Pileated Woodpecker in Stanley Park

I was running in Stanley Park when I saw this guy. I captured the video on my Iphone. It is amazing how many different birds there are in Stanley Park right next to the West End.

While I am fortunate to live in the West End and live right next to the park this access to nature is not equally distributed over the the city. As Vancouver becomes more densely populate access to nature, habitat preservation and the greening of more habitat is going to be an important project.

Check out this study that links income levels to amount of birds that inhabit a neighbourhood:Urban Bird Diversity as an Indicator of Human Social Diversity and Economic Inequality in Vancouver, British Columbia
by Stephanie J. Melles

Update, June 1, 2011, I asked Rob Butler what type of woodpecker it is and here is what he reported: “The woodpecker is a pileated woodpecker. It is our largest wp and dependent on large trees for nesting and feeding. “

VPL Central Branch turns 16

Last night, Saturday May 21, the Vancouver Public Library celebrated the 16th anniversary of its iconic Central Branch building by Moshe Safdie .

The event was billed as the Central Branch’s “Sweet 16” party. I went to the event with my daughter Malli who thought it was “good”. What’s not to like, there was a candy buffet and Malli was able to fill up her pockets with candy to “share” with her sister. There were loads of kids there with their parents and many friends of the library dancing to the band ESL.

Councilor Ellen Woodsworth was Deputy Mayor of Vancouver and she did the opening remarks. The Chair of the Library Board Catharine Evans was there and I had the opportunity to meet Chief Librarian Sandra Singh. Patsy George, who was on the board of VPL when the Central Branch opened, a recipient of the Order of Canada and noted human rights activist, was also in attendance at the party.

Here some images that capture when I was there: Sweet 16 party

Warning heroin overdose deaths are way up this year

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Photos from WMBD Bird Walk at Queen Elizabeth Park

Rob Butler and VPB Vice-Chair Commissioner Constance Barnes reading Proclamation from the City of Vancouver on World Migratory Bird Day

More images from the Bird Walk

World Migratory Bird Day Walks in Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park

The City of Vancouver has proclaimed Sunday May 15, 2011 as World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD). Two bird walks have been organized to demonstrate the importance of park habitat in Vancouver to birds on their long migration to location over the world.

Two Bird walks on Sunday May 15 at 9 am.

Walk One, Stanley Park: Join Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Loretta Woodcock with the Stanley Park Ecology Society and expert bird watcher Cathy Aitchison for an easy 2-hour walk to explore the varied and beautiful bird life of Stanley Park’s wetlands and forest.fringes .

Meet at Pavilion Restaurant beside Malkin Bowel at 9 am Sunday, May 15, 2011.

For more info: 604 718 6522 programs@stanleyparkecology.ca

Walk Two, Queen Elizabeth Park: Join Vancouver Park Board Constance Barnes with famed ornithologist Rob Butler, expert birder Adrian Guff and community activist Brent Granby (rookie birder) and organizer of the walk for an exploration of the birds of the park.

Meet at Bloedel Conservatory at 9 am Sunday, May 15, 2011.

The proclamation signed by the Mayor recognizing World Migratory Bird Day will be read by Commissioners Woodcock and Barnes at both walks to celebrate the United Nations Environmental Program that encourages world wide participation in the need to protect migratory birds and their habitats.

WMBD official site

Here is what the UN is saying WMBD Continue reading World Migratory Bird Day Walks in Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park →

Images from Intercultural Community Opening

more images of garden opening

Grand Opening of Intercultural Community Garden Saturday May 7, 2011

photo Jason Lang

On Saturday, May 7th, the Intercultural Community Garden Project will celebrate its Grand Opening on the rooftop of St Paul’s Hospital. This is a project that I have been working on over the past two years as a Director of the West End Residents Association (WERA).

The Intercultural Community garden project is a partnership between the YMCA of Greater Vancouver, Gordon Neighbourhood House and WERA. These community partners have been worked together since 2009 to create an organic garden that brings Vancouver’s diverse community together.

Now, after much success, the garden and its symbolic spade will be handed over to the Downtown Intercultural Gardeners Society (DIGS) in a ceremony on Saturday May 7 on the roof of St. Paul’s Hospital.

The project was funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia, to build a more welcoming, inclusive and engaged downtown peninsula by creating and tending community gardens together. In an effort to ensure the garden reflects the population of the downtown peninsula, a minimum of 40 percent of the gardeners are immigrants. More than 50 gardeners are involved in the project on an on-going basis.

Prior to the garden launch, over 120 Vancouverites also participated in diversity training, including intercultural communication and anti- racism workshops.

One of the great joys of participating in this project has been my interactions with Linda Rubuliak who is a program manger at the Y. The idea of an intercultural garden was Linda’s and she approach me to participate in the project. Linda has been a real inspiration to me and I have learned so much from her in this project.

Part of the purpose of the garden is to inspire Vancouver citizens to take ownership of their community’s health. This includes the responsibility of the garden passing from the community partners to the gardeners themselves. ―DIGS is the new non-profit society that the gardeners have formed to continue the work that has begun.

The grand opening event will include a ceremonial “Passing of the Spade” from the organizational partners to DIGS as they take on the leadership of the community garden.
Sandra Thomas story in Vancouver Courier on the gardenS

Apathy is Dead, On May 2, 2011, I am VOTING for ACTION on Climate Change

A message from get your Vote On
Yes, we are starting a national campaign with one PDF. We are asking for 10 minutes of your time to increase the youth vote and make sure everyone shows up with the right stuff on May 2.

Link to PDF
Rap version of the message
Continue reading Apathy is Dead, On May 2, 2011, I am VOTING for ACTION on Climate Change →

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

Emergency Preparedness motion at Vancouver Park Board

Ellen Woodsworth’s motion at Council

With the recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand the need for a more comprehensive and extensive emergency preparedness plan to respond to natural disasters is very apparent.

While there are agencies such as the City of Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program (NEPP)that are mandated to develop plans with professional disaster response teams and communicate these plans to various communities in Vancouver, a lack of knowledge remains about what the “plan” is when an earthquake does happen.

The West End Residents Association (WERA) was fortunate to have a community member, Randy Helten spearhead a project to increase the community awareness around emergency preparedness by being the community conduit and organizer for a number of workshops in the community centres and neighbourhood houses. Mr. Helten set up an “emergency preparedness” page on the WERA website to promote upcoming workshops and to communicate information about what one needs to know when the big one hits.

Mr. Helten’s efforts were a huge success by increasing attendance at NEPP workshops. With simple tools of postering in the community, posting information on a website and a little bit of earned mediaWestender Story, the community knowledge about responding to earthquakes was greatly increase.

I never went to one of these workshops before Mr. Helten took on the project of being a community advocate for earthquake response, but as a result of his efforts I did finally attend one. My takes-aways from the workshop were:

1. Protect your head.
2. Have enough water and food to last 48 hours without assistance.
3. Have cash on hand, the bank machines are not going to work.
4. Have a radio.
5. Have flashlight, matches and candles

This is all I can remember from the workshop.

Through talking with friends I realized that there is a general lack of knowledge about what folks should do and where to go when there is an earthquake. People are simply unaware of what the community plan is, unlike the citizens of Japan. To me this speaks to a need for more planning at the community level.

At the April 4 Vancouver Park Board meeting COPE Commissioner Woodcock is moving a motion to address the lack of knowledge at the community level in regards to an emergency response. Commissioner Woodcock is just back from New Zealand where she had the unique opportunity to experience an earthquake. Ms. Woodcock knows first-hand how communities respond in an earthquake. This personal experience in New Zealand has led to the motion to resource more planning at the community centres in order to develop a community plan and more effectively communicate it to residents.

The motion:

Whereas Japan is a leader in having organized its citizenry in earthquake preparedness, and Christchurch has organized a Civil Defence Emergency Management plan involving a series of partnerships between City Council, emergency services, community agencies and neighbourhood volunteers for effective emergency response and relief, and were immediately deployed after the February 22, 2011 earthquake, and

Whereas Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Program (NEPP) delivers sessions on Family Emergency Preparedness through community centres; while at the same time there is no coordinated Response measures in effect

Whereas Vancouver actively supports volunteers in Emergency Social Services and Amateur Radio through the Office of Emergency Management and the Police Department, however does not have programs in place to engage women’s and disability organizations to address more specific family needs

Whereas there is no single program that consolidates neighbourhood emergency Preparedness with Response teams through the Office of Emergency Management, the Police Department and Community Centres across the City

Be it resolved that in order to provide the most effective earthquake crisis relief, the Park Board work with the City to expand Emergency Preparedness and Response services at community centres, which includes providing tools, training, and support to a network of neighbourhood volunteers.