What do you look for in a park? The answer likely varies with many factors – including your goals (such as experiencing nature, exercise or sports), your mood (are you wanting to get away from it all or feel connected to neighbours) and who you’re with (a young child, for example, an older adult, or friends).
Those looking for an urban escape might head to the woods of Mount Douglas Park, while a runner might prefer the trail around the Cedar Hill Golf Course. A game of tennis? Choose from numerous options across the district … and the same goes for playgrounds for children of all ages.
The team at Saanich Parks keeps all of these variables in mind – and plenty more – as they weigh options for park locations and amenities, explains Mike Goldsworthy, a Park Planner and Designer with Saanich for 23 years.
In Saanich, parks fall under three categories:
- Neighbourhood – smaller, local parks, often with playgrounds, sport courts and similar facilities.
- Community – larger parks that draw people from farther afield, like Cadboro-Gyro, Lambrick and Layritz.
- Municipal – these are larger parks with a regional draw, like the Gorge Waterway, Mount Tolmie and Mount Douglas.
Within those three categories, parks are then assigned particular park use attributes: natural, structured athletic, unstructured recreation, nature sanctuary and special purpose (like horticultural displays).
Parks can feature one of these attributes or have three or more, Mike explains.
Today, Saanich boasts more than 170 parks across the region, with an Official Community Plan policy of having five hectares of parkland for every 1,000 people, and having a park within walking distance of most homes within the urban area.
When parks are due for a renewal, whether for a playground update or a change to the amenities, it’s important to connect with the community. “We like to ask questions up front to get a better sense of what the community is looking for: What do you like, what would you like to see more of and what would you change?” Mike says.
The planning process also explores ways to support residents’ physical activity, mental wellness, educational experiences and natural intelligence. “When we’re due to replace a playground, for example, we’re also asking ‘What else could we do? What are the current trends? What would enhance this park?’” Mike says.
In Horner Park, for example, a new loop trail and additional seating was recently added, recognizing the many older adults in the neighbourhood who were wanting more opportunities to get out and walk.
Factors such as neighbourhood demographics and development also factor into both new park acquisitions and park renewal projects.
Public feedback is always welcome, Mike notes. To share your ideas, you can visit the Park Partners page online, where you’ll find project guidelines, an application form, information about community groups and more or you can also email email@example.com or call 250-475-5522 for more information.