Queens Park Master Planning

I love Queen’s Park. Not the neighbourhood I can’t afford (although that is very nice), but the Park itself. Sitting in the beer garden during Hyack, jogging the Centennial Trail during my occasional brief forays into fitness, walking though the hazy park after midnight on my way home from the Curling Club, even the occasional NWEP open-air meeting during the summer. Just looking at New Westminster from space (via Google), it is the square rectangle of green in the middle of Urbania that sets the geography of the City- even as it contrasts with the angry sharp finger of green that is Glenbrook Ravine.

It is the contrast with Glenbrook Ravine that speaks to the meaning of the word “Park”. The word is used to describe any generically green space in a urban environment, or otherwise protected space in other environments. There has always been a bit of dichotomy between park space being “preserved”, or set aside for nature, and park space being “programmed” for human appreciation of nature. Look at the protests about a rather innocuous walkway in Jasper, or the “No National Park” signs throughout the Similkameen Valley for examples of the conflict between how “Park Space” is valued or not by groups in our society.

Glenbrook Ravine is a pretty wild place, all trees and brush, a green sanctuary for flora and fauna (and overrun by invasive species), where few people wander off the one or two trails. In contrast, Queens Park has seen 125 years of poorly-planned development, the result a criss-cross of playing fields, paved and unpaved trails, parking lots and buildings. Even much of the Green Space is not actually plants, but painted plastic.

The City’s Parks and Recreation Department recognizes that much of the development of the park has been rather ad-hoc, with little long-term planning. So they are looking at changing that, and are launching a Queens Park Master Plan process, to make sure the park’s utilization is optimized in the future.

Much like the Master Transportation Plan, this process is going to take a few months and involve various steps and lots of public consultation. This first step for public input is this coming Saturday, with an “Ideas Event”.

Parks and Rec are encouraging everyone to come out an provide some ideas about the future of Queens Park – what do you like or not like about the current Park? What do you want osee happen to the park?

I have my own loves and hates with the park. I think the long-term preservation and management of the Really Big Trees is important for all sorts of reasons. I am less particular about the rest of the manicured gardens: I know the Rose Garden has a proud tradition, but I would love to see an area dedicated to the growing and preservation of important threatened species of native plants.

Upgrading the driving and parking areas to make them a little more, uh… “park like” would be a nice. Unfortunately, the area between the Stadium, the Arenex and the Arena is a pretty dismal asphalt jungle now, and that is (for many people) the first impression of the park that people get.

The Parks works areas are also a little disappointing in a setting as beautiful as Queens Park. The entire fenced-off maintenance areas both disrupt the park-like setting, and make wandering around the park less pleasant. I would add the petting zoo area to this list of strange disruptions. Again, I may be in the minority here, but I think the petting zoo concept is an idea well past it’s prime.

I like the idea of the Bandshell more than I like the actual Bandshell. Having enjoyed great concerts at the Malkin Bowl and Deer Lake Park, I can’t help but think we need a better outdoor venue in New West. Maybe the Bandshell just needs and upgrade, or maybe these types of events will move to the new Pier Park?

The picnic areas are so well used in the summer, that it is sometimes hard to find a spot unless you book well ahead. I think a few other less-structured sitting-and-meeting spaces could be integrated all around the Centennial Trail.

I think the Stadium is spectacular and under appreciated for its setting. I wish I had more reasons to go see Games at it (oohhh… imagine a Single-A baseball team?!? Line me up for season’s tickets!)

Ultimately, I don’t think Queens Park needs any radical changes, but subtle upgrades as the aging infrastructure is being replaced. As population density to the east of the park goes up, and property values to the west stay high, there will be more demand on Queens Park. At the same time, the new Pier Park may draw a lot of the picnic and other “programmed” uses away. Connecting the two via greenway trails, including the upgraded trails through Glenbrook Ravine, would make a nice connected green region of the City… but maybe I’m dreaming now.

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