Vital People: The youth project proposes a new community park in Victoria

Thirty-one young people were commissioned to design a community park for Quadra Village.

A group of young people in Victoria are helping to bring plans for a community park to fruition.

The group, ages 14 to 29, was the first cohort of Youth Leadership Labs, a pilot project being run by The Starfish Canada, a nonprofit focused on bringing together youth interested in environmental issues, and Aryze Developments, a housing and urban development project. planning company.

The pilot project ran from February to March and was funded in part by the Victoria Foundation.

Thirty-one young people were commissioned to design a community park for Quadra Village.

For eight weeks they participated in virtual workshops and held joint sessions, meeting with Victoria City Council, the Urban Planning Department, Aryze Developments and decision makers across the Capital Region. They learned about sustainable urban planning and how a placemaking project can bring a community together.

“Young people are not just tomorrow’s leaders, they are today’s leaders,” said Kyle Empringham, co-founder of The Starfish Canada.

“With the program, we wanted to expose and engage them by getting them to share their ideas in a community initiative. We wanted to get them to be part of the conversation, make them part of the conversation, and help them connect and learn from each other.”

The main theme of the community park is sustainability. It will have three main areas – a public gathering area, a play area and one with raised beds for growing plants. There will be educational signage throughout.

The group was divided into teams of five or six, with each team given a topic to work on. Themes included cheerful/playful, disability, art or biodiversity.

Contestant Taylor Koel worked on the happy/playful theme for the park. Her team came up with a design featuring criss-crossing pathways with a dome in the middle. The dome, which they envisioned being covered with creepers such as vetch, was to have an entrance for children to go in and play.

“The nice thing was that the organizers were open to ideas. They just wanted to hear each team’s pitches and pick the best ideas,” said Koel, 24, who recently graduated with an environmental sciences degree.

“It was a great opportunity to get involved and network. I learned that I was not isolated but part of a collective of other like-minded people with a common interest in environmental protection.”

The park is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2023. Its final design has yet to be revealed.

Each young person in the program received a fee of $200 for their participation.

“Targeted workshops like this allow young people to envision the future of a community and gain experience,” said Koel, who hopes to work in urban planning.

Participants came up with ideas such as “Our Roots” with a trail with edible plants along the trail, a seed library, reflective prompts in English and Braille, and community seating; a chalkboard or erasable mural for people to add their thoughts to; a building with a butterfly-shaped roof that can collect rainwater for the garden; and a children’s fairy garden with twinkling lights and mushroom-shaped stools to encourage whimsical and magical thinking.

“The ideas these young people had were diverse, inclusive and imaginative, yet realistic. I’m quite inspired by what they came up with,” Empringham said.

The organizers were so pleased with the results that they hope to replicate the project in other community-based projects and partnerships across Canada in the future.

Other programs offered by The Starfish Canada include Top Environmentalists Under 25, an annual celebration showcasing the best in Canadian youth environmentalism. The organization also offers workshops geared toward elementary and high school students, a youth advisory board made up of students in grades 6 through 11 who meet monthly, and a speaker bureau where youth share stories on 13 topics, including youth engagement and climate change.

One of its strengths is its journal, a platform that allows more than 50 authors to make their voices heard on the various environmental issues that matter to them.

“Last year was a record year for commitment and growth in our existence,” said Empringham, who is based in Victoria.

“More than 10,000 young people have connected with us – mostly online – which has resulted in a 400 percent increase in our workforce.”

Founded in 2010, The Starfish Canada became a charity in 2018.

parrais@timescolonist.com

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