Monday, July 26, 2010

City of Vancouver Drinking Water Station in the Greenway!!!

Hi Erin,

I'm pretty sure it wasn't your decision to place the new City of Vancouver Drinking Water Station, which was installed a few days ago, in the Napier Square Greenway. In fact, I'm sure if you had anything to do with it that you would have let us know!

We didn't know who to write to about it, so I'm writing you. Perhaps you could forward to the appropriate person or department at City Hall?

We have mixed feelings about the chosen location of the water station.

As you know so well, the Napier Square Greenway is a physically small and vulnerable patch of green along Commercial Drive. It is also the main entrance to Britannia Community Centre, to the Vancouver Public Library, to Britannia Elementary School, and to the various programs and services Britannia Centre offers.

There was an article in the Courier this past weekend that said there were only five of these drinking water stations installed across the City and that their placement was selected as areas where "homeless people congregate"...

Homeless people do congregate along Commercial Drive, largely in Grandview Park but also in other places, sometimes including the Napier Square Greenway. There have been parents in the neighbourhood who have said they don't want to send their kids to Britannia Elementary precisely because of the seedy gauntlet they sometimes need to pass through in the Greenway to get from The Drive to Brit Centre. As you know, Britannia Neighbours has been endeavouring to make the Napier Greenway less hospitable to the various drug dealers who visit there, while at the same time making it more inviting to the lunch eaters, readers, chatters, resters, and the young parents who take their children through the Greenway to Family Place or to Britannia Elementary or to the various programs at Britannia Centre and at the Britannia Library.

Anyway, we wanted to register our disappointment that the water station was installed without consultation with (or indeed any prior notification to) Britannia Centre or the Schools or Library or Britannia Neighbours (the folks who look after the Greenway) ....

The installation of this water station may well alter the social dynamics in the neighbourhood around The Drive. Britannia Neighbours and the Britannia Board and the Library and the Schools might have agreed that the water station was a good idea, even in its current location, but we definitely would have appreciated input/discussion.

We have a few questions: Is the water station a permanent installation? Will it still be in place when Grandview Park is closed for renovations? (Note that before the water station was installed we were already actively concerned that the folks who hang out all day in Grandview Park would be looking for a new and appealing place to hang out during the park restoration. This water station certainly adds to our anxiety about that.)

There are elements in the Britannia neighbourhood who would like to see the Napier Greenway's hospitality eliminated, to have the benches removed altogether, to make it less inviting for people to linger there ... Britannia Neighbours has been struggling, trying to find ways of dealing with the Greenway's problems that don't punish the entire community for the undesirable actions of just a few people.

The new water station is kind of ugly (awfully bright blue, put together with duct tape, and squished between the bench facing the Drive and the bike rack) but it does seem like a laudable idea to provide drinking water for everyone.

It's hard to see the drinking fountain in the photo below because there's a little black dog in a bike basket right behind it. But, as you can see, a homeless person took up residence on the bench right beside water station on the day it was installed.

Please let us know who we should talk to about this and/or forward this message to them and copy to us.

Cheers and thanks,
Penny Street
for Britannia Neighbours


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