East Vancouver residents take on John Hendry Park's future
Vancouver residents concerned about the future of John Hendry Park, and Trout Lake located within its borders, met with a multi-disciplinary team the evenings of December 3 and 4 to help design that park’s master plan.
Hosted by the Vancouver park board, the events were part of Phase 2 in the process toward a master plan and involved an interactive design workshop followed by the presentation of two illustrations based on the input gathered.
“We had over 100 people here last night going through the issues and the opportunities, sitting in groups of six with really intensive discussion and dialogue about priorities, about trade-offs, about new ideas,” David Reid, environmental planning and design practice leader—and one of three consultants from Golder Associates brought in to assist with the process—said on December 4. “So, today we took that input and the input from the questionnaires, added some technical information on water quality and connecting the lake to its watershed, and tried to draw two illustrations that are provocative.”
The illustrations, one focused on nature and the other on play, were created to encourage further dialogue, said Reid. “There are two options and they’re just to help people think through trade-offs. One of the examples is what to do with the farmers market.”
In the nature option, the farmer’s market will be moved from its existing location in a parking lot to the terrace outside the community centre. The new playground would stay, but the rock-dust all weather field would be reduced and an L-shaped event space built to accommodate events such as the farmers market and small musical performances. By doing this, Reid said, the parking lot, which had housed the farmers market, could be reduced to allow for a new commuter route for higher-speed cyclists to get around the edge of the park. This would remove them from the paths in the centre of the park and some of the conflicts. In Plan B, the farmers market would stay as is.
Another area where people were expressing concern was around the issue of dogs being off leash and swimming in the lake.
Gloria Kieler attended the workshop on December 3 in order to make sure dog owners had a voice in the process. “The dog owners actually use the park every day, some of them two, three times a day. They are the most frequent users of the park,” Kieler said.
She feels the park is perfect as it is. “This is one of the very few parks in Vancouver where you can have off-leash all day long.” Other areas, she said, have time restrictions which make it difficult for those dog owners who have large dogs who need extra exercise. She does recognize that there may be compromises. “Some people want it cordoned off with a fence. I don’t like the fence idea but there’s some idea of natural hedges and stuff like that, that would be a good idea."
While he did not attend either evening event, Mike Lawson, a student at BCIT, said that the lake was one of the reasons he moved to the area. “It’s dog friendly for sure. There are a lot of people with dogs around here.” He said, though, the addition of lights on the paths would be on his wish list. “I often walk the dog after work and it’s often dark.”
Reid said both options presented will keep significant off-leash areas and deal with the issue of dogs swimming in the lake. In the nature-focused plan the swimming area for dogs is separated with a floating boardwalk around it and a rubber curtain beneath that separates the water from the rest of the lake. In the play-focused option, the floating boardwalk with its rubber curtain would be placed around the human swimming area. “It’s not the dog feces that are the problem, our water quality specialist tells us. It’s people and/or people stirring up the sediment,” Reid said. The sediment has E. coli in it, which is behind the closures of the lake. The separation would possibly allow for some treatment of the affected water, he said. “It will look like all one lake but it will actually be two separate water bodies.
The placement of a natural foliage barrier around the off-leash dog area would not only clarify its boundaries but offer an alternate route outside the area for those park users who do not wish to go through the dog area. “Right now people who don’t want to be there and people who do kind of get mixed up,” Reid said.
The nature-focused option also takes a relatively unused, sloping area over by Grandview and makes a second off-leash area. In the play-focused option the off-leash area stays as is but is clearly defined with a foliage barrier.
“There are many opportunities here but certainly water quality and swimming in the lake for people is one of the big issues,” said Reid. “People would like both the natural lake that is connected to the storm water from the watershed but that storm water may be a little more polluted than the drinking water that’s now used to refresh the lake.”
The solution of using the floating boardwalk and curtain around the people beach would allow that beach to remain open, because the controlled area would allow for separate treatment. The main body of the lake would be reconnected to a watershed, though man-made, through constructed wetland similar to that designed around the community centre.
The public attending the second evening on December 4 were encouraged to ask questions and discuss the presentations with Reid and his fellow consultants, Jana Zelenski and Amy Gore, or with Tiina Mack, manager of park development. Sticky red dots and yellow Post-it notes were available for marking priorities or comments directly to the illustrations. A questionnaire was passed out to those attending to gather further information.
The number one expressed goal of the neighbourhood has been to get Trout Lake back to a more natural ecosystem, Reid said. “In a perfect world people would like to have a lake that’s connected to its watershed, that’s a natural ecosystem, that’s reasonably clean for wildlife and suitable for dog swimming as well as people swimming. But, doing that is complex and takes a little bit of ingenuity.”