Play spaces for children, or the lack of them, has been an ongoing issue raised by members of West End Families in Action. Why do they matter so much to families in this neighbourhood? Simple, it’s about space. When you live in an apartment your children don’t have access to a backyard. You need to get out. This is further compounded by the fact that the 2006 census identified 1,300 families with children living in studio and one bedroom apartments in the West End. The benefits of play and physical activity are commonly understood. Why then, is there just one playground within the boundaries of the West End?
The 2011 Census found that the West End had the fourth highest density of children when compared with other communities in the City of Vancouver.
If we compare the same communities using information from the City’s guide to area parks it becomes very clear that the West End has fewer parks than other communities, but also way fewer playgrounds. It should be noted that the total number of parks (and playgrounds) for the West End does include Stanley Park. While this is a great asset, it is not within boundaries of the West End, as defined by the West End Community Plan. For families and caregivers the further challenge is that because the playgrounds in Stanley Park are quite a ways in they are not easily accessible and require a “special” trip.
Sure, there are other playgrounds in the West End, on Vancouver School Board property. As such these playgrounds are not available for use during school hours (understandably). The maintenance of these facilities also falls squarely on the shoulders of school Parent Advisory Councils (PAC) through fundraising. All the same these facilities are used heavily outside of school hours by the wider community, without the financial support of the City or Parks Board. (See the previous post on the shading of Lord Roberts playground during community use hours).
So what does the one and only City playground in the West End look like? Well, it is referred to by many parents as the art sculpture. To add insult to injury it is designed for children 5 to 12 years old! So, the preschool set who cannot access the school playgrounds during the day are out of luck.
There is one last place to go… it is not an official playground, but it has a loyal following. The Barclay Heritage Square wobble board is well-used. This site has been identified by many families as just one potential location for more playground equipment.
The West End Community Plan has set the wheels in motion for increased density in our neighbourhood. Before this happens we need to work towards improving the amenities for the people who already live here. WEFA hopes the City and Parks Board will recognize the need for enhanced play spaces and work with the community to give our children the play spaces they need.