Open spaces mean different things to different people – a place to play organized sports or throw a Frisbee, a place to enjoy a fun playground, or a place to sit and watch the water. Some people use open spaces for exercise, but many more use them to socialize with friends and neighbours.
Sociable open spaces that appeal to lots of different people are safer, and make the community more resistant to crime and other social problems by helping people make a connection with their community, and by building community pride. Residents of towns with attractive, welcoming public spaces are happier and healthier, and open spaces that focus on sociability are the most successful at drawing in a wide range of people. As it turns out, the most attractive thing about an open space is other people - people come where people are!
While “open spaces” include parks, our definition of open space also includes sidewalks, trails, streets, parking lots, plazas, parks, outdoor recreation facilities, brooks, backyards, the LaHave River and all kinds of other open spaces.
For example, consider a streetscape. The roadway provides vehicle access to a place, but the other elements of the streetscape play many different open space roles. Street trees, landscape strips and rain gardens provide wildlife habitat and slow down storm water run-off, ease heat island effects, and make the pedestrian environment more attractive and comfortable. Benches and bump-outs provide places for rest and socializing, and wide sidewalks create an inviting atmosphere for strolling, window shopping and casual meet-ups with friends. Bike lanes provide a place for recreation and physical activity, and attractive storefronts create interest and draw visitors to the street.
What is the “public interest” in open space network planning and why should we care?
“Planners practice in a manner that respects the diversity, needs, values and aspirations of the public as well as acknowledge the inter-related nature of planning decisions and the consequences for natural and human environments.” - Canadian Institute of Planners, Code of Professional Conduct
The public interest provides transparency and provides an opportunity to talk about our open spaces and ask questions, such as:
→ Where are we coming from?
→ What are we missing?
→ Are we thinking about everyone?
→ Ultimately, there is no one, single public interest we are all different!
Interests in our public spaces include: equality, health, nature, connectivity, place, and good governance.
Our network of open spaces provides inviting places for people to gather, exercise, find locally grown food and connect with nature.
Our community is connected by welcoming sidewalks, trails, streets, bridges and the LaHave River, making it easy for people of all ages and abilities to move about.
Our beautiful open spaces attract visitors to our Town and are a source of pride for our community.
They provide wildlife habitat and contribute to the health of the LaHave River Watershed.
→ Identify gaps in the open space network;
→ Identify barriers to open space use and promote inclusivity;
→ Establish a framework for prioritizing open space investment;
→ Identify opportunities to improve physical connections between open spaces to promote active transportation choices;
→ Identify opportunities to improve social connection and access to nature;
→ Influence decisions for enhanced ecosystem health;
→ Identify opportunities to improve access to food grown in open spaces;
→ Identify opportunities to raise awareness and increase use of open spaces;
→ Foster partnerships to build capacity.
Have something say? Let’s hear it!
Want to learn more about open spaces in Bridgewater? Click here to learn more!