A Garden City Lands survey and a silver lining

A self-intro: By chance, I’ve delved into the Garden City Lands for years, starting with the citizens who saved this ALR land of legacies. Once doomed to dense development, it’s now our central park. The City of Richmond is planning to enhance it.

I’m aware that citizens who respect the lawful ALR status of the lands trust me to critique the issues. My aim is insight they can use to help steward the natural legacies for community wellness, with a little extra thought for the less privileged—for the good of all. Often that requires me to point out room for improvement. This is one such time.

Concept map A from Garden City Lands park planners.

Concept map A from Garden City Lands park planners.

The planning is in a park concept phase. The recent open house at Lansdowne Centre was a popular marketing event. It was friendly and energizing, and the sentiments on the project display boards were largely excellent. The project team does a great job in those sorts of ways.

However, the open house survey is not valid. It’s open online to all at Let’s Talk Richmond, but the responses can’t truly guide the planners. That said, I’ll look for hope.

I’ve analyzed the survey in “Making the best of the GCL survey.” Here’s a glimpse.

  • The first part of the survey is about ranking three variations of a concept map. We’re limited to either a concept with harmful and unlawful elements or “None of the above.”
  • In the next part, we’re to express our support for bundles of elements such as one with “community field.” The illustrations of that element could be informal play, and it’s bundled with informal play, trails and boardwalks, all okay. But it turned out to mean “organized competitive sports”—not an ALR use. Deceptive questions lead to misleading results.
  • In the last part, we’re to evaluate how well the new concept maps support the project’s “guiding principles.” I can see, for example, that the concept doesn’t support the “Develop science-based resource management plans” principle at all. The would-be conservation of our sphagnum bog would harm it. But the evaluative task takes more knowledge than the project team has demonstrated, and that is obviously too much to expect of ordinary people trying to help by quickly responding to a survey.
What the bog says to the sphagnum moss every day. (Thank you, Suzanna Wright.)

What the bog says to the sphagnum moss every day. (Thank you, Suzanna Wright.)

I’ve explained the actual situation further in “Accidental bogicide.” For a sense of sphagnum bogs, see the above cartoon where the bog acknowledges its keystone species. Enabling the sphagnum moss to save the ecological legacy is a unique challenge. It will merge various best practices to enable unique forms of common restoration.

Note: The talented project team would succeed best with help from Garden City Conservation but has been dissuaded. It seems that’s because we stick to informed choice from ALR uses. As long as powers-that-be push non-ALR use, the stressed ecosystem will decline until the legacy is lost.

Try doing the survey after reading “Making the best of the GCL survey.” You’ll be better able to make informed choices, in effect bringing the survey closer to valid.

In “A pre-review of the Garden City lands open house” before the Garden City Lands open house, I suggested that the perimeter trail, a large basic part of the concept, be built now. Doing it as a top-notch multi-use farm road would focus the project’s ALR thinking while giving access to all and setting up further uses. And the team would get time to recharge.

By the way, open house visitors wanted a green buffer between the trail and the roads around the lands, and the project’s concept maps hint at that approach. The current drainage features on three sides of the lands would be in the buffer, outside the perimeter trail—good for its vital water-management role.

The city does roads and dykes well, and the trail is both. Let’s act soon.
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Note: This article is referring to a simple kind of construct validityIt involves informed judgment of whether the survey actually measures what it appears to be intended to measure. Another way this article simplifies for readability is that it doesn’t address acquiescence bias, which is likely to greatly influence respondents to give favourable ratings in the Garden City Lands survey, especially in the final part.

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