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Parklets provide public space in North Vancouver. Credit: City of North Vancouver
For municipalities, pandemic restrictions meant closing many facilities—municipal halls, libraries, community recreation centres, event centres and, for a while, playgrounds and playing fields.
The provincial health officer strongly encouraged people to get outside for recreational, social, and health purposes, and they did—in droves.
“The utilization of these outdoor amenities increased to all-time-high numbers, which created challenges given the directives for physical distancing and the demands on parking and trail use,” report Heather Turner of North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission and Mike Hunter of City of North Vancouver. “Without having our indoor facilities to utilize, we turned to outdoor public spaces. . . . Thankfully, we were able to reopen playgrounds and playing fields in mid-June 2020 and these venues, along with parks and plazas, afforded us with viable options.”
Parks and plazas became options for program venues, and municipal staff responded quickly to offer a wide range of dance, fitness, art, and play-based programs. “This may sound simple,” say Turner and Hunter, “but it wasn’t, as all of the site safety protocols needed for indoors were also required outdoors and most of these venues did not have adjacent storage facilities, washrooms, or covers for rain.”
The municipality also turned to outdoor spaces to assist businesses. In May 2020, North Vancouver’s city council endorsed a COVID-19 adaptation and recovery framework for economic and community recovery. The resulting initiatives have included expansion of the patio dining program, addition of parklets in business districts, and more opportunities for businesses to use public parks to deliver their services.
“To help make life a little easier during COVID-19 and to encourage residents to use public spaces as extensions of their own backyards, the City of North Vancouver became the first municipality in the province to allow the responsible consumption of alcohol in designated outdoor areas in parks and plazas,” say Turner and Hunter. The pilot project for such alcohol-allowed-zones received overwhelming community support and the initiative was made permanent in November 2020.
|Download Summer 2021|
Read more about municipal challenges and outdoor solutions to public space demand in “Places for People” in the Summer 2021 edition of Input. Download Summer 2021
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