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Civic Impact

Parks Summit welcomes ideas from around the world

At last year’s Parks Summit, participants learned lessons on improving parks from other cities in Canada. At this year’s summit, which takes place on March 5, the agenda takes a more global perspective, with a keynote speaker from Medellín, Colombia, a once troubled city that’s reinvented itself, partly through its public spaces programs.

Keynote speaker David Escobar-Arango, former planner of “Library Parks” in Medellín, will talk about how the city—whose reputation for innovation has helped sweep aside a past where drug gangs was prevalent—worked closely with local communities to develop a series of public libraries set in city parks, many of them located in some of the city’s most disadvantaged communities.

“Its so amazing that cities that can be so different can learn from each other,” says Dave Harvey, executive director of Park People, which hosts the annual summit. “A key lesson from the dramatic turnaround in Medellín is that community rejuvenation started with improvements to parks and the public realm, and that the cornerstone for successful new public realm was strong community engagement and input at all points in the projects, as well as after the projects are complete.”

At the last summit, participants discussed how successes in other Canadian cities have been the result of strong partnerships between city park staff and community. That’s something Park People and more than 100 park friends groups across the have built on over the past year, working toward stronger and more productive relationships with city staff.

“It’s our sixth summit and we’ve seen a dramatic increase in community involvement in our parks and a much stronger sense of partnerships from the city as well,” says Harvey. “I think the summits have really helped spur the growth in park friends groups from 40 to over 100 in every ward in the city and helped inspire such interesting new park projects as the Under Gardiner.

The summit, expected to hit its 400-participant capacity, takes place between 1pm and 5:30pm on March 5 at Daniel’s Spectrum in Regent Park.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Dave Harvey
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