10 March 2014

What is a park?

The development at Oakridge is just a little bit controversial. This new plan will see the corner of Cambie and 41st Avenue transformed from a low rise mall into a highly dense tower city. There are many controversial aspects to this proposal but perhaps none more so than the proposal to include a 'rooftop park'. This got me thinking about what exactly we mean by the word park. Is a park simply an area that is green? Or open? Is it any place where people can see flowers or trees or kick a ball? What makes a park a park rather than simply a green space or a public place?

Dictionary.com defines a park as: 1.an area of land, usually in a largely natural state, for the enjoyment of the public, having facilities for rest and recreation, often owned, set apart, and managed by a city, state, or nation. 2. an enclosed area or a stadium used for sports: a baseball park. 3.a considerable extent of land forming the grounds of a country house. 4.British . a tract of land reserved for wild animals; game preserve. 5. Western U.S. a broad valley in a mountainous region.

The Oxford on-line says:  1. A large public garden or area of land used for recreation 1.1 A large enclosed piece of ground attached to a country house 1.2 A large enclosed area of land used to accommodate wild animals in captivity

 Merriam Webster states:  a piece of public land in or near a city that is kept free of houses and other buildings and can be used for pleasure and exercise;  a large area of public land kept in its natural state to protect plants and animals; sports : a field or stadium where a sport (especially baseball) is played

I could find many other examples, but I will leave it at these three. What do all three have in common? Land. In all three definitions, a park is a piece of land. Not a garage, not a mall, and certainly not a roof. A park is a piece of land.

The developers and the City can call what they are proposing many things. They can call it an amenity. They can call it a garden. They can call it a green space. What they can't call it is a park.