Making Places to Go

“When you have to go you have to go”, this the slogan that I used last summer when as President of the West End Residents Association (WERA), we staged a little event in Nelson Park entitled “Potty Power” to advocate for the replacement of the washroom in the park. At the “Potty Power” event, in a tongue and cheeky way, I gave away little potties to toddlers to demonstrate the need for a washroom in Nelson Park.

Potty Power images
Potty Power Utube
WERA letter to VPB

The need for a washroom as part of the built environment in the public realm is a serious issues that needs to be addressed. In Nelson Park, in particular, there used to be a washroom in the field house. When the park was redevelop in 2007 the field house was demolished and the washroom was not replaced.

Nelson Park is a heavily used park in the West End. Now after the park’s redevelopment there are even more users. There is an enclosed dog park, which is the first in Vancouver and very well liked and utilized. The dog run is surrounded by a community garden. In summer and into the early fall, there is a Farmers Market in the park every Saturday, which is also very popular. There a new plaza in the middle in the park with a water feature and a very well used play structure for preschoolers to enjoy. The park also has a unique and originally designed water fountain that really creates a special sense of “place” (link to fountain video). The park is also well endowed with many benches for folks to sit on. To say the redevelopment of the park has been a huge success is an understatement.

But the one element of the park that is missing is a public washroom. It’s a fact of nature that “when you have to go you have to go”. The need for a washroom in the park is held widely by the residents and businesses in the surrounding area. The Mole Hill Community Housing Society (MHCHS) has had problems with public defecation and urinating in its property, which is directly adjacent to the park. The Dr. Peter Centre at the Thurlow Street side of the park also supports a washroom in the park and so do the Farmers Market organizers and vendors.

At the April 18, 2011 Vancouver Park Board meeting, a staff report will be introduced recommending a washroom be installed in the park (link to staff report ). The report recommends a fully accessible automated washroom from the City of Vancouver’s Street Furniture Program. It is an innovative use of the program for City Engineering and the Vancouver Park Board to partner and improve the public realm of the city by providing a public washroom in Nelson Park. Furthermore, these automated washrooms also have inbuilt design features to discourage inappropriate use.

VPB update Monday 18 April 2011, 11 pm. Board approves the staff report.

Nelson Park was always a beloved place in Vancouver’s West End. With the new attention to the park through its redevelopment it has become increasingly unique and well used. In a larger sense, what makes Vancouver a more livable city is the special and distinct spaces throughout the city that encourage us to walk and explore, to use the public space and interact with our neighbours.

Nelson park staff report on redevelop on VPB website

link to Sandra Thomas story in the Courier story

link to Frank Luba story in the Province

Jessica Barrett story in the West Ender

Leave a Response