Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 12/9/2016 (1187 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Described as an amenity, green space and parkland in Winnipeg is more often seen as an essential part of the community.
Winnipeggers want to live near, or be able to walk to, spaces filled with grass, trees and wildlife to break up an otherwise grey, concrete metropolis.
Downtown, Central Park is well-used in summer as well as winter thanks to its splash pad, wading pool, soccer field and skating rink. In the early 1900’s, the park featured a fountain and green lawns and served as a gathering place for the community. Though it has gone through changes, the community’s need for a park in one of the city’s most dense and urban areas has remained constant.
"We do know for sure that — who wants to be living in a city without a park?" Dave Domke, City of Winnipeg manager of parks and open space, said. "Parks are just as important as pavement, or underground services, water and waste."
Domke said the amount of green space in Winnipeg is increasing, with the majority of new parks appearing in new developments.
"In existing spaces, there is little change in that there are parcels that get sold or bought over time, so it’s nothing really significant," he said.
Over the last five years, Winnipeg as a whole has gained 102 hectares of park space, he said. New neighbourhoods are obligated to provide land for parks, and the properties of highest value are the ones that back directly onto park space.
"Some developers have moved towards linear parks with retention ponds and walk-out basements that have a public and private side," Donna Beaton, City of Winnipeg landscape architect said. "Those are the highest-valued properties. The fact that they’re promoting that speaks to the fact that people value their proximity to parks."
According to Domke and Beaton, Winnipeg has over 1,300 parks. Parkland makes up 6.1 per cent of Winnipeg property, comparatively higher than Ottawa at 1.5 per cent and Hamilton at 2.3 per cent and lower than Calgary at 9.2 per cent.
Winnipeg spends less than the three cities on park operating costs at $42.30 per person, while Calgary spends the most at $107.03.
Winnipeggers are willing to drive to a park that offers what they need. Athletes will seek out the parks with sports fields, dog owners require an off-leash site, and Assiniboine Park — which offers a wide variety of attractions — sees visitors from all over the province.
"What we are trying to do in this year’s capital budget is ask for some funding for a parks strategy master plan," Domke said. "We haven’t had a master plan for a couple of years now… we’re still working on what demand is in parks in a quantifiable way, though through our visceral sense you can see, (some parks) are completely at capacity."
Conifers and crime
Vandalism and safety are top considerations when planning parks, Beaton says.
"A lot has to do with how well it’s used so our goal is to make parks more desirable… so there’s more activity and that helps deter some of the negative things that can happen in parks," she said.
"There’s not much crime," Domke said of parks. "We’ve looked at the Winnipeg Police Service data… they track where crimes occur and it wasn’t significant in parks. That’s not where these things, where crimes are happening."
Beaton said residents are still expected to use discretion and caution when travelling at night and that secluded areas in general may pose a danger.
"Good design helps with those kinds of concerns," she said. "Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)—we try to apply those principles… we try to stay cognizant of sight lines and escape routes so if there is a somewhat hidden area, you’re not trapped there. You can go through and beyond it."
Domke added that choice of trees can affect visibility as well. Conifers, he notes, are thicker and harder to see through, while trees like elms have a high canopy which allow for better visibility.
Many Charleswood residents have approached the City regarding the William R. Clement Parkway and its possible path through the area’s dog park.
The City has provided three proposals for the extension, one of which takes the roadway through the existing park. To view the options, visit winnipeg.ca/publicworks/construction/studies/williamclement.stm
The study is set to complete in winter 2016. A second public open house will take place this fall, the date and location of which is still to be announced.
Charleswood resident Bill Rose goes to the area’s well-used dog park as often as he can with his dog, Luke. He says he’s been coming to the park for approximately 20 years, and that it’s been one of the best places to meet his neighbours.
"Dogs are a great way to meet other people," Rose said.
By coming during the week rather than weekends — when the field begins to feel a little crowed — Rose ends up meeting people from his neighbourhood. Afterwards, he can’t stop at Safeway without seeing a familiar face.
"We have a sort of community here," Leslie Milne said. "I think everyone would be a little spread out if that changes."
"People certainly are drawn to the trees, the urban forests," Beaton said. "Most people speak to it in terms of quality of life and a sense of civic pride… when you’ve got community centres and people congregate there, there’s that social aspect that comes out of that."
Milne and her dog Tucker live only a few blocks away from the park and come almost daily, sun or snow.
She knows that should her neighbourhood park be closed down, she will have to get in the car to find an off-leash area for Tucker, noting Little Mountain may be an option, though it’s "further away and smaller in terms of green space."
"If they’re able to keep some of it, that would be great," Milne said of the space and the City’s plans.
Rose, on the other hand, sees the change as imminent.
"It’s inevitable," he said. "It’s fortunate we have this much green space right now, and it would be nice if we could have it another 10 years, but I’m not going to fight the system."
When he’s not at the dog park on Roblin Boulevard, he visits Assiniboine Forest. A long-time resident, Rose said the trails there began as a kind of hidden gem but soon became well-used as well.
"There is a lot of (green space), you gotta look for it, but every time they eliminate one, it makes the other ones busier," he said.
As well, he prefers to have a variety of places to go, depending on the season.
"If I was a city planner, which I’m not, I would have a park per every set amount of space," he said.
Alana Trachenko Community journalist — The Metro
Alana Trachenko is the community journalist for The Metro
Email her at alana.trachenko@canstarnewscom
Call her at 204-697-7132