How will we ensure equitable access to parks and public spaces?

Featuring Dave Harvey, Executive Director, Park People; Carlos Moreno, Scientific Director, Chair ETI (Entrepreneurship – Territory – Innovation), Panthéon – Sorbonne University; Rena Soutar, Reconciliation Planner, City of Vancouver Parks & Recreation; and Cheyenne Sundance, Founder & Farmer, Sundance Harvest Farm.

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Shifting how we think about providing green space

One of the panelists argued that we need to shift from the notion of providing green space across the city to focusing on historically underserved areas of our cities. Through that lens, we often see a stark picture in the unevenness in the types of green spaces available across our urban landscapes, and the areas in which the most vulnerable among often do not have access to open space, which is so needed during COVID-19.

2. Making parks more welcoming

The design and governance of public spaces is not neutral, and there are signals (posted signs, the design of park infrastructure, park rules, etc.) that communicate who public spaces are for, and who feels comfortable in them. Intentional urban design that ensures public spaces are welcoming for everyone is needed—for example, working with rights holders to restore control over public space. In the case of Vancouver, for instance, there is work happening to designate parcels of land for Indigenous cultural practice.

3. Parks as a public good

One of our panelists brought up the need to define parks as a public good. Parks are centers for social inclusion where activities such as music, leisure, culture and sports co-exist. Paris was identified as having a progressive funding model where the local participatory budget process resulted in an improvement of public spaces.

4. Parks of hope

Parks are a place where change can happen. Our panelists explored many aspects of life which can be transformed by parks. Urban farming, for example, and enabling income generation through urban farming, could be a measure to help communities access opportunity and community connection.

5. Funding parks

Panelists argued that parks were already underfunded before COVID-19, and this has only been exacerbated by the crisis. Our panelists suggested reevaluating municipal budgets to provide more money to fund park spaces.