Urban Greenspaces: More Than A Nice-To-Have

It’s my assertion that public greenspaces should not be treated like nice-to-haves. They are essential,  reflecting our need for diverse landscapes and uses to add spice to life. Further, easily accessible greenspaces and parks add to our psychological well-being and overall health.

A part of this has to do with some of the obvious implications of this, which includes making the simple act of taking a walk somewhere close by a more attractive prospect. Add to that a place where one can walk while not breathing in the fumes from cars that certainly add to an overall better health quotient. There is also the mental, and dare I say spiritual, aspects to greenspaces and parkland in urban and/or suburban settings. A 2010 study has shown that there is less stress, less anger, less fatigue, and fewer depressive emotional states when interaction with natural environments are made readily available to citizens.

Studies aside, how good do you feel while in the shade of trees, with nothing but the songs of birds duetting with the chuckling ravine as your soundtrack? What about the very presence of other species of birds, small mammals, and even reptiles like turtles as a reminder that we live on a planet that is characterized by balance and diversity, and that we are a part of something much greater than what we ourselves can build up? Continue reading “Urban Greenspaces: More Than A Nice-To-Have”

Stay cool, New West: Summer fun at spray parks, splash pools, and beaches

Summer heat came early with a May that was one of the driest on record, and it’s only getting hotter. Thankfully, New West has a pretty great list of spray parks, splash pools and even a couple beaches where you can suntan on hot sand.

Spray Parks: Open from 10am-7pm, Victoria Day to Labour Day

  • Queens Park – A classic spot for summer fun, the thick trees of the park make it easy to find a shady spot to cool down. The spray park features a water table feature for toddlers as well as a varied collection of sprinklers for older kids and adventurous tots to run through. The spray park is next to the Queens Park Petting Zoo (open 10am-5:30pm), a concession, and the Rainbow Playland playgrounds.
  • Moody Park – Located Uptown at 6th Ave. & 8th St. next to the playground, this older spray park is earmarked for an facelift soon. Water lines were recently upgraded in preparation for the new spray park. I’m not sure when the new spray park is due to be installed, but this could be the last summer to enjoy the tree-stump sprinklers in the old park.
  • Ryall Park – Next to a toddler playground, an all-wheel park, and the Queensborough Community Centre. The community centre includes a small branch of the New Westminster Library – a good spot to step out of the sun for a while to check out a book or do a puzzle with your kids.
  • Sapperton Park – Blessedly close to Starbucks and a short walk from Sapperton SkyTrain, this smaller spray park at Sherbrooke & East Columbia is a great spot to meet up with friends. I often find at larger parks like Queen’s, the kids run off to play in different areas. It’s hard to keep up a conversation while you’re chasing them to opposite ends of the playground! At Sapperton Park, the kids are always within eyesight, which makes it easy for the parents to enjoy their “playdate” too.
  • Old Schoolhouse Park – Not a true spray park, but this Queensborough park includes a playable water feature for kids where they can get as wet as they want to. At Ewen Ave & Derwent Way.
  • Hume Park – Resurfaced in May/June 2015, this is now open for business! Really nice re-do of the splash park, that uses recycled tires for the surface – non-slip and a bit squishy on the feet.  Located off East Columbia Street in Sapperton.

Outdoor pools – Open from the last weekend in June until Labour Day

  • Moody Park – The newest pool in New West is conveniently located in leafy Moody Park. Changerooms are clean and spacious, and while the pool isn’t the biggest around, it is a beautiful spot to cool off in summer. Open for public swim from 1:15 to 7:55pm in July & August. Adult swim from 8-9:25pm on Tuesdays & Thursdays; youth swim from 8-9:25pm on Wednesdays.
  • Hume Park – Pair your swim with a walk through the trails in Lower Hume or take the kids to the new adventure playground next to the pool. Hume Park is great fun. Open on fair weather days from 1:15pm-8pm.
  • Grimston Park wading pool – Open from 12-4pm in July & August, this is one of the few remaining free, public wading pools in Metro Vancouver. Staffed by a lifeguard, who often brings water toys and may offer face-painting if you are lucky. Grimston is a lesser-known park in New West, located in the West End a short walk from 22nd St. SkyTrain.

Free admission to Moody Park Pool & Hume Pool on weekends, and just $2 for adults / $1.50 for kids and seniors during the week.

Beaches

  • The not-so-“secret” beach in Queensborough is a lovely and quiet little patch of sand. You probably don’t want to go swimming in the fast-moving Fraser River, but you can cool your feet at the river’s edge and benefit from the cool air off the water and surrounding shade trees. Located off the Port Royal Riverfront Walk, on the Poplar Island side.
  • The Pier Park Urban Beach is accessed via the Quay boardwalk and a new pedestrian overpass at 4th Street (via the Parkade). While you can’t go swimming here, it’s breezy and beautiful, with trees and sun umbrellas for shade and even hammocks to relax in. The City is adding new water ‘misters’ to provide some relief from the heat (should be complete in the second week of July).

Further afield: 

When a beach where you can swim is the only thing that will do, you have to settle in for a bit of a drive or public transit adventure. Here are a couple of favourite ‘field trips’ from New West:

  • Our family’s favourite swimming beach near New West is Centennial Beach at Boundary Bay Park in Delta, which is about a half-hour drive away. It’s a long, sandy beach with shallow water that heats up to the temperature of bathwater. When the tide is in, you can go out wading until you are just a tiny speck on the horizon and still not be more than waist-deep. When the tide is out, the area is full of tidepools to explore. There is a playground and concession near the main parking lot, but if you are willing to walk a ways you can usually find a quiet spot in the seagrass where you can spread a picnic blanket. Just remember to bring lots of sunscreen and your own shade: it’s mostly scrub bush and grass out there rather than trees.
  • Sasamat Lake’s White Pine Beach is 40 minutes away and features a beautiful beach surrounded by mountains and tall evergreens.
  • English Bay Beach in downtown Vancouver is 40 minutes by car or an hour by public transit. The beach is gorgeous, and you can pair your visit with a walk around the Stanley Park Seawall or a bit of Robson Street shopping in the West End.

What about you? Where do you go to cool off on a hot summer day?

The first New West parklet goes to …. Sapperton!

Today on Twitter, Mayor Jonathan Cote announced the city’s first parklet will be built in Sapperton near Fratelli Bakery and the new Bloom Bloom Room flower shop.

If I didn’t know how long it takes to get things done at City Hall, I’d think the Mayor of New Westminster must be reading my blog.

The first of five parklets planned for the city over the next five years, the East Columbia parklet is expected to be finished this summer. The City’s goal is to create one new parklet per year over the next five years.

New West blogger Brad Cavanagh revealed he actually watches council meetings, beating me to the punch on his blog with a pretty great summary of what a parklet is, and what the City’s plans in this direction are:

For those who don’t know, a parklet is a mini park set up as an extension of a sidewalk. They’re not very large, typically fifteen to twenty meters long, and about three meters wide. They’re places for people, set up to allow people to meet, sit, and relax. Vancouver has five parklets, and they’ve been big hits almost everywhere they’ve been put in.

Yep, those are the very same kinds of public spaces I raved about after coming home from NYC: little enclaves of social civility and peace amid the hustle and bustle of sidewalks and streets.

Coming upon a parklet introduces a wee frisson of joy during a walk through a city. But it isn’t just a feel-good move. It’s actually a savvy economic development move. Cavanagh’s post shares links to studies in other cities that found adjacent businesses typically see between 9-20% more business following the installation of a parklet. Good news for Fratelli, Bloom Bloom Room, Sushi Heaven and the other businesses at that end of East Columbia!

But what about parking? As Sapperton resident Jen Arbo put it, the boon to businesses will far outweigh the loss of a couple of parking spots.

Councillor Patrick Johnstone also wrote about the parklet in a council meeting summary post on his blog:

Parklets are great ideas, and they can really improve the pedestrian and retail space in a commercial district. The City is piloting our first Parklet this summer in Sapperton, with plans to introduce another annually (at least) for the next couple of years. Staff has been given a modest budget, but a lot of flexibility to find partnership opportunities, design ideas, or creative innovations to make the Parklets fit local needs in our different neighbourhoods. I was really happy Council endorsed this program, and that staff is not only excited to implement it but have provided a really nice design for New West Parklet #1.

The initial reaction from both businesses and residents was pretty positive on Twitter:

But not everyone was pleased. The announcement irked at least one Quaysider, where gardening budgets have been cut back:

What can I say? New West loves its greenspace. Note to council: Don’t mess with our parks.

Uncovering Creeks in Hume Park

Photo Courtesy City of New Westminster
Photo Courtesy City of New Westminster

Hume Park is one of my favourite parks in New Westminster. Since moving to the east side of New West a few years ago, this park has become my go-to place for recreation. Side by side with tiny Hume Park Elementary (whose fate I ruminated on a few years ago), the  much-loved spray park and playground, dog off-leash park, playing fields, outdoor pool, and wide, sweeping, flexible lawn space, Hume Park has woven its way into my family’s life more than Moody Park ever did when we lived on the west side of town.

Recently, we’ve gotten into geocaching as a free, fun, family activity and Hume Park offers a few of those too that are kid-friendly and beginner level caches. We frequently walk the trails in Lower Hume Park with our leashed dog since she’s not really dog park material (side note: that link is another Tenth article I wrote some time ago about our city’s animal control bylaws – I’m pleased to see that they have since overhauled the animal control bylaws and have repealed BSL!). I’ve also found myself keeping my eyes on the ever-changing shores of the Brunette River that runs through Hume Park, and checking out the herons and other birds that hang out there. So, when a recent media release from the New Westminster Parks, Culture and Recreation department made its way into my inbox that mentioned “my” park, I was keen to see what they were up to.

And it’s pretty cool: New Westminster Parks, Culture, and Recreation department has partnered with Evergreen to launch a two year Parks Stewardship Program called “Uncover Your Creeks: Citizen Science” in Lower Hume Park. This is a free, all-ages program, and it kicks off this Sunday, June 16th. During the program, participants will learn about local ecology, help manage invasive plants, plant native plants, and monitor water quality in the Brunette River. The release states:

The Brunette River watershed is shared between the municipalities of Burnaby, Vancouver, Coquitlam, New Westminster and Port Moody. The watershed is 80% urbanized and is home to 175,000 people. In much of the 20% of the watershed that is made of up of green space, invasive plants are a threat to the urban ecology and biodiversity that support native plant and animal species. Through “Uncover Your Creeks: Citizen Science”, the urban ecosystem will be rehabilitated by removing invasive plant species such as Blackberry, Ivy and Lamium and planting native species such as Salmonberry and Red-Osier Dogwood.

The program runs for the next two years, occuring monthly on the third Sunday of the month. Citizen science training and activities will be offered from 10am to 12pm at each session. Sessions are drop-in but registration would be appreciated so the enough tools and gloves can be prepared. For info, or to register, contact Sharon Johal at sjohal@evergreen.ca or 604.689.0766 ext. 226. The group will meet at the Lower Hume Park picnic shelter (enter off E Columbia, just east of Holmes Street).

 

Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine: Keeping a Medicinal Garden at Westminster Pier Park

File this under “who knew?”: Western Canada’s only accredited naturopathic school is right here in New Westminster.

The Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, located at 435 Columbia Street is a graduate-level naturopathic medical college. Students applying require a university bachelor’s degree from a recognized post-secondary institution, or the equivalent and once accepted are entered into a rigorous four-year, full-time doctor of naturopathic medicine program.

The school is also home to the Boucher Naturopathic Medical Clinic. Much like the student massage clinic at West Coast College of Massage Therapy a few doors away, this teaching clinic offers high quality, affordable health-care to the public, while equipping our senior clinic interns with essential hands-on experience.

They are also the tenders of a public garden initiative at the Westminster Pier Park. Bill Reynolds, the Store Manager for the Boucher Institute told us about his recent day of gardening at their plot in the Park:

The day dawned bright with promise as we gathered at the Boucher Botanical Garden in Westminster Pier Park on April 28th, the last weekend in April.  Armed with shovels, rakes, hoes, brooms, watering pales and other requisite gardening tools; members of the Botanical Garden Committee met and proceeded with the task of the day which was the planting of our Garden.

Everything went well.  The garden plot provided by the New Westminster Park Dept. was fresh and had no weeds so, with many hands, the work simply flew and well before noon we had planted every herb available, raked the ground smooth, swept the adjacent sidewalks and then stood for a few minutes, finishing the last bits of our coffee and admiring our work.

The Boucher Botanical has been a dream of the students for quite some time and so it is especially gratifying to see it become a reality.  To date we have planted: Lemon balm, St. John’s Wort, Thyme, Sage, Lavender, Motherwort, Raspberry, Celandine, Marshmallow Comfrey, and Skull cap.  We expect to add a few more plants in the next month or so but now the job is to keep everything watered and weeded.  We want to invite all to come and visit our garden.  Westminster Pier Park borders the Fraser River just east of New Westminster Quay.  We hope you all enjoy and we will post pictures to show the progress of our plants over the spring and summer.

Boucher

Show Your Love for the Fraser River: Join the New West Shoreline Cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup™ is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems.

This year on Sunday, Sept 23, the South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup—to register, click on the link— will launch the beginning of New Westminster’s RiverFest, an art and environmental festival inspired by the Fraser River.

The Cleanup is a family friendly event, open to everyone who welcomes taking care of our shoreline. And this year, participants can show their love for the shoreline in a few different ways.

Previously Non-Recyclable Items

Throughout Canada, waste from cigarettes remains the top cleanup item collected. Last year approximately 350,000 were removed from our shorelines. This year—for the first time—all cigarette butts picked up from the New West cleanup will be sent to TerraCycle, a company that specializes in recycling previously non-recyclable items, such as pens, inkjet cartridges, and Tassimo coffee, tea, espresso, milk and hot chocolate T Discs.

In New Westminster, Nestlé candy wrappers and empty containers from Garnier® personal care and beauty products can be taken directly to London Drugs. TerraCycle Canada will then recycle these items into park benches, waste bins and more!

Styrofoam, another previously non-recycled item, was also one of the top items collected at last year’s cleanup. This year, with the launch of Styrofoam collection at the New Westminster Recycling Depot, other recyclable items collected during the cleanup, including Styrofoam and paint cans, will be picked up by the City Of New Westminster for recycling.

Removing litter, however, is just one way that participants can show their love for our shoreline.

Invasive Plant Pull

Kids and adults can also take part in an invasive plant pull of non-toxic plants.

This year participants can take part in removing holly, Lamium, morning glory, purple loosestrife, Scotch broom, and another patch of English ivy—check out the photo from last year’s plant pull.

Plants are considered invasive for a few reasons. One reason is because people or animals have brought them from their original natural habitat to a different one. These non-native plants become invasive depending on their adaptability—how quickly they can grow and multiply in the new habitat.

When non-native plants grow quickly, they take over and force native plants from their home. They rob them of their space, sunlight, water, and nutrients. Over time, these invasive plants change and damage the conditions of the natural habitat. For these reasons, invasive plants are carefully removed to not spread their seeds or other plant parts that can regrow from special habitats like—our Fraser River shoreline.*(Definition from For Peat’s Sake: The Story of Burns Bog, available at the NWPL)

For those of us who love the taste of blackberries, it can be hard to learn that the Himalayan blackberry is considered an invasive plant (Invasive Species Council of British Columbia). It’s dense thicket and thorny stems can be hazardous to humans and animals alike. The plant can also out-compete native shrubs with deep roots that can provide stability along the shoreline. To minimize the hazard of the plant’s long shoots, Jennifer Lukianchuk, Environmental Coordinator from the City of New Westminster, and Cindy Sale, Communication and Events Coordinator from the Fraser River Discovery Centre, are going to show their love for the shoreline by putting on safety equipment to prune off some of the more exposed shoots.

South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup and Invasive Plant Pull

The Shoreline Cleanup starts from 9:30 AM at the pier at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster. Participants under 19 are welcome but must attend with their parent or guardian or bring the signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.

Please bring boots that can get muddy and wear pants to protect yourself from the shrubs that grow nearby. Bring either a pen to help with data collection or tongs (some will be supplied by the City) to pick up litter, and snacks and water for yourself.

The South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup is organized by New Westminster Environmental Partners (NWEP) in partnership with the City of New Westminster and Fraser River Discover Centre.