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Letter to the editor: Protecting and expanding Prince George parks should be top priority

We know that parks and green space are increasingly vital for our good physical and mental health.
Ginters Meadow
Ginter's Meadow is seen near the Massey Drive entrance.

What’s on your mind for Christmas, Prince George? What do you want Santa to leave in your stocking?  For a growing number of people, support for Prince George parks and trail systems is on their wish list.

Beginning in the 1960s, there have been numerous city park plans – many were contracted out to professional planners. One of the outspoken planners and also a past critic of city planning, was Desmond Parker. He observed that a lack of planned development, day to day expedience, waste associated with the inappropriate subdivision pattern and the tendency to carry out public works with short term benefits has deprived much of the development under the city of its maximum benefit. Secondly, proposed standards do not take into account the future increased demands for park facilities as a result of projected increases in the amount of leisure time and disposable income. Thirdly, he had hoped that Prince George could learn from the experience of other communities which have squandered their natural assets. 

When park plans were being designed, there was discussion about a trail system that would consist of green trail corridors that inter-connected city parks. The accepted acreage for parks and trails at that time was based on the accepted federal ratio of 1.5 acres per 1,000 people.  At that time, we had acceptable park space. As time went on, Prince George population numbers increased. In 1981, our population was 67,500. By 2018, the city had grown to 74,000 people. Population numbers in 2022 increased to 84,000. In the last four years, we have grown by 2,500 people every year.  This growth means 200 people a month who move to Prince George looking for access to clean air and green space for their growing families. Do we have the necessary parks, trails and green space, and who will step up to protect what we have?

We know that parks and green space are increasingly vital for our good physical and mental health. Prince George is planted on the fringe of forests.  When people move here, this is what they are expecting to find, not a barren wasteland.  Protecting our natural foliage then is important to our survival.  Researchers already know natural foliage creates cleaner air, acts as a fire block and a coolant in summer reducing the possibility of forest fires, as well as providing a home for wildlife who both preceded us and now share their homes with us in the woods and throughout the city, eating our garbage. Prince George’s bear kill statistics are the highest in the province.  This could be food for thought for city planners and how they manage green space.

With an approaching recession and unknown COVID times, our parks and trails should be considered our most valued asset. At the same time, this asset is very vulnerable in the face of short-term residential planning and industrial logging methods. This is why our parks and trail systems need our strong support.  Two specific nature parks come to mind -- Ginter's Meadow and Moore's Meadow, both of which are threatened by residential and infrastructure-related encroachment.

If you want to see these places as a continued, treasured healthy spaces to enjoy next year and the years thereafter, take a minute to support these and other park and trail systems by writing letters, signing petitions and making your wishes known to city council.   You can also take a walk in a natural park nearby, join with others to develop good ideas on how to mitigate damage to, and becoming an advocate for green space.  Also consider picking the fruit off your trees, so that we do not lure the ever-growing black bear population toward their death on our streets as they supplement their diet with our garbage. 

In 2023, the City of Prince George will begin reviewing its Official Community Plan.  This is now a very good time to think forward about the kind of parks and trails legacy we want to save for future generations. Like Desmond Parker, who hoped that we could still escape the mistakes other cities make, we can still hope that city planners make better decisions and that we do not continue to squander out best assets.

Cheryl Wehr

Prince George