Parks, green spaces take centre stage at council

Plus: Funding for a new mural, Burnaby Rent Bank, and affordable housing units coming to Metrotown

In surveys and brainstorming sessions, Burnaby residents have repeatedly mentioned that parks and green spaces are very important to them. During the September gathering of Burnaby residents participating in the creation of the Official Community Plan (OCP), discussion groups overwhelmingly mentioned that green spaces and parks are a priority and that they make the urban environment more livable. The people of Burnaby want their parks to be preserved, maintained and developed for their own use and for future generations. 

Central Park, Burnaby. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

This sentiment was echoed at the Nov. 20 council meeting where Andre Isakov, director of parks recreation culture planning, and Heather Edwards, manager of parks planning, design and development presented a new framework to council to prioritize park development and acquisition. 

“Parks improve public health, they provide better quality of life, we know we live in a really competitive region where this is really important. Parks provide safe gathering spaces for neighbourhoods, they’re catalysts for community building, and community vibrancy. They strengthen local economies, and there’s a myriad of environmental impacts as well. They filter air pollutants, they cool our urban environments, they sequester carbon, and myriad also cultural and recreation benefits, like active living,” Isakov said during his presentation. He added that in all the surveys and discussions facilitated by the city, 80% of respondents mentioned that parks and recreational and cultural spaces were one of the things they love most about life in Burnaby. 

According to Edwards, in the new framework, city staff will organize work program projects into three categories: new parkland acquisition, new park development, and existing park and natural area review and redevelopment. Each project will be ranked in a priority list using seven evaluation criteria. Once that ranked priority list is created, staff members will check it against the community priorities and resources they have internally to begin the work. 

Rubberized perimeter trail for cycling, jogging and walking at Central Park in Burnaby. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Edwards listed seven main criteria for the prioritization framework: 

  1. Assess the potential to develop or revitalize existing park spaces to address social inclusion, safe operational maintenance, to meet current industry standards. A safe and positive environment can help build community without risk and it is a core requirement to provide social equity in parks service. 

  2. Demand and demonstrated need. This assesses how well the neighbourhoods are currently served and whether the proposed improvement project will fill identified, existing service gaps, in recreation, sport and culture. It will also work in conjunction with projected growth. 

  3. Quantity, quality, and access to park space citywide. This criterion assesses whether park development by location will help provide better access and distribution of park services in the community. 

  4. Environmental value. This assesses the opportunities to preserve, enhance or celebrate natural areas of distinct environmental value. These kinds of projects contribute to the city’s resilience and climate action goals. 

  5. Project quickly can the city bring a project to fruition? Are there impediments such as legal or environmental constraints? Is there available funding? Is there a desire to be timed with other projects? 

  6. Partnership potential and opportunities. Is there an opportunity to collaborate with third party funders who may develop a park on the city’s behalf? Is there an opportunity to cooperate and work with the school district on joint funding for projects?

  7. Other special values. Assess the opportunities to develop spaces that might provide cultural and festival gathering purposes, interpretive or educational value, higher level sport competition, destination attractions, whether there’s a regional asset link, whether there’s natural qualities, assets or resources to be protected. 

Isakov said that they are planning to integrate this framework into the OCP and the PRC master plan. Council voted to approve the new prioritization framework. 

Other highlights of the meeting included new funding of $7,000 for a mural at Barnet Marine Park and approximately $135,000 for Burnaby Rent Bank.  


This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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