Mar 072014

neighbours flyerThe Maple Ridge Community Chest is a fund available to Maple Ridge residents who fall on temporary hard times. A joint project of the Maple Ridge Community Foundation and the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Katzie Community Network, the idea is to prevent a small family crisis from becoming a catastrophic economic event. We’ve probably all had times in our lives when we’ve worried where our next rent payment or basket of groceries was coming from. It doesn’t take a lot to help people through a situation like that – but the help has to be quick and readily available.

Community Chest Awareness Week is March 9 – 15. The Community Chest is asking people and neighbourhoods to organize fund-raising activities to support the fund. Their poster (shown on left – click to enlarge) has some ideas. Drop by Blenz Coffee on March 14 to drop off donations.

Oct 112013

comm_voice_logo The Maple Ridge municipality is overhauling their website and, among other goals, wants to incorporate a way to have better direct communication and discussion with citizens. Dave Speers, Maple Ridge’s Neighbourhood Development Coordinator, asked a few people to take a look at the software platforms they are considering. As one of the organizers of theĀ Neighbourhood Champions group, I was included in that group.

Here’s the problem thePlaceSpeak_logoy are trying to solve: Communication between citizens and the municipality is generally either one-way (via notices posted in the paper or signboards), or via phone or email conversations (which are limited to a small number of people), or via council meetings (which aren’t a great forum for discussion and are hard to get to for many people).

As an example, imagine a neighbourhoodmindmixer_logo that is having traffic problems. Currently, a few people might write letters to the municipality and the municipality might do a traffic analysis and install some stop-signs.

That’s all well and good, but maybe the people who wrote the letters are only complaining about a small part of a larger traffic problem that will not be addressed by dealing with one specific aspect. Maybe other people have ideas about how to fix the problem at its source. Maybe other people would be annoyed that the altered traffic patterns in their neighbourhood affect them and they weren’t consulted and didn’t have the chance to comment.

This approach might be better: People concerned about the traffic problem have the opportunity to join an online discussion group where they can lay out the problem in detail and discuss solutions with people from the municipality. The municipality would have a much larger set of information and would be able to make use of the problem-solving skills of people affected by the problem. Citizens would have the opportunity to be better informed, both about the original problem and about the reasoning behind solution.

The municipality is considering a number of software packages to enable this kind of communication. The three favourites are:

Please feel free to take a look at and share any comments you have. I’ll collect up all the comments and forward them to Dave Speers.

Sep 272013

GETIFEST2013_400x517I helped organize GETIFest 2013, held on September 21 at Memorial Peace Park in downtown Maple Ridge. We had about 2500 visitors and 80 participating groups / vendors / businesses. (GETI stands for “Golden Ears Transition Initiative”. We are a local organization (part of the international Transition Initiative network) that links up and supports local groups and businesses who are working to build sustainable and self-sufficient communities.)

When you organize a festival of this size and scope, you end up doing a lot of site analysis. Where can we set up tents? Where can people park their bikes and cars? How will people move through the area? What impact will the event have on surrounding entities? How do we re-route traffic? How do we keep people safe in the event of an emergency?

During the various stages of site analysis, I developed a great appreciation of Memorial Peace Park. Think about it: a ring road around a park, with a recreational complex, arts centre and municipal building around the perimeter and parking beneath. From an access and safety point of view, it’s fantastic: limited entry and exit points for vehicles, many exit and entry points for pedestrians and bikes. A central band-stand which delineates areas of the park and is also an obvious performance space. (Shout out to Emerald Pig.) A beautiful grassy and landscaped area suitable for lounging and hanging about. (Shout out to Maple Ridge Parks and Leisure.)

Organizing the festival gave me a totally new perspective through which I viewed the park, and I was very impressed. It’s a tremendously valuable asset to the Maple Ridge community, and I commend those with the foresight to make it happen.

May 102013

neighbourhood_forumTo follow-up on the successful Jim Diers workshop from last year, the Neighbourhood Champions (with support of the MR/PM Parks and Leisure service) is holding a seminar on May 25, 2013. There will be a guest speaker (Joe Roberts, the Skid Row CEO”) and workshops on how to start a neighbourhood, how to connect and communicate, how to organize events and how to make neighbourhoods safe.

It’s free and everyone in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and the Katzie First Nation is welcome.

We will have display tables with information about local community groups around the main conference area. If your group would like to put up a display, let me know. You don’t need to be there at your display – the idea is that people will wander around and look at displays during lunch and breaks. If you aren’t attending, you can drop your display materials off with me before the event and I’ll set them up for you. Please pass this along to any community groups who you think might be interested.

Hope to see you there!

Apr 252013

stick-37040_640Creating a neighbourhood is not simply a matter of building a bunch of dwellings. You can buy a home, but you have to make a neighbourhood.

A neighbourhood is where you say hello to everyone, whether or not you know them, because they are your neighbours. (You even say hello to teenagers because you know that it bugs them and makes them uncomfortable.) A neighbour shares tools and dahlia tubers and advice (wanted or otherwise). A neighbour pays attention when there is a strange person (other than you) around your house.

A neighbourhood has a shared identity, just like a country or province. That identity might be based on a local sports team, or a park, or historical buildings, or an awesome annual Canada Day party. Your neighbourhood’s identity is the thing that makes you say: “I like living here because ________.”

A year ago, Ridge Meadows Parks and Leisure hosted a public seminar led by Jim Diers, a Seattle-based advocate for participatory democracy and community development. That seminar inspired a number of neighbourhood-based projects (including the Hammond Neighbours group, of which I am a member).

The purpose of this website is to continue the neighbourhood development momentum that we’ve built up over the last year. We want to connect up neighbourhood groups (and people who want to form neighbourhood groups) in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows in order to provide:

  • a way for neighbourhood groups to share ideas, knowledge, and experiences (such as event planning, organization, etc)
  • a place for neighbourhood groups to publicize their activities and contact information (or a place to publicize existing neighbourhood group websites and Facebook groups)
  • a set of resources and “best practices” to help new neighbourhood groups get up and running

The official “Ridge Meadows Neighbourhood Champions” group meets periodically and includes a couple of representatives from each neighbourhood group in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and also people from the Parks and Leisure department (who are extremely helpful at planning events and generally providing information). The group also has a Facebook group (for discussions), and a Facebook page (for whatever you’re supposed to do with a Facebook page). Everyone is welcome to participate on this site and on Facebook; however we try to limit the meetings to a couple of representatives from each neighbourhood group in order to keep things manageable (but that’s a guideline rather than a rule).