Imagine Comox Valley uses Elevate to Explore Use of Public Spaces

Two years ago world renowned leader in livable communities, Gil Peñalosa, was invited by the Comox Valley Cycling Task Force and the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition to imagine how the Comox Valley could become a truly ‘people-friendly’ community. Mr Peñalosa met with local community leaders and presented to a packed Native Sons hall on examples of how communities designed for people can function differently from communities designed for cars.

Citing research and tangible examples, Peñalosa explained how communities built around the automobile discourage active forms of transportation, contribute to the trend in North American obesity and other negative public health outcomes, create unsafe spaces for people, including vulnerable users such as children and seniors, create sprawling land use patterns and associated expensive infrastructure, as well as exercise a heavy toll on the environment.

Imagine Comox Valley was inspired by the tangible examples of the creative use of public space and initiated the Valley’s first and second Car Free Sundays as one of the identified “easy actions” recommended out of Peñalosa’s visit.

“In most communities, roads are our most expansive and expensive public space,” says Andrew Gower, board director of Imagine Comox Valley. “Imagine Comox Valley (ICV) saw an opportunity to host a Car Free Sunday as a tried and true event to raise awareness about our collective vision for these spaces and to physically bring people together. It was a lot of fun, we literally had people dancing in the streets!”

Car Free Sundays were held in both Courtenay and Cumberland in the fall of 2011 and again in the spring of 2012. The events inspired live music, chalk art, tango in the streets, stilt walkers, community booths, skateboard demos, garage sales, store specials, roller derby demos, restaurant deals and many other initiatives. While ICV spearheaded the event by organizing the road closure permit process, the event was community-driven and was successful due to the participation of numerous businesses, sports groups, artists and musicians, community animators and organizations.

“We had our share of controversy over the event,” acknowledges Gower. “We know that some residents felt it inconvenient that certain roads had restricted car use, but overall the feedback over the event was quite positive. And the road closures were limited to half a day. I’d say we were successful in raising awareness about a community service that is easy to take for granted.”

elevate_logoDespite this success, ICV will not be hosting a Car Free Sunday event for 2013. Instead, the group is using the Elevate the Arts event in downtown Courtenay to provide examples of creative uses of public space such as a temporary installation of a half pipe and a number of temporary ‘parking stall’ parks. ICV will also be providing an opportunity through the ‘Start Here’ community engagement arts project for residents to describe how their public spaces could be ‘enlivened’ to contribute to their quality of life.

MASC_Start-Here-logo_web‘Start Here’ is a community engagement project developed by CVAG in partnership with Imagine Comox Valley, the North Island College Fine Art Department, Highland Secondary, Elevate the Arts and a number of community animators. The highly interactive display will be housed at CVAG and uses a range of media to explore individual and group perceptions of the Valley. ICV will be contributing ‘Be Heard - Masked or Unmasked’, a videography opportunity that enables people to tell their stories. Participants are invited to sit in a tent where they have the option to wear a mask, and tell their story and vision for the Comox Valley to the video screen. Similar to a ‘speakers corner’, the installation provides a seemingly intimate space where imagination can let loose and visions are held. The ‘data’ from the entire ‘Start Here’ event will be used by ICV to create a multi-media presentation of a co-created vision that may be available at CVAG and other venues in the future.

“ICV saw a tremendous opportunity to harness the creative ideas from the community through the Start Here project,” says Pieter Vorster, board director of ICV. “Our organization’s mission is to help people re-imagine the Comox Valley as a truly sustainable place, for everyone. In order to help do that, we have to have a baseline ‘snapshot’ of what people care about in their community and what they think about on the day to day. Start Here will provide data for that snapshot.”

ICV intends to host a Car Free Sunday event in 2014 and will showcase the information that was collected during this year’s Elevate the Arts and ‘Start Here’ project.

 

canada.com – “Mayor puts spoke into Car Free Sunday”

Article by Phillip Round, as posted on canada.com – June 26, 2012

Was the latest Car Free Sunday in Courtenay too much of a pain in the saddle for local businesses and residents?

City Mayor Larry Jangula certainly thinks so – but to be sure, he suggested last night that every merchant and resident along the three closed-off streets should be asked for their opinion.

He said that for around $2,500, an independent survey could be commissioned which would help guide council decisions on whether to approve similar events in the future.

Jangula said that contrary to what some people were suggesting, he believed “quite a few people were very upset” – including several businesses that were negatively impacted by the road closures.

He gave two specific examples, but said there were others who had contacted him. The owner of Comox Taxi on McPhee had, he suggested, been vilified for criticizing the initiative; and Appletree Market on Fifth was virtually shut down for a day, much to the concern of its owner.

Not only had Courtenay Council authorized significant lengths of road to be closed, but the council had also contributed around $1,000 to a $4,423 budget to help fund the initiative, and he questioned whether it was money well spent.

While the council would in due course receive a report from the organizers on the event and its impact, Jangula said human nature dictated that it was bound to present a positive picture.

So he wanted to launch an independent survey to obtain a complete cross-section of views.

But Coun. Jon Ambler said the total budget of over $4,000 did not all come from taxpayers; some of it was from merchants and businesses that were supportive.

And he added: “I’m not sure I want to spend $2,500 for a survey about whether we should have spent $1,000 on this. That doesn’t add up.”

Along with Coun. Doug Hillian, Ambler expressed support for a full debate on the subject at a later date, after the organizers had inputted their considered observations to City Hall.

“To debate this right now would be just pooling our ignorance,” said Ambler.

It was not as though a decision needed to be taken quickly – there were, he noted, 350 or more days to the next potential Car Free Sunday event and no commitments were being made by anyone at this stage.

Councillors agreed to await the report from the organizers before debating the issue further, with Jangula urging anyone with a view on the issue, particularly if they were in the affected area – mainly McPhee, Fitzgerald and Fifth Street – to make their opinions known.

His survey idea was not taken up.

pround@comoxvalleyecho.com

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

TEDxComoxValley April 2011 – Emily Spiller

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations).
A hint of Imogen Heap-meets-Zap Mama with a splash of Feist, Emily Spiller blends jazz & blues with layered harmonies over vocal percussion, traveling the globe as a one woman show. Armed with a loop machine, laptop and microphone she creates on stage.