Spencer Herbert says parks are where the community plays, where communities grow together.
And, he says, after years of fostering growth in arts communities, he now wants to help foster that growth in parks, as a member of Vancouver?s parks board. He?s running with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) in the Nov 19 municipal election.
?I?m interested in where people see their communities headed,? says Herbert, an associate producer of the United Nations World Urban Forum Arts and Culture Festival.
?The parks board is close enough to the ground that I think you can listen to peoples? voices,? he continues. ?You can consult with people to make good choices.?
The queer community has a specific interest in parks and recreation issues, he notes.
?It?s where the queer community plays?and I mean play in all the many senses of the word play. Who better than a queer person themselves to listen to the community??
But, says Herbert, more needs to be done to ensure the safety of queers in parks.
He says increased patrols and lighting in parks have helped ease some queers? fear of going into the parks. But, he adds: ?There?s a balance you have to play. You don?t want them to feel they?re being monitored, being watched, but you do want them to know help is close at hand.?
Safety is also an issue in Nelson Park just north of Davie St, which he says needs to move forward faster in its re-design. ?I?m sure the studies have been done and the consultation has been done so it?s time to get the work going.?
He believes a sense of community can be fostered in that urban green space. ?Maybe that?s entertainment in the park. You could have a band on the weekends,? he suggests.
?There?s incredible park design going on out there and it?s more than just benches,? he continues. ?We need to think bigger than ?there?s a couple of trees.??
Herbert also wants to see more arts and celebrations in other parks, and supports more use of parks for celebrations such as Pride and Stonewall.
He also thinks the city?s community centres should do more for queer programming.
Right now, he says, The Centre on Bute St is crammed with people and programs. That load should be eased through the community centres, he says.
While community centre programming is locally driven, Herbert says the parks board (which runs the community centres) should provide more direction in the programs provided and encourage the development of queer programs. ?Absolutely, there needs to be more queer programs,? he says. ?Even just drop-ins, queer-themed events.
?We need events. Not everybody wants to spend every night at the bar,? he says. ?There?s a lot of young people who are forced to go to the bars because they don?t have a lot of places to meet people.?
He says the community has the answers and he?s willing to advocate at the parks board to provide solutions.
?We need active parks and community centres,? he says. ?When people are active, they?re engaged, they?re looking around them and they?re caring for each other because they?re engaged in their community.?