
Corinne Ambor, the district’s manager of parks, planning and community stewardship, said lands north of the highway could be purchased from private owners as there is “quite a lot” of it in that area.
Another consideration within the plan is the enhancement of urban agriculture activities in the district. Currently, only community gardens in the Ambleside area have been established but the document calls for community gardens to be made available in other parks and to apartment and condo dwellers as well.
District staff and the parks plan working group are currently seeking feedback on the draft plan. Those interested in offering their thoughts have until mid-March to do so. Suggestions gleaned from the public will be incorporated into the final document that district staff hope will be presented to council for approval in early summer.
Visit westvancouver.ca/parks for more information on how to provide suggestions.