Monday, May 16, 2011

Dialogue with Tilo Driessen at Vancouver Park Board

Today we had a privilege to talk with Tilo Driessen from Vancouver Park Board. He is very knowledgeable, has passion in the local communities, and open to share stories, even ones that are off-records. Coming from an architecture degree, he shared his view of architecture as "Social Craft". As it comes to a park, it is where people gather, taking a break, accessing to nature, and forming a community. Making a desirable park is not easy to design as it seems. He shared many struggling stories with communities and described how hard it can be to meet community demands as well as City's capacity. It is also surprising that they do not know how parks are actually used, and therefore they are interested in knowing what's going on in the parks. In fact, we are assigned to go to five chosen parks in Downtown Vancouver and observe how parks are used, which becomes our group project of this program. We might have a chance to present the reports to the Park Board and could have a real impact on their decision makings. I will be at George Wainborn Park for next a couple days to observe and collect data.

City of Vancouver has the Access to Nature goal; "All Vancouver residents live within a five minute walk of a park, greenway, or other green space by 2020". In order to archive this goal, community engagement is essential. It is important that these are driven by neighborhood. City and the Park Board are providing what he calls a "toolkit" and working with communities to make better neighborhood. There are programs such as Neighbourhood Matching Fund and Greenest City Neighbourhood Grants for community leaders to make green neighbourhoods. I would be very interested to see how city is encouraging collaborations within communities and improving their services.
Another thing I would like to note from the conversation is how city planning is shaped by complains. People complain when things are not working well or they don't like whatever they are getting. If, however, it is working well, they are happy and don't bother report back to city. So it is often filled up with complains and city has to deal with "don't do this" voices.
Therefore, in order to make a better community, it is a key to encourage active engagement and bring creative people on the board to plan their neighbourhood together.

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