By contributor Kiara Strijack

VIU students and the City of Parksville are proposing a new Community Park Master Plan to maintain and improve the Parksville Community Park and 53 other parks in Parksville.

The process has two parts—the Community Park Master Plan and the Parks Survey.

The plan will direct the city on how best to sustain and manage Parksville’s Community Park over the next 20 years, and the Parks Survey will include a detailed inventory of all the parks in Parksville using Geographic Information System (GIS) work.

All VIU team members, most of whom are Master of Community Planning students, work under the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI).

MABRRI conducts student-led and community-based research and education about local environmental issues. The team is gathering data through surveys, community engagement activities, and secondary research, such as policy documents. There will be one survey going out for residents, and one that VIU students will distribute for tourists this summer.

On March 4, VIU students and professors hit the streets of Parksville to do in-person surveys during Parks on the Street, which was the first event that gathered feedback from the Parksville community about their parks.

Devan Cronshaw, a second-year student in the two-year Master of Community Planning program at VIU, said that the original goal was to complete 100 surveys at the event. “We ended up getting 272 resident surveys.”

Diana Jerop, a data analyst on the team and first year student in the Master of Community Planning program, said “It was exciting to see some community members actually coming to us.”

The team collected results from Parks on the Street to discuss at the World Café on March 25. This event gathered more information about residents’ thoughts and concerns about their parks.

“When we look at the Community Park Master Plan, the Community Park is 100 percent Parksville’s biggest park—probably the biggest park in the central Island,” Cronshaw said.

Sarah Holden, Research Assistant at MABRRI and project lead, said that if the plan is done well, it can be used to guide the future of the community park, which has an enormous effect on tourists, the economy, and community identity.

  “It’s exciting to see how communities are really willing,” Jerop said. “Some of the reasons projects fail or succeed is the level or degree of community ownership of that project.”

Holden said that this is a unique career opportunity for students.

“It’s a real job,” Holden said. “Most people have spent quite a few years in planning before they have an opportunity to work on a project of this size.”

Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre stated in a news release on March 2: “Throughout the years, VIU has supported our city and region by offering experiential learning opportunities to students who have contributed to a number of different projects. The work they do is of the highest quality and the energy and enthusiasm they bring benefits us all, which is why we are excited to work with them on this project.”