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Year in Review: Pandemic exposes need for more ‘heads-up’ planning in Port Moody

The Tri-City News looks back on some of the stories of the past year. In Port Moody, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a lack of sufficient park space for the growing region.
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Told to stay home to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 contagion, residents from around Metro Vancouver flocked to local parks like Belcarra Regional Park whenever the weather got nice. STEFAN LABBE/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

It’s unlikely any municipality anywhere had navigating a global pandemic in its 2020 work plan. And as the calendar flips to 2021 with the public health crisis still upon us, city governments are learning new lessons about their communities and civic priorities.

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov said restrictions on travel to keep people safe and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 highlighted the importance of the availability of parks and open space keeping pace with population growth.

He said he was particularly dismayed by the pressure put on local parks like Rocky Point Park and Belcarra Regional Park that quickly filled to overflowing whenever the weather was nice. Normally placid walking and hiking trails turned into superhighways of human traffic, crowded beaches and open spaces became potential petrie dishes for contagion.

“This glaring hole in our regional planning highlights the critical need to be so very careful about development decisions,” Vagramov said, adding unless park space keeps pace, quality of life for new and existing residents will decline.

Vagramov said while he was heartened by the city’s response to keep up with the constantly shifting landscape of the pandemic, the experiences of the past year must inform all future planning for crisis management.

“The lack of ‘head-up’ planning for local governments only added to a sense of scrambling at times,” he said. “People need a stable set of parameters that can be crafted around their situation, rather than a blanket approach during the acute period.”