Coquitlam will plant 10,000 trees this year, hire students for parks jobs and expand the winter lights at Mackin Park as part of a $250,000 package aimed at making the city’s parks greener and more fun.
On Monday, city council unanimously OK’d the money from the Land Sales Reserve Investment Fund (LSRIF) to spend on a series of new and updated programs in the parks and recreation department.
The move is in response to the public demand for green space, which has been growing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. As well, the city has been heavily criticized in recent months for cutting trees, including for the Austin Works Yard project by Mundy Park.
COQUITLAM TREE SPREE
To coincide with the launch of its Environment Sustainability Plan, the municipality aims to double the number of trees going into the ground this year from 5,000 to 10,000.
In a report to council, Lanny Englund, Coquitlam’s general manager of parks, recreation, culture and facilities, said the seedlings will be planted by city staff and volunteers in forested and developed areas of parks, schools and boulevards.
In addition, seedlings will be handed out to Coquitlam residents and business owners — for free — to plant on their property; they’ll be distributed at public events such as Canada Day and at community activities.
To keep track of the number of trees being planted during the year, the city will post a real-time counter on its website, Englund said.
To address the need for youth employment, as per the city’s 2020 Youth Strategy, Coquitlam plans to hire up to eight students this summer.
The successful candidates will be mentored by full-time parks staff, and work on a variety of areas from trail upkeep to turf maintenance.
Under the CUPE collective agreement, the students will be eligible to apply to return to their Park Operations People (POP) jobs and, once graduated, could be candidates for full-time city work. “It’s a new stream of potential city employees,” Englund told council at its April 4 meeting.
To gauge how much Coquitlam parks are being used, the city will buy counters to track how many people are at popular sites such as the Coquitlam Crunch, the Percy Perry track and Como Lake, Mackin and Mundy parks.
According to Englund’s report, the counter for Town Centre Park showed visitors travelled 1.3 million kilometres around Lafarge Lake last year. “That’s like collectively all of our residents and guests walking around the equator 32 times,” Coun. Craig Hodge said in astonishment.
As well, the city plans to launch a survey in parks this summer to get suggestions on improvements and programming.
Last year, the winter light show at Mackin Park was funded by the city’s Community Support and Recovery Program.
This year, the city wants to dip into the LSRIF to continue — and expand — the light display that was well received in Maillardville.
Still, it’s unclear if the street lights down Brunette Avenue during the winter months will remain, as the city’s Streetscape Enhancement Committee is reviewing the details for Maillardville and other neighbourhoods.
More picnic tables, chairs and hammocks are being eyed this summer for popular green spaces such as Town Centre, Blue Mountain, Glen, Burke Mountain Pioneer and Marguerite parks.
Pairs of tennis tables will also go in at Blue Mountain, Glen and Mackin parks this spring, while a new fleet of canoes, paddles and personal floatation devices will be bought for the city’s Learn to Paddle program at Town Centre Park.
And the portable bike pump track — located on the western side of Mundy Park in 2020 as part of a pop-up youth park — will move to Glen Park; the track will also double in size.
Asked by Coun. Chris Wilson why the park initiatives weren’t included in the 2022 budget, city manager Peter Steblin said the LSRIF account is “set up to give the community a dividend” and targets “impromptu” requests.
“It struck me this was a very appropriate source of funds for this initiative,” Steblin said.
Added Coun. Teri Towner, “These benefit all of our residents — regardless of age, interest and abilities.”