Are greenspaces and trails adequately funded?

January, 2017. This page is in need up updating

Whitehorse can be more walkable.

The city continually must face its limits, both financially and logistically. We have a very spread out city and a broad range of interests and voices. The City's Parks and Recreation department's trails and greenspace people are stretched dealing with larger picture things.

Walking, a necessity, a frivolous extra?

We're a steadily growing city, with a small population and a small tax base. The city has neither the money nor staff to accomplish what would be required in creating a great walking city, so what about our walking expectations? Are they bad? Unrealistic? Some quotes from the 2007 Parks and Recreation Master Plan:

When thinking of walking, we should look harder at allocation of spending, fair use of taxes, focus of initiatives. There there are many paths to funding walking opportunities. My •Walking Guides: Territorial and Canada page hilites a number of opportunities the community and the city could pursue using creative planning. As a community we've often made things happen when people got behind something: Millennium Bridge, Canada Games Centre, Ball diamonds in Takhini, paved trail by airport, Mt McIntyre Ski area and chalet, Mt. Sima, .... As Contagious Mountain Bike Club president Sierra van der Meerrecently said “We may be a very small place, but we’ re capable of anything when we work together.”

It's also important to acknowledge the part of private businesses. Many sponsor team-based sport and generally help out in community initiaves. Creative thinking and networking could bring some things to fruition. The Spook Creek Parkette and the Main Street pedestrian bridge are two with very obvious business links.

I've identified some specific things on my Ideas to improve walking page.

Green spaces are also for recreation

There used to be a prception that the city only favoured development, that green space was only land awaiting development. But the 2010 revision to the OCP focussed on simplifying community expectations on land use by designating land as either Future Development or 'green'. Future development means potentially developable. Green land includes PR - parks and recreation, ES - environmental protection, PG - greenbelt.

As an extension to this step in the OCP, the city needs to look at internal responsiblities. There is a large staff in planning and engineering whose jobs are to develop roads and subdivisions and engineering-style infrastructure. There should also be someone in the city whose role is to care passionately about land; who speaks up when other departments want to build a road, or a subdivision, who's on the 'green' side of things. As a walking advocate I'd like to think that I could approach such a person and talk walking opportunities in city initiatives.

How to ensure that Parks get sufficient resources?

The OCP designated 5 official Parks: These park areas are intended to be preserved for all future residents of Whitehorse. Prioritization of Trail Plan implementation measures shall be considered for these Park areas. The City will work with stewards, user groups and interested residents to further define these unique areas within the City, subject to City resources. - 2010 Official Community Plan

With the city starting to look at the meaning of Park Planning, Planning should look at the value of the Parks beyond the needs of trail users and make any committees accordingly. I've started a 5 OCP Parks page specifically to look at the broader context of Parks in neighbourhoods. JAn 2017. This page is in need up updating.

Equitable funding for city's recreation styles

2009 Case Study on Walking in Whitehorse "The independent mobility of children, young adults, people with a disability and seniors is currently compromised by the dominance of motor vehicle priority in the City. The allocation of space to motor vehicles, distances to destinations, vehicle speeds, insufficient safe crossing points and the impact of noise and air pollution on any comfortable and attractive walking opportunities all deter these groups from choosing to walk as part of everyday life."

Our 'urban' city walking is so different from southern cities and our 'rural' walking is awesome. Yet I see little emphasis on walking in Whitehorse. Why? Walking is free. Walkers don't need very specialized clothing or equipment. Teams and practice space aren't an issue. Walkers do like nice walks, a good variety, short, long, hard, easy; quiet, scenic, efficient are some words that come to mind.

Look at the scope of city trails:

As society's health grows in importance, governments are trying hard to encourage people to walk more. My page: Walking and wellness makes me aware of how much could be done locally if walking were to become a city focus.

Outdoor-based recreation

The citizens of Whitehorse will enjoy year-round access to ample green spaces, accessible trails, active living opportunities and cultural events that reflect our commitment to creating a livable, safe, attractive, healthy and sustainable four season community.

Guiding Principles, Diversity: The Plan recognizes the wide variety of recreational and leisure users and activities, and is committed to accommodating a diversity of activities in a healthy, safe and respectful manner.
- 2007 Parks and Recreation Master Plan

We hear projections of population growth, we want affordable housing, higher density — the City must grow inwards, with less sprawl.

As our City continues to grow, the greenspaces within our neighbourhoods will be under greater pressure. Particularly in the urban subdivisions, people's expectations will also be changing.

Principles from Strategic Sustainability Plan: Equity: Value equity, fairness, and inclusiveness in our community relationships
- 2010 Official Community Plan

Having built the multiplex, the City of Whitehorse has, over the past few years, spent a significant part of its recreation budget on a more indoor-based concept of active recreation using facilities such as the multiplex and arenas. It also facilitates outdoor neighbourhood rinks. This more facility-sports-style of exercise has become a strong focus of the Parks and Recreation department and is certainly good for health and fun.

However, many people want less organized, less competitive recreation, less expensive recreation. Walking can happen day or night, without signing up, or scheduling, or joining a group; no trip to the dealership to buy a new bicycle or snowmobile.

Five minute walking distance to green space from residence
Integrated community sustainability plan, 2007

People are becoming much more conscious of their energy footprint. Their expectations are to not use vehicles wherever possible — this especially applies to recreating. That one would need to get in a car to go somewhere to have a nice long quiet walk or snowshoe is not a well-planned city should be. Being able to walk to trails from one's home is a big plus.

Governments of all levels have started to come to grips with an increasingly out-of-shape population. Our governments need to be encouraging a more active healthy population — less driving, less sitting. Lack of wellness will cost a lot of health care dollars and will result in people's lives being less than they could be.

Some readings