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VanPlay master plan sets course for Vancouver’s next 50 years

VanPlay will give this Board—and Boards well into the future—the powerful tools, lenses and rationale to build an equitable and connected parks and recreation system.

Stuart Mackinnon, Chair, Vancouver Park Board

October 10 2019 –

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has endorsed the final two reports of VanPlay, the city’s parks and recreation services master plan. The plan, developed over the past three years with input from thousands of residents, stakeholders, partners and consultants, outlines the bold moves that represent a new way of thinking, with equity, asset needs and connectivity at the core of Park Board planning and decision-making.

“VanPlay is the map and compass that will guide us as we plan and grow parks and recreation opportunities for the next 50 years,” said Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon. “More importantly, VanPlay will give this Boardand Boards well into the futurethe powerful tools, lenses and rationale to build an equitable and connected parks and recreation system.”

Read more about VanPlay

The approval of VanPlay represents a significant and defining moment for the Park Board; a commitment to the equitable delivery of parks and recreation opportunities in a connected, efficient manner which celebrates the unique history of the land, place, and culture.

The VanPlay strategy will have positive and sweeping implications for much of the Vancouver Park Board’s day-to-day operations, as well as park and facility planning. Most notably, three Strategic Bold Moves (38 MB) (Equity, Asset Needs, and Connectivity) will enable staff to focus resources, projects, and capital planning outlooks in a more purposeful way.

Decisions driven by equity

Bold Move 1: Equity provides staff and the Park Board with tools to begin to address imbalances in the delivery of resources such as trees, parks, land use and infrastructure. The community and stakeholders were clear that equity, inclusion, and access are top priorities for the future, with a focus on increased transparency around decision-making and priority-setting.

Using the Initiative Zones equity tool, historically under-served areas of the city can be identified. By focusing projects, resources, funding, and effort on these areas of the city, over time, provision will become more equitable.

Assets to meet Vancouver’s growing and changing needs

Bold Move 2: Asset Needs, takes stock of the Park Board’s assets – which include park space, sports fields, ice rinks, and urban forests, to name a few, and considers future needs through goal setting to provide service excellence. Targets provide the ability to measure goals over time, prioritize investments, and align funding.

A vision for a connected parks and recreation system

Bold Move 3: Connectivity, intends to create vibrant, healthy communities by encouraging the connection and integration of parks and facilities with the neighbourhood, the city, and the region. The connected network will create places to play, exercise and socialize while providing pathways for the movement of urban wildlife and rainwater, with direct and intuitive connections for pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and abilities.

The concept is based on Vancouver’s famous seawall, a pathway that provides connections with a park-like experience and also reflects First Nations principles such as a strong sense of belonging on the land, relationship to the water, and the importance of gathering spaces and places to heal.

The plan to get us there

VanPlay also includes a Playbook Implementation Plan (6 MB), which identifies foundational tasks and approaches for action such as setting clear policy, supporting effective communication, and building robust data and mapping resources, which will ease the implementation of the entire suite of VanPlay recommendations.

VanPlay is the culmination of three years of intensive and unprecedented engagement with Vancouver residents, stakeholders, park and recreation partners, staff, Board members and industry consultants. In all, over 30,000 conversations took place, including more than 4,000 during a tour of the city with a pop-up playground. Nearly 4,000 surveys were completed, and more than 600 people attended the VanPlay Smart City talk series to hear dozens of speakers explore potential ideas for the future of parks and recreation in Vancouver.

In July, 2018, the Board approved the Inventory and Analysis report, which describes the current state of parks and recreation in Vancouver, including findings from community, staff, and stakeholder engagement relating to current challenges and opportunities for the future, and 10 Goals to Shape the Next 25 Years, which sets out aspirational objectives to position the Park Board to respond to challenges and opportunities. 

The last parks and recreation master plan was completed over 25 years ago. Vancouver has changed dramatically in the intervening years, and this new city-wide parks and recreation services master plan will do much to enhance long-range planning, policy, and service goals. VanPlay recognizes Vancouver’s parks and recreation system’s many challenges, including inequity, increasing and varying community needs, climate change, aging infrastructure, stretched resources, and ever-shifting urgent priorities.

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The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation are stewards of a network of over 240 parks and a large public recreation system of community centres, pools, sports fields, golf courses, and street trees. Its mission is to provide, preserve, and advocate for parks and recreation services to benefit all people, communities, and the environment.