Introduction, Goals, and Objectives – CVPRD Comprehensive Park Plan

Welcome to the second post in our Comprehensive Park Plan series. Last week, we broke down what a general comprehensive plan and how one would typically be used. This week we’re going to take a deeper look into CVPRD’s very comprehensive park plan. The goal of this series is to familiarize everyone with the park plan and break it down in a meaningful way.

To improve the quality of life in Columbia Valley by providing the community with access to
diverse parks and recreational opportunities.

CVPRD Mission Statement

As you may know, the Columbia Valley Park and Recreation District came together in 2016 to find ways to bring parks and outdoor recreational opportunities to the area. Ideally, the activation of CVPRD will bring community members together through outdoor recreation in order to form new connections and strengthen old. There are many known benefits of engaging with the outdoors, so why not strive towards making outdoor recreational activities more accessible to the community?

It all starts with an idea – find a way to bring parks to Columbia Valley.
Then, the idea turns into an action – form a local parks and recreation district.
After that, the planning begins – Listen to the community, survey what we have and what we need, write down ideas, and set obtainable goals.
Once those elements are written down, you have the framework for a comprehensive park plan.

Below we have included a slideshow with the 5 main goals, and the subsequent actions to be taken to achieve those goals. These goals are located in the beginning of the comprehensive park plan and are intended to serve as a guide for future planning actions.

Goals are so important to clearly define and works towards because they are tangible achievements. In 6 years when CVPRD gathers with the community to draft the next version of the comprehensive park plan, it will be so beautiful to see what has been accomplished. Alternatively, it’s also helpful to reflect on what areas still need more focus and attention. Working towards shared community goals inadvertently impacts Goal 3 – Strengthen Community Connections. Together, we can create and work toward a shared community park vision.

Next week, we’ll take a look at two other chapters in the comprehensive park plan – Community Profile and Inventory. These chapters contain lots of demographics and data, but it’s our goal to turn that information into something meaningful. Stay tuned!

What Is a Comprehensive Plan?

In 2021 Columbia Valley Parks and Recreation District released a completed Comprehensive Park Plan for the community. CVPRD’s comprehensive park plan is a 43-page document that was driven by public input and designed to guide the park planning process. The comprehensive park plan is filled with valuable information that will help fulfill the specific needs and goals of the community. However, a 43-page document can be intimidating, and we want the comprehensive park plan to reach its full potential usefulness! Therefore, CVPRD will be releasing this series of blog posts breaking down (1) what a comprehensive plan is in general and (2) different sections of our very own comprehensive park plan. Today we will be covering the basics, of what is a comprehensive plan. Stay tuned for more detailed posts about each section of CVPRD’s comprehensive park plan!

Local governments (e.g., cities) are required by the state to produce a comprehensive plan for zoning regulations. Although it is a state requirement, comprehensive plans are often treated as an opportunity to identify shared goals in a community and come up with a long-term strategy for achieving them. General comprehensive plans cover many topics, some common ones are projected growth, preservation/conservation of nature, economic development, equity, and accessibility needs of citizens, neighborhood development, and much more. 

An example might be helpful, let’s use Bellingham. Imagine a map of the city and zoom out to the full extent (photos below for reference), it would be difficult to see detailed relationships from this scale. However, you would be able to see the city boundaries and the relationship of the city to the water. A comprehensive plan might cover preserving the coastline for its natural beauty, or perhaps the plan would rather plan on developing along the water since it’s so desirable. 

On the left, City of Bellingham Topographic Map. On the right, Bellingham’s Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas Map. Source: City of Bellingham

Imagine zooming into the map to where you can see the distinction of neighborhoods (photo below for reference). Which neighborhoods have the highest number of residents (density)? Is there too much traffic in one area? Look at the projected growth, which places need to grow denser or where will we start developing? 

A cropped image of Bellingham’s Neighborhoods Map. Source: City of Bellingham

Now, you can even go a step further and zoom into the neighborhoods themselves (photo below for reference). How are people commuting to work? Are the public transportation systems in place underutilized or do we need more? Do there need to be more bike lanes? In places where people prefer to walk are the sidewalks adequate? Are the speed limits in place maintaining a safe and comfortable pedestrian environment? So many different relationships and moving parts it can become overwhelming. The comprehensive plan is designed to make things less overwhelming and more manageable by taking a step back, surveying what’s currently happening, considering what is projected to happen in the future, taking community input and needs, and transforming it into a digestible, meaningful, and guiding plan. 

Neighborhoods Near Downtown. Source: Google Maps

At the end of the day, the most important part of the comprehensive plan is that the community is involved. The community’s needs and input are vital to creating a successful comprehensive plan. For example, if a city was planned solely around its projected growth, it could potentially be a disaster. Perhaps the land use planners would plan to create pockets of high density to fit as many people into one space as possible without adequate utilities, infrastructure, or public space – the community would not be satisfied with this living situation. That is why it’s so important for planners to assess what is and is not working for the community and plan for a better city for all. After all, without the community, there is no city. 

Setting goals is important to achieve growth, and creating a comprehensive plan based on the community’s needs and goals is important to achieve a happy growing city. In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at CVPRD’s comprehensive park plan and examine the goals and objectives created for the specific community profile. Stay tuned!

Additional Park Amenities Slideshow

CVPRD is hosting the first Community Design Meeting on June 5th, 2022 at our 7916 Santa Fe Trail park property from 3-4PM. This meeting is an opportunity to imagine and design our first park together as a community! We plan on having activities for everyone to workshop and prioritize park elements, and there will coloring materials available to kids. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we’ll be able to collaborate outdoors – however, if the conditions become undesirable the meeting will be relocated to the resource center (8251 Kendall Rd.)

This post includes some examples of additional and miscellaneous park amenities ideas. We hope these pictures inspire creativity in community members to prepare for our June 5th Community Design Meeting!

Park features for pets

Walking paths, lighting, and adult exercise equipment

Multigenerational Sensory Play Spaces Slideshow

CVPRD is hosting the first Community Design Meeting on June 5th, 2022 at our 7916 Santa Fe Trail park property from 3-4PM. This meeting is an opportunity to imagine and design our first park together as a community! This post includes some examples of multigenerational sensory play spaces designs and ideas. We hope these pictures inspire creativity in community members to prepare for our June 5th Community Design Meeting!

Covered Outdoor Space and Shade Structures Slideshow

CVPRD is hosting the first Community Design Meeting on June 5th, 2022 at our 7916 Santa Fe Trail park property. This meeting is an opportunity to imagine and design our first park together as a community! This post includes some examples of different covered outdoor space designs and shade structures. We hope these pictures inspire creativity in community members to prepare for our June 5th Community Design Meeting!

Pavilions and Shelters

Shade Structures

Park Amenities Slideshow

CVPRD is hosting the first Community Design Meeting on June 5th, 2022 at our Santa Fe Trail park property. This meeting is an opportunity to imagine and design our first park together as a community! This post includes some examples of different park amenities. We hope these pictures inspire creativity in community members to prepare for our June 5th Community Design Meeting!

Picnic Tables


Barbecues, Garbage Cans, and Bike Racks

Natural Playgrounds Slideshow

CVPRD is hosting the first Community Design Meeting on June 5th, 2022 at our Santa Fe Trail park property. This meeting is an opportunity to imagine and design our first park together as a community! This post includes some examples of natural playground equipment for children. We hope these pictures inspire creativity in community members to prepare for our June 5th Community Design Meeting!

A special thank you to commissioner Melonie Ancheta for the following images and captions!

Activity Groups and Volunteering with CVPRD

Welcome back to another blog post! As spring approaches, Columbia Valley Parks and Recreation Department is working on outdoor activities that can help improve your health, strengthen our community ties and are just plain fun! We’d like to start three different activity groups: one for walking, another for running, and one for photography. Whether you’re interested in volunteering and running an activity group, or simply interested in attending, we hope to start the conversation in this post. Of course, if you have any additional questions or comments, we encourage you to reach out!

Walking Group

A walking group would provide both social and physical benefits to residents. Research shows that walking regularly is incredibly positive for one’s health and well-being. Walking can improve blood pressure, heart rate, and fitness. Conditions such as depression, arthritis and dementia are a few of the health issues that can also be improved by walking.  And don’t forget the social benefits of walking in a group! Walking groups are great places to meet your neighbors, and since you’re walking, have a good chat and offer/receive support from friends and neighbors. An additional perk of walking is it requires no special equipment or skills, has little risk for injury, and can be done almost anytime and anywhere!

We think it would be a great idea to start walking groups in Columbia Valley. Now, what would that look like? Ideally there would be agreed upon meeting locations, dates and times. It would be great to have volunteer walking group leaders; a volunteer host would organize the dates and times, as well as encourage and support the walkers in the groups. 

Running Group

Like a walking group, a running group also provides both social and physical benefits to residents. People in the past have reported feeling intimidated about joining a running group, usually doubting their own abilities. However, most of these reports reveal that they have found incredibly supportive individuals who encouraged them to simply do their best. There have also been studies which show that running in a group helps individuals push themselves further than they would have alone. This helps a new runner realize they are stronger and more capable than they imagined. There’s also an increased feeling of accountability when an individual joins a running group. When you’re only running alone, it’s easy to de-prioritize your workout and let other responsibilities get in the way. However, when you have a set date and time for your run, it’s more likely you’ll prioritize it. 

As with the walking group, it would be ideal to have an agreed upon meeting location, dates, and time. Again, a volunteer host would be there to encourage, and support interested community members. Running with a group is a great way to receive and give social support to others while you all work towards personal fitness goals. Both walking and running groups would benefit from having volunteer group leaders who would coordinate the dates and times, and who would help support and encourage members in their efforts. Do we see some hands up?

Photography Group

Spring is coming! The skies will clear, and flowers will begin to bloom, wildlife will be foraging on all the fresh spring edibles and nature will be a-buzz. This sets the perfect scene for a gorgeous photo. A photography group provides a great incentive to explore new places and meet new people and take your art to a new level!

A photography group is also a great way to bond with friends and neighbors over a shared passion. It provides opportunities to share tips and tricks and learn from each other. Like the walking and running groups, volunteer hosts would do some planning ahead to determine a location, date, and time for each meeting. And a volunteer host would help the group by being available to support members of the group communicate and feel welcome. Joining a photography group is a great way to meet and connect with others with a shared passion and take some beautiful photos! 

Interested in volunteering? Use this google form to let us know who you are, which group you’re interested in hosting, and your availability! 

Additional Resources

Join a Walking Group to Improve Your Health!

Want to Go Faster or Farther? Join a Running Group

5 Benefits of Joining a Local Photography Group

Community Gardens

Welcome back to another blog post! Last week we did a deep dive into pocket parks (read it here). The pocket park post was particularly relevant because they are a great way to begin adding parks and public green space into our own community! This week we wanted to play on that theme and talk about community gardens. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of adding more community gardens could have in Columbia Valley.

Benefits of Community Gardens

One of the most obvious benefits of community gardens is the access to fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have ever had homegrown fruits and vegetables, you know the quality and flavor is far superior to what you bring home from the grocery store. Gardening in the community setting also promotes a healthy lifestyle while giving the opportunity to connect with friends and neighbors.  Tending to your community garden plot will undoubtedly give access to your daily dose of fresh air. Gardening in the community offers the healthy lifestyle benefits of fresh air and exercise. As you tend your plot in the community garden you are also gaining a sense of ownership in your community and building positive relationships with neighbors. Finally, there is also a huge educational opportunity in community gardens both for children and adults. With current fast-paced lifestyles we often don’t get the opportunity to learn where our food comes from in person. Community gardening also helps you gain new skills and learn about natural processes while you learn the skills to grow your own food.

Image Credits from left: City of Bonney Lake, City of Clearwater, City of Eugene.

Community Gardens in Columbia Valley

As you may or may not know, Columbia Valley already has one community garden at the EWRCC near the Food Bank. The existing community garden is located off Kendall Road next to the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center and the Foothills Food Bank. Now it may seem unnecessary or redundant to have more than one community garden in the area,  Jessica Bee (CVPRD’s Chair Commissioner) has mentioned that often the garden plots will fill up and availability becomes an issue. Another thing to consider is that many people appreciate having a community garden within walking distance of their home as it offers easier and more opportunities for spending time in the garden. 

Community Gardens are such a great way to get outside and strengthen your community, why not increase access and availability of them in Columbia Valley? We can also get creative with the placement of community gardens. For example, if there is a homeowner that is willing to use their front lawn for garden space, that homeowner could designate some of that space for public use. This is known as a lawn share program. Of course, a kind of negotiation could occur where a percentage of produce grown is given to the lawn owner as a form of payment.

Overall, there are many different ways to bring more community green space to Columbia Valley, and community gardens would bring more access to fresh produce while also strengthening the community. To learn more about community gardens visit the links below in the Additional Resources section.

Image Credits from left: Urban Harvest, Tampa Bay Times, Helena Community Gardens.

Additional Resources

What Is a Community Garden – Benefits & How to Start Your Own

A Front Yard Becomes A Community Garden

Types of Community Gardens

The Many Benefits of Community Gardens
Community Gardens – Healthy Foods – CDC (Includes links to detailed case studies) 

Pocket Parks

Welcome back to another innovative park design spotlight! Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered different kinds of innovative playgrounds, that have been geared exclusively towards children and families. However, parks are a place for everyone. Today, we’re going to be looking at an innovative park design that is geared towards everyone in a community – pocket parks!

Pocket parks are a great way to turn vacant land into public green space. They are specifically designed to encompass a small area. Pocket parks can be designed to fit the community where it resides. Some of the most famous examples of pocket parks are often found in larger urban environments, as a way to break up the city and incorporate more public green space. This has shown to greatly improve the quality of life for surrounding residents. The following slideshow highlights two famous urban pocket parks. Both are in Manhattan, NYC and are known as Paley Park and Greenacre Park.

Paley Park

Image credits, from left: Sampo Silko via Flickr, Mike Boucher via Flickr, Mike Boucher via Flickr.

Greenacre Park

Image credits: The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Pocket Parks in Columbia Valley

While pocket parks are often seen in dense urban landscapes, this kind of park design could work well for incorporating more green public space in Columbia Valley. Plus, if a small vacant plot of land becomes available a pocket park would be a relatively cost-effective solution! Another great thing about pocket parks is that because of their small size, planning and executing a park plan can be less intimidating for a first park. Pocket parks are also a perfect opportunity for lots of community input and volunteer work. One example of a pocket park in Columbia Valley could consist of planting native vegetation, installer pavers for a small path, and possibly including some benches. Another fun possibility that Columbia Valley residents may enjoy is a wildflower garden! Not only are wildflowers enjoyable to look at, but they often promote healthy pollinators!

Chippendale Park – Sydney, Australia
Image Credit: Newton Grafitti via Flickr
Boyd Jackson Park – Takoma Park, Maryland
Image Credit: Google Street View
St. Anne’s Road Pocket Park 
Image Credit: Shubham Sotwal via Google Maps Images

It’s also important to point out that there are lots of resources and toolkits available online that help guide communities to planning their own pocket park. These resources include ideas for the park design, budgeting, where to look for funding, and some even include case studies! These toolkits will be linked below under the additional resources. 

Additional Resources

Trust for Public Land Pocket Park Toolkit

National Recreation and Park Association Mini-Park Toolkit

Toolkit for Community Participation in Pocket Parks