Given Chilliwack’s steady growth in recent years, creating adequate parks and green spaces to keep pace with that growth is crucial.
That’s the philosophy of the new 2016 Greenspace Plan and Supplementary Trail Network Plan, which was approved by council at Tuesday’s meeting.
“People really appreciate our parks and green spaces,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.
But since 67 per cent of Chilliwack’s land base is agricultural, there are restrictions on how much can be freed up on the valley floor for parkland and trails.
So city reps are focusing on regional opportunities, partnering with groups and individuals for improving trails, and finding underused spaces.
“We have to think ahead and that’s where the Greenspace plan is going. Our park and trail needs are going to grow as more people come into our community,” said Mayor Gaetz.
The comprehensive plan pinpoints the need for “15 new neighborhood parks” in addition to those identified in the Eastern Hillsides plan. It also identifies 21 park or public lands where additional park facilities could be added.
The overall objective of the plan: “to ensure the City has a solid strategy in place to provide adequate park land, greenspace and outdoor recreational facilities as well as to, over time, develop a continuous greenway system, connecting parks, greenspace, neighborhoods and business areas.
“The Plan also envisions a larger trail network extending into rural areas and connecting with adjoining regional trail systems.”
It’s a very thoughtful approach, and there’s been a shift in emphasis from “tot lots” to neighbourhood parks, where they repurpose underused spaces, or land owned by the city.
Increasingly, residents and volunteers are coming forward to help.
“The sweet thing is we are seeing those with passion for their community, coming together to add value to our greenspaces and trails. It’s making us so very proud,” said Gaetz.
She gave the example of people working with the Chilliwack Park Society to build trails, to the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition, helping improve riparian areas.
Completing the south side of the Rotary Vedder Trail is a priority.
“In our community the Vedder Trail is probably the most used amenity, so it makes sense to continue loop it around past the bridge.”
That plan for a circuitous route of the Vedder Trail is dependent in the long run on property acquisition and funding for the pedestrian bridge, and is an example of the future improvements to come.
“The Plan examines opportunities and mechanisms by which the city can acquire park land and greenspace and where it is needed to satisfy present deficiencies and to plan for the future,” according to the plan document. “As a supplement to the Greenspace Plan, the Trail Network Plan (TNP) proposes a network of trail systems and green links, connecting parks and greenspace to residential and commercial areas and to adjacent regional trail networks.”
It also recognized that, “while Chilliwack has some identified deficiencies” in park space, opportunities still exist to achieve park land targets within new “greenfield” developments.