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People want better trails and parks and more housing options in Official Community Plan

What We Heard survey provides public feedback to city council
Prince George needs more public green spaces like the Cottonwood Island Nature Park, council heard Monday night during discussion of the results of a survey regarding the Official Community Plan.

More infrastructure that protects, enhances and connects parks and open spaces was identified as a priority in a survey of Prince George residents and what they think the city should emphasize in its Official Community Plan.

In an update to city council Monday night, a civic planning consultant said public feedback gathered in the What We Heard survey prioritizes pedestrian/cycling trails and roadways in transportation and mobility planning to activate the city’s environmental protection and climate preparedness plans.

More protection of riparian areas, greenspace corridors and tree cover was also a key theme in the poll.

Residents who responded want more housing options in more areas, particularly for seniors, and believe city planners should prioritize infill development and density in growth development.

The study determined 10 per cent (8,200) of the city’s population (estimated at 82,000) has been informed about the OCP during the first round of engagement, while six per cent of Prince George residents (4,920) participated.

The consultant, Urban Systems Ltd. of Vancouver, surveyed people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, including 95 students at Prince George Secondary School, during the engagement process from September-November 2023.

Feedback was obtained through seven social media posts on four different platforms (97,000 impressions), newsletters/press releases (1,305 impressions), three town hall meetings (46 attendees), emails to 148 community interest groups and website hits (1,917 visitors).

Municipal planning staff connected with 444 visitors who attended seven popup events held between December and February at Pine Centre Mall, UNBC and the Civic Centre and at Cougars games and Winterfest.

They also heard from some of the 177 visitors who attended two open houses (April 9-10) at the House of Ancestors, which helped the consultants connect with the city’s Indigenous community. There were 18 written submissions and more than 700 comments collected.

Attendees of the open house were asked where they would like to see growth management focused by placing yellow Lego bricks on a map where they think growth and development should be focused. They placed blue bricks in areas where they want taller six-storey developments to occur.

Residents identified gaps in the existing walking/cycling network of dedicated trails/lanes that would better connect the downtown core with the Hart, College Heights and Wilson Park, providing safer road crossings and protection for users.

Riverside parks (Wilson, Moore’s Meadow, Nechako, Birdsong, Cottonwood, and Lheidli T’enneh) should be connected through improved trails, surveyors heard.

The report also highlights the need for secure bike storage, pedestrian-only areas downtown and widened, well-maintained sidewalks.

For the city’s parks and open spaces, people want more community gardens and food-growing spaces, upgraded playgrounds, parks made out of vacant lots, a sports field in the open space north of Ospika Boulevard and more greenspace in new developments. Residents want more dog parks, washrooms/water fountains, fire-prevention measures and protection for native species and wildlife in city parks and along trails.

A draft of the OCP is expected to be completed in August and finalized plan is to be presented for council approval in December.

Urban Systems consultant Andrew Cuthbert of Vancouver-based Urban Systems Ltd. told council community members can participate in a survey and can email the consultants directly with written submissions.

More opportunities for engagement will be published on the project webpage and through social media.