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Green Infrastructure acts as a bridge for Indigenous reconciliation in Vancouver, BC

W 63rd Ave & Yukon St, Vancouver, BC V5X 2J2, Canada
City of Vancouver
In Collaboration With
Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange

Documents

Download RFP

Government Champion

Green Infrastructure Implementation

Cost

Initial:
500 Thousand USD

Project Status

Operational since 2018

Keywords

stormwater
runoff
equity
green infrastructure
reconcilation

Challenges Addressed

Stormwater Management
Citizen Engagement
Water Quality

Motivation

Resilient city
Sustainable city
Equitable city

Funding / Financing

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Type

Project

At a Glance

This green infrastructure public space plaza provides amenities and rainwater management in an amenity-deficient neighborhood. With support from Museum of Vancouver, 9 Indigenous youth designed public art sculptures for the plaza that support reconciliation and bring awareness to Indigenous culture.

Problem Addressed

Ensuring that people have access to clean and safe drinking water provisions, wastewater treatment services, rainwater management services and flood protection — regardless of race, color, national origin, or income — calls for a paradigm shift to plan for and manage our water resources more wisely and equitably. Inequities more specifically related to urban rainwater management can relate to disproportionate impacts from structural vulnerabilities associated with environmental degradation, food harvesting potential, access to culturally significant elements of water and natural systems and climate change impacts.

The community of Marpole, located in South Vancouver, is a predominantly residential community comprised of 24,000 people and a major commuter corridor. In 2014, the City of Vancouver approved the Marpole Community Plan, which aims to ensure quality of life for residents amidst ongoing challenges around housing affordability, aging community facilities, changing climate, transportation infrastructure, and water utility infrastructure.

There are 82 km of sewer mains in Marpole, and 37 of those kilometers are combined sewer pipes. Although current sewer capacity is adequate to handle existing growth, any significant growth in the area will require upgrades to the capacity. Climate change is also increasing the frequency and duration of intense storms, putting increased stress on stormwater systems. The Marpole community has a higher number of residents that will be vulnerable to health-related climate change impacts. The neighborhood has a lower median income and a large amount of seniors, all of whom are more susceptible to health effects brought on by climate change, including heat stress and associated illness.

Vancouver has made a commitment to be a City of Reconciliation and to connect with the values and interests of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations and urban Indigenous Peoples. Meaningful reconciliation, however, is an ongoing process that requires cultivating relationships and a shared understanding of histories, cultures and shared values. Urban water management represents a unique opportunity to explore Indigenous reconciliation in the urban context through water.

City of Vancouver used/is using green infrastructure to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Green infrastructure can help address climate change adaptation and densification by capturing, cleaning, cooling and infiltrating rainwater using natural storage capacities of soils and the transpiration capabilities of trees and plants. Green infrastructure plays a vital role in reducing the risks related to flooding while also providing water quality benefits and recharging groundwater resources. The plaza contains two bioretention features that capture runoff from 1,170m2 of adjacent sidewalks and roadways and collects 2,200m3 of rainwater runoff per year, filters it, and allows it to infiltrate into the subsoils. The gardens bring many well-established benefits of green space, including enhancements to biodiversity, pollinator habitat, and human and environmental health. Removing this water from the drainage system helps prevent combined sewer overflows, and protects the health of the Fraser River. The plaza also provides seating, drinking fountains, bicycle amenities, and space for softscapes that express local identity. It is a new and unique public spaces for community members to use as meeting spaces, interact with nature, or for a reprieve from the crowded and concrete urban environment.

To address the goal of using water management as an avenue to explore reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the Museum of Vancouver and the City of Vancouver’s Green Infrastructure Implementation Branch partnered on Reconciled Futures. This reconciliation initiative offered a Spring Break opportunity for a one-week art mentorship camp for Indigenous youth. Youth worked together to produce designs for a public art installation to accompany the green rainwater infrastructure (GRI) asset at 63rd Ave. and Yukon St. Nine youth, age 12-17, participated in the camp. Youth met with City staff to learn about the function and design of GRI and careers related to GRI. The group also visited MOV Collections Storage twice during the week providing a unique opportunity to see and learn about the extensive collection of Coast Salish art and cultural artifacts at the museum. They also took the Care and Handling Workshop in the Conservation Lab; went on a tour of the Haida Now exhibition with Haida educator, Lia Hart; and had a presentation from the YVR Art Foundation about upcoming opportunities for youth. Each student received an honorarium for the use of their design in the public art piece. They were also all provided with art supplies, transit day passes and lunches. Five art pieces were designed by the youth: A raven; a hummingbird; two sets of salmon; and a heron. In 2020, the public art sculptures were installed , dispersed within the 2 bioretention elements. Signage will be installed in 2021 to help educate community members on the project, as well as the cultural meaning behind the sculptures.

Outcomes

  1. The neighbourhood around 63rd and Yukon in Vancouver has increased its climate resiliency though the addition of trees, plants, and green infrastructure that manages rainfall.
  2. 2,200m3 of rainwater runoff is captured, cleaned and infiltrated and/or evapotranspirated each year
  3. Cultural knowledge shared through 5 sculptures designed by Indigenous youth installed at the 63rd and Yukon GI plaza

Lessons Learned

  1. Levering a partnership with Museum of Vancouver allowed us to explore reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through public art and water management, created added value to the project.
  2. Some of the youth found creating a piece of public art in under a week to be stressful. Older students or more support for the youth could have created more ease amongst the participants.

Something Unique

The design of the green infrastructure plaza was inspired by a lost stream that used to flow through the area, buried during the development of the city. The paved seating areas jut out into the gardens like fallen logs across the lost stream. The blue flowers of native camas planted along the beds of the swales evoke the path of the water, creating a visual connection to the function of the project. The salmon sculptures designed by Indigenous youth are also a nod to the lost stream.