Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Renfrew Ravine community consultation

Residents have their say at a Park Board open house


The City of Vancouver worked with local residents last month on developing a master plan to improve the Renfrew Ravine and the community park.

On November 15, about 30 people showed up to the open house and workshop at Firehall No. 15. They reviewed panels that stated the goal of the master plan is to increase recreational opportunities while preserving and enhancing wildlife habitat.

A few suggestions were to update the playground, create a community garden and more gathering/event spaces, and improve trail connections and accessibility to those trails.

The workshop was designed to gather community feedback and to figure out which amenities to put in and which ones to remove, said Ben Mulhall, landscape designer at Catherine Berris Associates.

The Park Board was pleased with the number of community members who attended and participated in the workshop.

“The community around Renfrew Ravine and Renfrew Ravine Park has been very positive and supportive over the years during open houses and events,” Tiina Mack, manager of park development of the Vancouver Park Board, wrote in an email. “The participants on November 15th were equally as enthusiastic about enhancing the ecology of Still Creek, and it appears ecosystem restoration continues to be a strong commitment in this neighbourhood.”

Carmen Rosen, artistic director of Still Moon Arts Society, said the riparian area (between the land and the stream) has been compromised from logging 100 years ago, but community groups have worked to restore that area, making it possible for salmon to live in the water.

Catherine Berris, landscape architect and planner, lead the workshop and engaged the audience, which had little problem speaking up and voicing their ideas.

A couple youths sat among the attentive crowd. Alex Leung and Jordon Lui, members of the Windermere Secondary School Leadership program, are in charge of their school’s Renfrew Ravine Cleanup program.

Leung found the workshop informative and helpful in learning what people think and what needs to be done.

The three needs that kept coming up were safety, nature education and removal of invasive plants.

People wanted to maintain the integrity of the Renfrew Ravine but develop better trails to get to the water. They also wanted signage to educate the public about the species in the area.

On the community park side, people wanted a picnic area or a band shell. Someone suggested taking the fence by the creek down to get closer to the water.

Renfrew resident Alex Chisholm appreciated the chance to give his opinion, but did have some skepticism. “Will [the city of Vancouver] take this meeting seriously?”

If you missed the open house but would like to provide input, go to the online survey that’s available until November 30:

The next open house is planned for February 2013. The exact date and location is to be determined. Check the city of Vancouver’s website to remain updated:

Deanna Cheng is a resident of Renfrew-Collingwood and a journalism student at Langara College.

© Copyright (c) 2012 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Go out and play

Focus on fun and basic skills the key to staying active


Less time exercising thumbs, more time running around: that’s what today’s youth need, according to Michael McLenaghen. With a successful professional soccer career, including eight international games for the Canadian Men’s National team behind him, McLenaghen is now the director of community services at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House where he oversees numerous sports-related activities for the children of the area.

“Young people are spending way too much time online, watching television and staying inside,” states McLenaghen.

His claims are not without reason. A recent Health Canada study showed that more than 30 percent of Canadian kids ages five to 17 were overweight, nearly double the average 30 years ago. Much of this has to do with kids not being physically active enough. Statistics Canada research shows that children spend on average almost nine hours a day being inactive, which equates to about 62 percent of their waking hours. A shift in the way we present and promote physical activity, particularly sport, is desperately needed. The man with a vision for this change is Mike McLenaghen.

For McLenaghen, the problem starts when kids are first enrolled into sports and recreation by their parents, usually around age five or six. He believes that kids should not be placed in teams and pitted against each other until age nine at least; instead we should be focusing on fun and the basics like developing ball skills.

“I think that young people need to be channelled into recreation and sporting activities where they learn basic movement skills,” says McLenaghen.

These basic skills include hand-eye coordination, jumping, kicking and rolling, and, according to McLenaghen, are best developed through a range of activities anywhere from gymnastics and dance to simple games such as kick the can and tag.

“From there you can channel kids into various sports such as hockey, soccer, baseball, but again the emphasis needs to be on their relation with the ball, the stick and puck or whatever it may be,” McLenaghen explains.

When we get away from fun and basics and incorporate competition and a lot of structure too early, or as McLenaghen put it, “channeling kids into adult models of sport,” we start running into the problem of kids quitting. McLenaghen points out that 60 percent of boys and girls who started playing sports at age five or six have quit by the time they are 14 years old.

“There is too much pressure, too much emphasis on competition, uniforms, trophies. Not enough emphasis on kids having fun, being creative and developing skills,” says McLenaghen. “Because if kids feel like they are going from [one level of skill to the next], and they keep progressing and getting better, they’re not going to quit. Kids don’t quit things that they get better at.”

McLenaghen also points out that some of the most beneficial activities that kids participate in are not organized by adults at all. For example, impromptu games of tag or pick-up basketball with friends allow them to use their own initiative and creativity as well as stay active.

“The value of unstructured play, I can’t over-emphasize that enough,” states McLeneghan. “It doesn’t need to come down to structured, organized recreation and sport activity all the time, and I think it’s a huge problem as well. We are structuring kids to death, and they get fed up with it.”

With new technology seemingly coming out daily, staying inside and playing with new gadgets is as tempting as ever. For McLenaghen’s vision to become a reality, parents, community leaders and children themselves must be proactive (see Mike’s Tips below). With a bit of help, McLenaghen hopes that youth will want to get up and, as every mom used to say, “Go out and play.”

Mike’s Tips for Parents to Get Their Kids Active

  1. Do research: Finding the right situation and people is crucial. “Make the effort to go out and find not just good coaches in sport, but good leaders and good teachers.”
  2. Set limits: Parents should closely monitor how much time their children are spending online. “TV, iPhones, iPads, computers, all of it. [Parents] need to be tough, set clear boundaries for the kids.”
  3. After-school programs: 3:00 to 5:00 pm is a key time for keeping kids active because this is the time usually that kids are getting off school but parents are still at work. “[The children] go home, they are [roughly] 12 years old, and they do whatever, play video games and those kinds of things. It’s not that you have to have all of the[children’s] time structured, but at times like after school they need some support, and it needs to be quality support.”
  4. Check out local programs that provide a safe place for kids to be active: “Collingwood Neighbourhood House provides great gymnastics and dance programs for children right down from two years old all the way up to 12 years old. As well as a number of sport activities like soccer, basketball, floor hockey.”

 Soren Elsay is a Langara student and an aspiring journalist.

© Copyright (c) 2012 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Neighbourhood Small Grants Project celebrates community

Grassroots Heroes Weave the Social Fabric


They came clutching their homemade posters―men, women and children of every skin colour, from every neighbourhood of Southeast Vancouver. The families filed excitedly into the Collingwood Neighbourhood House gymnasium and taped their display boards to the walls. They had glued photos to whatever materials they could find, and beneath the images they scrawled captions to explain how they used small amounts of money from the Vancouver Foundation to host community-strengthening events on their streets.

With all the posters hung, people mingled before the displays and shared tales of meeting people in their districts. They spoke of block parties, backyard barbeques and park picnics; and the animated conversations continued as everyone sat for dinner.

This was a modest buffet meal in an East Van gymnasium, certainly not the top event on the city’s social calendar, but the annual Neighbourhood Small Grants Project Celebration held at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House November 6 proved a crucial point: people still yearn for a sense of community.

This despite the fact that in recent years, there has been a growing mass of gloomy literature published about the decline of social connectedness in our world. Robert Putnam’s bombshell book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community draws upon a substantial array of data that show his fellow countrymen disengaging from political and civic life over the past 40 years. He claims that the average American entertains friends at home half as often as they did in 1975. Virtually all leisure activities that involve doing something with someone else, from playing volleyball to playing chamber music, are declining. People still go bowling, but they don’t join leagues―hence the title of his book.

While it may be tempting for Canadians to dismiss Putnam’s Yankee-centric work as not applicable to our situation north of the border, a June survey by the Vancouver Foundation found that most Metro residents do not know their neighbours, nor do they participate in community activities.

In light of these disturbing findings, the informal celebration at the CNH gym assumes a noble stature, because the Neighbourhood Small Grants recipients, who posed proudly beside their event posters, are forging connections in an era of growing isolation.

As desserts began to circulate, Sheri Parke, NSGP coordinator, invited some of the grassroots heroes to share their experiences. First up: Monika Garg, a diminutive 27 year old who immigrated from India only nine months ago. Her English was shaky and her Punjabi accent thick, but Monika soldiered through her summary of the kids’ talent competition she staged for 40 guests in her neighbourhood. When she finished, the audience eagerly applauded her courage.

She was followed by Che Nolan, one of the organizers of the 5th Annual MacDonald Park Block Party. He reported that 200 people from his Sunset neighbourhood contributed to the potluck meal that they enjoyed in the tiny green space that anchors their community.

Other grant recipients present that night included Miriam and Wayne, a Collingwood couple whose home was burgled shortly after they moved into the area. They joined a block watch program and used NSGP money to create wooden address shingles that they distributed free to their neighbours. The shingles are hung in their back alley to help police locate homes when they respond to 911 calls in the area.

The crime-fighting couple sat at the same table as the trio of teens who decorated a boring, beige earthquake preparedness container in the playground of Fraserview’s David Oppenheimer Elementary School. The students used their grant to paint a brightly coloured nature scene on the bulky metal bin.

And across the table from the artists was Nita Carvajal, an avid green thumb from Marpole who encourages her neighbours to visit her home garden where she shares seeds, teaches composting techniques and introduces people to one another.

These community builders were a small sample from one table that stood among 13. The entire gym was full of progressive individuals who saw their crudely designed posters cloaking the walls as a weaving of the social fabric in our city.

Before the evening’s entertainment took the stage, Lidia Kemeny, Vancouver Foundation’s director of grants and community initiatives, stood to address the big question: WHY?

Does it really matter if we know who lives across the street or down the block?

“Research shows that when neighbours know and trust each other, streets are safer, people are healthier and happier, our children do better in school, there is less bullying and less discrimination,” explained Kemeny. “We are simply better off in many of the ways that matter.”

© Copyright (c) 2012 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News