A meaning of stewarding our central park

This was published in the Richmond Review on Oct. 4, 2013.


Reminder: A Walmart mall that spoils nature’s art will soon be Richmond’s signature architecture—unless it’s scaled back behind restored forest. As part of the Garden City Lands area, our central park and City Centre would be devalued most.

Effect: The people in that area will be hardest hit. And we know from a census-based map it’s the largest low-income area in Metro Vancouver.

(That’s based on the median, the mid-point of the household incomes, and our City Centre has high-income households too. Still, it’s in the bottom tier.)

In this I’m thinking of those whose income depends on a fast-food outlet that’s closing and the mom who sleeps on the floor so the kids can have the bed. Thanks to Richmond Poverty Response, I know of them, persons behind the stats.

The social equalizer should be our parkland. It fills out one’s housing space, like a longer living room or patio. In that mindset, the Garden City Lands, our central park, are a garden for community wellness, which the city aptly describes as social, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Reality check: From the Garden City Lands, let’s look north again, this time to the mall neighbourhood, Alexandra (City Centre in all but name). Council cancelled Alexandra’s park last year. With a footbridge to cross Alderbridge Way, the lands will do, they said. But the bridge doesn’t exist.

Recently, when staff brought the Walmart mall plan back to council, most of Alexandra’s greenway had vanished too. The lands will do, they said.

But the city’s new 10-year park plan, which sounds terrific in some ways, leaves out the Garden City Lands. It seems our central park will be enhanced no sooner than 2023.

No wonder the city felt free to set back the park planning with its May 2013 ad blitz to frame the lands as a blank canvas, blanking out priceless legacies, natural treasures and ALR status. Missteps like that ensure non-progress and squandered value, despite project staff that do their best.

Again, the loss hits the least privileged most. They may live near the Garden City Lands, but there are no trails there for them, let alone the all-weather access that people want.

Fortunately, the project team now has aims for the Garden City Lands that fit with the community’s goal: to steward that central park in the ALR for agriculture, conservation and open-land-park recreation, all for community wellness. Many benefits!

To illustrate that, the Garden City Lands Coalition came up with a concept map years ago. It shows the givens and near-givens, starting with a satellite image of the lands. The only trails shown are farm roads (in green) that also serve hydrology needs, but I’ll fill out the picture to describe all-weather access.

Off Garden City Road, the new park entrance would extend Lansdowne Road. From the “multi-purpose area,” there’d be a trail link to the ecology dyke trails. (No spot for it is shown yet because the concept map shows only what the lands—via nature, legal status and council—tell the alert observer.)

Farm-road trails can have a wide surface, and it could suit all-weather cycling and rolling, even for wheelchairs, as well as walking and running.

Incidentally, the ample space shown for conservation (60%) is Coun. Harold Steves’ idea, a starting point. Also, people want ponds, with recreational uses among ALR ones.

Back on topic, let’s hope our central park approach will put less-privileged park users first. We’ll be stewarding one of the world’s great parks, not to show off but to share.


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