Katherine Day: Improving our “backyard” parks

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The houses where I lived growing up (there were many as my parents tended to move us around quite a bit) all had relatively good-sized yards; most big enough to kick a soccer ball around, or even shoot some hoops. 

I realize in choosing to make Vancouver my home, the children I hope to raise here one day will likely grow up in different circumstances than I. Like many people in this city, they will live in a condo, without a backyard of their own. For urban children and youth, especially in the age of high-tech gadgets, maintaining parks and green spaces, essentially their "backyards", is of utmost importance for encouraging and maintaining a healthy society.

Thanks to a fabulously beautiful location, and a concerted effort by the park board to maintain and plant trees, Vancouver already has a wonderful network of parks and green spaces. We also have a multitude of indoor recreation facilities, some of which were improved in recent years as our city played host to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

We all know Vancouver has a reputation as an active city; however, there is always more to be done in order to engage involvement in and to create more spaces for recreation.

Two ideas I would like to see considered further both relate to how recreation and community activity are developed in a more holistic manner. The first is to look at more options for outside activity, and the second involves a more efficient use of space.

As soon as the sun is shining in Vancouver, no one wants to be stuck indoors. Running trails, bike paths, and playing fields are all options for enjoying the outside, but how about adding outdoor fitness zones? Park use has increased in the cities where outdoor fitness zones are available, allowing what is typically an indoor activity to transition outside.

Another inexpensive way to get people using parks for fitness is to upgrade and improve some of the old “functional fitness” apparatuses such as pull up and dip bars. Functional fitness is a key buzzword in the fitness community and by providing enhancements to current facilities, as well as stations (with instructions) for sit ups, push ups, squats, et cetera, in parks and along the seawall, more options for outdoor activity will ultimately generate more enjoyment.

In a rapidly expanding city, like Vancouver, we have to be cognizant of our use of space. As a competitive CrossFit athlete, I am amazed at how my fitness community uses laneways, parking lots, and alleyways for fitness. We do sprints, push sleds, move weight in areas which are typically neglected and underused. Vancouver is now following other cities by including within the community plans efforts to beautify and make use of forgotten urban spaces.

As small-space city dwellers, it is up to us to creatively think about what improvements we can make to our beautiful city by re-imagining our "backyard" parks and creating new spaces for community interaction.

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