A Look into Surrey’s 10-Year Parks, Recreation & Culture Strategic Plan

The $357 million, award-winning PRC plan will see the city through its next 10 years of growth

An artistic rendering of what the expanded Museum of Surrey will look like once renovations are complete. (Museum of Surrey)

An artistic rendering of what the expanded Museum of Surrey will look like once renovations are complete. (Museum of Surrey)

Most Surrey residents can agree that the city’s 200 parks and 35 recreation facilities and community centres go a long way for establishing the beauty and livability of the city. Now, thanks to the Parks, Recreation & Culture strategic plan developed by Surrey Parks Board, the city can look forward to enjoying new and improved park spaces and sports facilities.

The plan, announced on May 29, details several strategies for park development over the next 10 years. Some of these include expansions into Newton, Whalley, Fleetwood, Cloverdale, and North and South Surrey.

Most of the operational funding was sourced from tax revenue, with additional revenue coming from services like recreation centres. The federal and provincial governments also pitched in, providing grants that totaled millions of dollars. All in all, the plan accounts for $357 million for the investment in and development of short, medium, and long-term initiatives and projects.

The 108-page PRC plan is divided into five themes that the city wants to prioritize as it rolls out the different phases of the strategy. They are listed in the PRC plan Executive Summary as high quality parks and facilities, an engaged and healthy community, a vibrant and creative city, leadership in environmental stewardship, and effective management of resources.

“There has been a lot of cost accounting and financial analysis to make sure that this plan is financially feasible,” says Patrick Klassen, Surrey’s community planning manager. “A lot of that is to do with creating feasible, tangible, and well-thought out goals, because anybody can create a strategic plan. Where most strategic plans fall short is in the details. How do you deliver each recommendation?”

Using evidence-based analysis and original research throughout the process was essential, according to Klassen.

The PRC strategic plan is so comprehensive and detailed that it received an award for planning and policy excellence from the Planning Institute of British Columbia in late May. A press release from the City of Surrey on June 4 quoted Mayor Linda Hepner as saying that, “with this award, [the city is] even more confident that the strategies outlined in the plan are on track to guide us over the next decade.”

“I can say confidently that every recommendation in the strategic plan—all 184 of them—are achievable and actionable and have a financial contribution or line item set aside for them,” says Klassen.

While creating the plan, the city conducted extensive research into what residents wanted it to consider. Examples of these consultation methods include surveys, public events, focus groups, and presentations to different city council committees. The report states that there were over 5,000 participants in this consultation—92 per cent of them were Surrey residents, and 80 per cent had lived in Surrey for five years or more.

Klassen says the consultation process was invaluable for providing information to the planning committees, especially in the beginning phases of formulating the plan, when many of the key ideas were formulated. Residents were invited to attend themed workshops, open houses, and popup events to share their opinions and discuss recreation, the environment, heritage, and culture as well.

In terms of park improvements, off-road walking and cycling trails were the number one initiative voted for by participants, followed closely by creating more natural areas and green spaces. When it comes to recreation, participants heavily favoured development of sports, recreation, and wellness programs, as well as constructing new swimming pools and sport fields.

In an email to The Runner, KPU design professor and environmental designer at Métis Design Build, Erick Villagomez, outlined a few points that would benefit Surrey’s approach to sustainable urban and community design.

“As a municipality, Surrey can and should be looking at their parks both locally and regionally to ensure that they work cohesively towards the specific goals they would like to achieve,” he wrote.

According to him, newer developments like the Olympic Village in Vancouver constitute notable examples of integrating sustainability with architectural design.

“Given that these are specific facilities, integrating more environmentally sensitive architectural design strategies—whether it is through passive solutions, such as maximizing natural ventilation and natural light, or active ones, like photovoltaics or alternative energy sources—would certainly increase their sustainability from the environmental perspective.”

The Museum of Surrey is also undergoing a large-scale, $16 million renovation and upgrade due to be finished in the fall of 2018. The renovations are extending a part of the existing museum, as well as adding a new building and relocating two Surrey heritage buildings—the 126-year-old Anniedale School and Surrey’s first town hall—to the site of the museum.

Lynn Saffery, the Museum of Surrey’s manager, says that the changes will go beyond the physical additions, which are expected to increase the museum space by about 12,000 square feet.

“Our vision is to be the best people museum in Canada, and we do that by connecting people with the stories they tell,” says Saffery. “The shift has gone from looking at artifacts and looking at old things that tell stories to looking at the people of Surrey and the communities of Surrey and having them tell their own stories.”

As meticulously thought-out as the PRC strategy is, there will be still be comprehensive reviews  at the three and six-year marks. Following these reviews, adjustments can be made based on the wants and needs of the Surrey public.

Klassen adds that the city reached out to both KPU and SFU to consult the administrations on how the plan could potentially benefit students. It’s possible that implementing parts of the project could create opportunities for students looking for internships or job shadowing experience.

“For Kwantlen, we do have a section that pertains to agriculture and food production … and we developed those with Kwantlen’s programs in mind,” he says.

KPU Vice President of External Affairs Marlyn Graziano recalls discussing the details of the plan in early August 2017.

“There would have been a few questions here and there about whether there might be future synergies with KPU, especially on the arts and culture front, such as mounting exhibits at the art gallery,” Graziano wrote in an email to The Runner. “Now that the plan is formalized, KPU will be able to review the final product and start working directly with the city in any areas of mutual interest.”

Supporting Surrey’s cultural organizations and programs as well as funding local artists is also a key aspect of the strategy. Page 66 of the report claims that “it is imperative to support and nurture local artists and arts organizations, and increase their capacity, stability, and sustainability.”

The paragraph continues, “Investing in Surrey’s artists and art organizations will enhance the City’s long-term strategy to support and retain professional artists, thereby diversifying our social, cultural, and economic opportunities.”

There are a few different ways that the city is planning to approach the task of cultivating a more thriving arts scene in Surrey. Within the next four to six years, it will create a City Arts Liaison to help artists network and access grant money.

Artist grants are vital for improving the cultural heart of any community, which is why one of the arts objectives of the PRC plan is to strengthen the Surrey’s Cultural Grant Program. With luck, it will offer over $1 million in annual grant funding by 2027.

A new community art space in Newton will begin development in seven to 10 years, and there is even a fledgling plan to build an art centre somewhere in Guildford, though this will come after the decade-long scope of the plan.

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