28 November 2017

Bright Nights Christmas Train set to roll again for holiday season

Vancouver Park Board
Media Advisory
November 28, 2017

The Bright Nights Christmas Train is on track for another holiday season.
This year the train—a holiday tradition for many families in the Lower Mainland—is celebrating the 20 year partnership between the Vancouver Park Board and the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
The attraction features displays with more than three million lights, train decorations, entertainment, and Santa Claus. A quarter of a million people enjoy this seasonal attraction each year.
Media are invited to learn more:
When: Wednesday, November 29, 5 - 9 pm with speeches at 7 pm
Where: Stanley Park train, off Pipeline Road in Stanley Park
Who: Vancouver Park Board Deputy General Manager Shauna Wilton, BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund Vice President Ray Boucher, and burn survivors 
What: Launch of Bright Nights Christmas Train and VIP opening night

More than 600 professional fire fighters from across the Lower Mainland donate 8,000 hours of their time to help set up and take down the displays and lights at the Bright Nights Christmas Train.
The matinee and evening Bright Nights train runs from Thursday, November 30 until Saturday, January 6, 2018. Hours of operation vary. It is closed Christmas Day.
Advance tickets are available at ticketleader.ca or by calling at 604-252-3700. Same-day tickets are available at the Stanley Park Railway Plaza starting at 10 am daily. A portion of each day’s tickets is set aside for on-site sells.

Special live shows and visuals will be performed by
Mortal Coil Performance Society.

Bright Nights is the Burn Fund’s signature fundraising event with $2.5 million raised to date. Donations in bins at the front gate and partial proceeds from train admissions support the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. The Burn Fund provides lifesaving, life supporting, and life enriching services to the people in British Columbia. 

The Bright Nights Christmas Train also accepts donations for the
Greater Vancouver Food Bank.
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Media contact:
Vancouver Park Board

16 November 2017

Vancouver Park Board hires first reconciliation planner

Vancouver Park Board
News Release
November 16, 2017
The Vancouver Park Board has approved a new position in its 2018 budget to support an ambitious reconciliation agenda. 

 The role will be assigned to the park planning and research team and consult widely with aboriginal leaders and communities on Park Board initiatives, policies and programs.

 The new reconciliation planner, Rena Soutar, will work with colleagues at the Board and City of Vancouver to advance mutual goals and create lasting relationships between municipal governments and indigenous communities.  

 We are thrilled to formalize the work begun in the early days of this Park Boards tenure at a historic meeting between the three host Nations and our elected Board, said Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe.

We've continued to support this work, and the reconciliation planner will lay the permanent groundwork for an authentic and respectful government to government relationship with the Nations.

 Soutar has worked with the Board since January of 2016, contributing to arts, culture and reconciliation initiatives. Previously, she worked with the three local First Nations during the 2010 Winter Games and is the author of the book Songees.

 In her current role, she will focus on implementing the Boards 11 reconciliation strategies and advancing the work of the precedent-setting Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group.

 The Intergovernmental Working Group was formed three years ago when the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations collectively expressed the desire to work with the Board to create a long-term stewardship plan for the park and to address concerns about archeological practices in parks.

 In response, the Board worked with the Nations to hire the first municipal archeologist in Canada in 2016 to work exclusively on indigenous issues. Geordie Howes responsibilities include a review of current archeological practices to ensure that aboriginal protocols are respected in all park developments.

 Howe and Soutar both sit on the Intergovernmental Working Group, which is composed of staff and representatives of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. The group addresses issues as they arise, such as a Board motion to engage with First Nations about re-naming Siwash Rock.

The reconciliation planner will also work with park research, planning and development teams on other significant projects such as park naming, and review monuments, memorials and public art processes and policies to ensure integration of Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices.  

 The Board recently piloted a unique collaboration with Coast Salish nations in the enhanced New Brighton Park Salt Marsh. It is the first Board site to feature culturally appropriate ecological signage created, approved and translated by First Nations into traditional languages.

 A kiosk featuring cultural educational content will be built next year as a collaboration between the Board, Musqeuam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

 Another key focus for the new planner are the 11 strategies adopted by the Board to advance the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

 The strategies address critical themes, including:

·         language and culture
·         commemoration
·         professional development and training for public servants
·         education for reconciliation
·         youth programs
·         sports

Specific measures adopted by the Board include a 360 degree approach to programming in culture, health, and sport to increase support for First Nations children, youth, and elders in Board programming.   

 In addition, the Board will carefully consider aboriginal rights in granting permits for special events and sport hosting and will establish a program for artists to collaborate on works inspired by reconciliation themes.
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Media contact:
Vancouver Park Board

15 November 2017

City seeks Community Panel to guide decision making on new arterial through False Creek Flats

City of Vancouver Press Release:
Aerial view of the False Creek Flats 

November 15 2017

 “As the City has moved through the alignment exploration process for an arterial and overpass in False Creek Flats, it’s become apparent that all of the options explored to date present challenges for various project partners" - Jerry Dobrovolny

Beginning in 2018, the City will initiate a Community Panel to explore options for a future False Creek Flats Arterial Overpass.

A Community Panel will provide for a deeper conversation and will result in a recommendation by the community for an arterial option that best meets the needs of all partners involved.

“As the City has moved through the alignment exploration process for an arterial and overpass in False Creek Flats, it’s become apparent that all of the options explored to date present challenges for various project partners,” says Jerry Dobrovolny, the General Manager of Engineering for the City of Vancouver. “After much discussion about how to move forward, we decided that this difficult decision requires the highest level of community engagement possible – a Community Panel.”

What is a Community Panel?

A community panel is a representative group of residents and businesses who are randomly-selected to advise and recommend a solution on a complex or difficult community issue.

All residents and businesses will have a chance to apply to sit on the community panel, however, specific selection criteria is still to be determined.

Key stakeholders will also be invited to advise the consultant in the design of the learning program and participate in the learning sessions of the panel.

Separating the rail corridor from the arterial

The necessity for a new arterial and overpass is driven by the long-term need to build an over or under-pass to separate the rail corridor from the arterial.

The separation will help to support Vancouver’s role in Asia-Pacific Gateway trade by reducing the impact of rail movement on arterial traffic. The separation will also enhance safety and help alleviate congestion.

A recent example of the rail corridor strategy implementation is the Powell Street Overpass, completed in 2014.

Since CN increased its rail traffic in January 2017, the City has been working closely with them on safety initiatives and we have been monitoring traffic impacts related to the increase in rail traffic on the Prior/Venables. Currently, the Prior/Venables crossing is experiencing an average of 12.5 blockages a day at around 6.5 minutes each.

  Past 30 Days as of November 10, 2017 – Cumulative Total

The False Creek Flats Rail Corridor Strategy

Since October 2015, staff have been working closely with project partners to identify a route to build an over or underpass to separate the arterial from the rail line, and also downgrade Prior/Venables Street to a local serving street.

The consultation and engagement of the arterial overpass was initially included as part of the False Creek Flats Area Plan, but was separated from the planning process when the area plan went to Council on May 17, 2017 to allow for more community input into the process. Currently, the Prior/Venables crossing is experiencing an average of 12.5 blockages a day at around 6.5 minutes each.

The False Creek Flats Rail Corridor Strategy is outlined as part of Transportation 2040, with an aim to:

  • Support the efficient movement of goods and people
  • Enhance safety and community livability
  • Support the economy  

Learn more about the False Creek Flats Area Plan

07 November 2017

Improving parks is not always about the money

by | Oct 17, 2017 Park People
Improving parks is not always about the money

The benefits of spending time in parks are well-documented. And as anyone who has struggled for a square inch of grass to lay down their picnic blanket at Parc Lafontaine or woven between thousands of cyclists and pedestrians on the Vancouver Seawall knows, big signature parks generally have no problems attracting users.

But for the vast majority of urban-dwellers, trips to large parks are an occasional treat. It is the smaller neighbourhood parks dotted throughout our cities that are the backbone of the park system. These parks are often simply designed, with limited amenities. But since these smaller neighbourhood parks are the green spaces that are most often within walking distance of where we live, are there ways we can maximize their benefits to the community?

What the data tells us about neighbourhood parks

The researchers behind the U.S. National Study of Neighbourhood Parks were intent on finding out. They looked at how neighbourhood parks were actually being used, and by whom, in U.S. cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Neighbourhood parks were defined as 3- to 20-acre parks used mostly by people in the immediate vicinity and managed by city parks and recreation departments.

park map 

Data collectors used the SOPARC methodology to observe park users in different areas. SOPARC is a direct observation tool for assessing park and recreation areas, including park users’ physical activity levels, gender, activity modes/types, and estimated age and ethnicity groupings (Active Living Research). The researchers also interviewed adult park users and surveyed city park staff about their management practices. One of their goals was to figure out what park amenities seemed to increase or decrease park usage among different groups of people.

Their compelling results can help shape how we invest in parks:
  • Who’s not in parks: Researchers found that neighborhood park use was especially low among adults, seniors and younger women. While seniors make up 20% of the general population, they represented only 4% of the people using neighbourhood parks. Parks were used less in low-income than in high-income neighborhoods. This difference was largely explained by fewer supervised activities and less marketing/outreach efforts. That’s why work by community groups and municipalities to animate parks in underserved areas is so vital.
  • Meet the basic needs: They also found that adding water fountains and washrooms more than doubles park use. These are more expensive investments (both up-front and in terms of maintenance), but it’s no surprise that having them helps people spend much longer periods of time in the parks.
  • What gets people active: The facilities that generated the most activity among adults and seniors were walking loops. Parks were twice as likely to be empty if they didn’t have walking loops.
  • Add programs: Programming for people of different ages was associated with 37% more hours of activity in parks by local residents.
  • Spread the word: Better marketing, including signage, posters and bulletin boards, was associated with 63% more hours of activity.


Three proven low-cost ways to increase park use:

If you work with a municipality, non-profit or community organization looking to get more people into our parks, here are three ideas for how you could use this data to make the most impact:
  1. Invest in great signage and bulletin boards: The data is clear – welcoming and informative signage is one of the most cost-effective ways to dramatically increase park usage.  Although great signage isn’t free,  it’s a lot less than a new play structure or washroom building and can make a big impact, correlating with a 62% increase in park activity according to the study.
  1. Create programming targeted to people who are not in the park: Park People recently launched a walking program aimed at newcomers, older adults and seniors in Toronto’s suburbs. One participant (full disclosure – my mother-in-law!) made immediate connections with other walkers, including a Spanish-speaking senior who was delighted to have someone to talk to in Spanish, and a woman who lived a few streets over that she had never met. The physical and emotional benefits of spending time in parks are significant, and simple programming, combined with amenities such as walking loops, can make a tremendous difference in addressing the under-use of parks among seniors, girls, and adults, as identified in the study.
  1. Bring existing programming into parks: Who says the offerings of a recreation centre or social agency have to stay within four walls? Municipal park departments and community groups can work with these organizations to bring arts, recreation and health programming into the park, attracting new users while providing the enhanced benefits of green space to existing participants.


What’s next?

Many cities are already taking these findings to heart by investing in new signage, targeting new populations in their programming, and bringing existing programs into the parks.

Both the City of Toronto and the City of Edmonton are making major investments in new way-finding signage, while large urban parks like Vancouver’s Hastings Park and Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Forest are developing unique visual identities that are both beautiful and useful.

In Richmond Hill, the Artist in Residence pilot program provided an artist with an opportunity to develop new work to animate and engage residents in six public spaces. This program echoes the successful Arts in the Parks initiative in Toronto, which Park People has helped the Toronto Arts Council bring to 35 parks over the past two years.

We are also seeing the expansion of the SOPARC methodology into Canada. The Vancouver Park Board is using it, with tweaks to suit the local context, to collect park user data as part of their VanPlay strategy, a new 25-year parks and rec master plan.

graphic showing parks per person in vancouver

SOPARC is open and free for anyone to use – you can even find training for the data collectors on YouTube. I would love to see how people are adapting it to help them better understand usage in their own parks, and whether a simplified version could help community groups gather data about their parks and build the case for investments.

Meanwhile, Park People will continue to explore ways to make use of park data and to support community and city-led initiatives to improve our neighbourhood parks. If you know of projects happening across Canada that we can showcase and support, please let us know.

Natalie Brown is the National Network Manager at Park People, a charity that supports and mobilizes people to activate the power of parks to improve quality of life in cities across Canada. Sign up for their newsletter here

This article is reprinted with the kind permission of Park People. Visit their site for some really great writing on parks and public spaces.

04 November 2017

City salts and brines for first freezing weekend of the year, opens warming centres and shelters

City of Vancouver
Information Bulletin
November 4, 2017

The City of Vancouver is out salting and brining the streets as snow flurries hit areas in Vancouver.
Our crews work 24 hours a day to monitor the weather and respond as required. Due to the dry weather yesterday afternoon, we implemented our snow and ice control procedures and used brine for the main arterial streets to prepare for freezing conditions. We had crews scheduled overnight and will continue assessing the situation to adjust the plan as required.
The priority for treatment will be for major arterial routes, priority bike routes, priority hills, and water leak locations. Operators have been applying brine and/or salt as required.

We are anticipating flurries into this evening and dry overnight, however with freezing temperatures ice is expected tonight and into tomorrow morning.
Learn more about snow removal and to see a map of priority treatment locations, visit Vancouver.ca/snow
Help us identify problem spots
If an area requires attention, report it using the City’s VanConnect app or by calling 3-1-1. The City is monitoring incoming requests to identify problem areas and dispatching crews to address those issues.
 Snow clearance by-law
 All Vancouver property owners and occupants (tenants) are responsible to clear snow and ice from the full width of sidewalks that surround their property by 10:00am the morning following a snowfall. This responsibility is in effect seven days a week. Property owners and occupants who fail to remove snow and ice may be subject to fines.

Snow and ice on the sidewalk can be a barrier for many people, particularly seniors and people with mobility challenges. Through our Snow Angel program, we encourage residents and businesses to lend a hand to those who can't shovel their own sidewalks by adopting the sidewalk of a neighbour and keeping it clear of snow and ice all winter long.
 The City strongly recommends that residents and businesses:
·         Lay salt down on sidewalks and driveways prior to the snowfall. This will help to melt the ice and make it easier to remove.
·         Shovel new snow as soon as possible to prevent build up and melting into an ice crust. While residents have until 10:00am until after a snowfall to shovel sidewalks in front of their property, getting out early before the morning commute will help ensure snow isn’t packed down, and will make it easier to remove.
·         Provide help to neighbours who cannot clear their own sidewalks, if you are able. Consider registering to become a Snow Angel at www.vancouver.ca/snowangel
·         Wear proper winter footwear to guard against slippery sidewalks. Use main roads when possible as they tend to have less snow and ice than residential and side streets;
·         We are strongly recommending that people who drive in snow or winter conditions use mud and snow tires or all weather tires. The City has also updated its own vehicle fleet to comply with these recommendations.
·         When the snow thaws, you can help to prevent flooding by clearing leaves from the catch basins (storm drains) around your home. Leaves collected from residents’ catch basin, boulevard, sidewalk or property should be put in their Green Bin or in separate paper leaf bags for collection.  
Warming centres and shelters
In response to this week’s extreme weather alert and as part of the City of Vancouver’s Warming Centre Program, the following warming centres are open to provide our vulnerable residents with a place to warm up.
Britannia Community Centre  - Nov. 4 & 5 from 9pm - 8:30am
Carnegie Community Centre  - Nov. 4 & 5 from 11:15pm – 7:00am
Warming centres are activated when the temperature reaches -5°C or below (or it feels like -5°C or below). Community centres and other public buildings are also available during their open hours as spaces to warm up.
The City is also partnering with BC Housing to provide 300 temporary shelter spaces across 10 locations this winter, open 24/7 until March 2018. These shelters are currently open:
  •  1401 Hornby St., operated by RainCity
  •  609 Helmcken St., operated by The Gathering Place/City of Vancouver
  • 119 E. Cordova St., operated by Salvation Army
  • 134 E. Cordova St., operated by Salvation Army (Harbour Light Chapel Winter Shelter)
  • 134 E. Cordova St., operated by Salvation Army (Anchor of Hope Winter Shelter)

Those looking for shelter space can call 2-1-1 to check availability or a full list of shelters is available here: http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/winter-response-shelter-strategy.aspx
Visit the City’s website for more information on the WinterResponse Shelter Strategy.
Media Contact:
Corporate Communications