09 December 2011

Be an Advocate for Your Neighbourhood

I've been working on public space issues for more than 12 years now, and blogging for about 10. It has been incredibly frustrating but also amazingly rewarding. Having grown up in Vancouver I have been able to watch the changes to the city and its public spaces for more than 50 years. I also spent 20 years away from this city, giving me the opportunity to see how other places in the world use their land. We are very fortunate that our city founders created the Park Board 125 years ago to manage and maintain our parks. This one act ensured that Vancouver would be forever beautiful, filled with both active and natural spaces.

I say forever as that was their intention, but unless citizens watch and advocate for our public spaces we could lose them by the negligence or even intention of politicians more concerned with their own future than the future of our natural spaces. It is only through vigilance and advocacy of the public that we can maintain and enhance what we have. You can be part of the solution by being an advocate in your own neighbourhood. It isn't hard.

Start by watching for changes in your park maintenance. Are your parks as beautiful as they used to be? Are the playing fields being maintained as well? Is the Field House in disrepair? Is your Community Centre offering as many programs as it used to or should? These are just some of the questions to ask. But also look at your street and the streets in your neighbourhood. Are they being maintained properly? Is vandalism and graffiti being dealt with in a timely manner?

Neighbourhood Watch is a great program for keeping our neighbourhoods safe from crime. Why not start a neighbourhood watch for your parks and community facilities? We all have to participate if we want to keep what we have. Vision Vancouver has not been seen to value parks, recreation, or public spaces over the past 3 years. What will they do in the next 3? More cuts? More money diverted from core services to pet projects? We all have to be vigilant with what they do with our tax dollars.

The easiest way to express your displeasure is by calling 3-1-1 and reporting lack of maintenance, or graffiti, or junk left on the side of the road. Call them to report streetlamps not working or leaves blocking drains on the roads. And don't be afraid to complain to your City Councilors or Park Board Commissioners about issues important to you and your neighbourhood.

It is easy to be an advocate for your neighbourhood and your city. This is your home after all. Make sure it is run properly. Get involved. Be a part of the solution. Let's keep Vancouver beautiful.

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