In the three years that I have had the privilege to serve the people of Vancouver as a park board commissioner, I have truly expanded my understanding of the importance of the Vancouver park board in our collective quality of life.
Yes, the recreational and green opportunities that fall within the park board’s jurisdiction are staggering: over 220 diverse parks (destination parks, small neighbourhood parks, remnant woodlands, and ravines), 350 playing fields and sports courts, 154 playgrounds, 179 tennis courts, 11 beaches, nine indoor and four outdoor pools, eight ice rinks, six skateboard parks, 33 dog off-leash areas, the Bloedel Conservatory, and over 135,000 street trees.
But what I have discovered about this expansive network is that the Vancouver park board is much more than just green space to families, youth, children, seniors, and cultural communities across the city.
From day one, the work that I have engaged in has been geared toward bringing people together with their communities through programming, education, and services. The park board teaches sports and arts, assists in language training, feeds the hungry, assists young families with child care, and provides a central hub for every resident to come together and connect with their friends and neighbours.
As a liaison for a number of community centres across the city, I also became very aware of the distinct nature of each neighbourhood, and how that translated into different needs specific to the local population.
This was a revelation for me. Instead of thinking of our facilities and recreational opportunities in a static or passive manner, I became passionate about expanding the notion of what we as a park board could offer Vancouver’s various communities.
One of the proudest achievements over my first term in office has been the introduction of early learning and child care into the park board sphere. I have worked very closely with the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver school board to not only grow our capacity for Vancouver families, but to also collectively advocate to other levels of government regarding the importance of jointly funding these two areas.
This now manifests in my deep devotion to the concept of integration when it comes to the Vancouver park board.
As an example, I supplement my work at the neighbourhood level with membership on the Joint Council on Childcare, liaising with both the City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ committee and persons with disabilities advisory committee, and serving as the vice chair of the service and budget committee.
What these outreach efforts have allowed me to do is bring fresh perspectives back to the table that assist in evolving the Vancouver park board into a broader future.
In these times of budget restraint and the need for fiscal responsibility, it is very important to ensure that there is a strong foundation of local attachment to our parks and recreational facilities.
Whether it is providing reasonably priced options to families looking to engage in activities together, or giving people a platform for engagement with their neighbours, the park board must continue to branch out as widely as possible.
We are in an era where fostering connections in the community can be difficult, and as a result, I firmly believe that the park board has the capacity and indeed the responsibility to strengthen those bonds of togetherness and civic pride.
My vision for the Vancouver park board is premised on being relevant to Vancouver residents, and if given the opportunity to serve this city again, I will continue to strive toward making a positive impact in people’s lives.
Constance Barnes is seeking reelection as a Vision Vancouver park board commissioner.