The Places Project walking tour of Oaklands neighbourhood highlighted the diversity of green spaces in the community. The green spaces came in many shapes and sizes from chip trails, to a large baseball diamond, and a secretive tucked away pocket park. Exploring these spaces together was not only a good way to meet new neighbours, but it gave people a chance to discover what makes a public space feel good and share their perspectives and stories. Our tour of the neighbourhoods’ array of green spaces brings up interesting insights into the role these spaces play with relationship to the community.
Here are some insights from the areas our walk explored:
Oaklands has a chip trail on Ryan Street between Belmont Ave and Asquith Street. This trail serves as a connective pathway through the neighbourhood. The Ryan Street Greenway is a place for biodiversity and habitat preservation as well as a walkway for joggers, dog walkers and people on a stroll. The green boulevard and the endangered Garry Oak ecosystem are being protected even during construction of a new row of houses directly beside.
One of the more obvious types of green spaces we saw on our tour included formal parks; a large baseball diamond, playgrounds and soccer fields. These parks are easy to spot from the sidewalk as they span entire blocks, and are well marked.
We noticed that Mount Stephen Park, on the other hand, is inconspicuous in its markings. There is no signage from the street to attract passerbys. In fact, one of the park’s entrances is located on a dead end and the only sign around reads “No Exit”. Not an obvious way to indicate the existence of a public community space.
Our tour went by a number of more ambiguous green spaces as well. There were many block corners that are green spaces, with trees and paths, but with no benches or signage as found in larger parks. People on our tour indicated that they enjoyed these spaces as they gave the neighbourhood a more informal, or rural feel.
This brings up questions around how the physical spaces in our neighbourhood work to create a particular experience. Is it more enjoyable to be outside when there is a sense of mystery and informality along the path? Should this be a factor considered when designing neighborhoods? How does this impact our sense of well-being and impact our mental health?
On a larger scale, why is any of this important? Would more neighbourhood mystery and green spaces with good connections encourage more walking, or alternative types of transport? Would it encourage more people to be out and about, potentially meeting more fellow neighbours and feeling more connected to their place and community? How would more wild play spaces impact how children learn about, and care for the natural environment?
Green spaces in all their shapes and sizes help to create a particular sense of place in a community. They serve as a place for recreation, exercise, alternative transport and enjoyment. They can serve ecological functions such as water management, habitat conservation and a place for biodiversity. They can also serve as a meeting place for communal life in the neighbourhood.
With summer here it is time to get outside and explore. What are the types of green spaces in your neighbourhood and how do they impact community life and your personal experience?