For the past few months, I’ve been quietly working on a few new projects and connecting with great groups in Regina and beyond. Now that we are into 2015, I’m happy to say that these projects are taking shape and I can start talking about them.
The most exciting collaboration is with the folks at Queen City Hub and Regina Advocates for Design. They’re launching a lecture series called Urbanity 101 which will explore topics related to urban planning, design, and citizen engagement. The goal is to provide a space for citizens to improve their understanding of urban issues and planning concepts, ask questions, and engage in a more social dialogue. The specifics of the series are still under development, but more information will be coming soon!
I don’t know about you, but I’m already excited about what 2015 has in store!
This weekend marks the fifth anniversary of Regina Urban Ecology! (first post here)
As regular readers know, the blog has gotten quieter in the last few years – as a “not-even-non-profit”, every post and every project we’ve undertaken has been because contributors and guest contributors generously gave their time (and for posts in particular, they ALWAYS take longer than you expect). I’ve never held contributors to a schedule or even expectation for posting because if I can’t pay them for their work that’s just not ok. For myself, finding work-life balance has often been a challenge and I’ve had to set some things, including writing regular posts, to the side to make sure I don’t burn out. However, RUE continues to be a great way to connect with people locally and nationally who are working to improve our cities.
It has been so exciting to see the conversation about Regina as a city evolve over the last few years. More citizens are willing and interested to have a productive discussion on how our city is growing and changing and how we can ensure it grows sustainably and equitably. Consultants working on the Design Regina Official Community Plan and Transportation Master Plan have noted that Reginans are actually pretty educated and savvy when it comes to good planning principles. Reginans desire complete communities (with a mix of housing, employment opportunities, and amenities that are convenient and enjoyable to navigate on foot) and complete streets that are safe for all users regardless of their age, ability, or mode of transportation. There is a lot of work still to be done to ensure these goals and principles come to fruition but the support from the community is encouraging and a first important step.
And there are even more great groups in the city advocating for change and bringing such positive and productive conversation to our city. Bike Regina has gained momentum as a positive force in our city advocating for better bike infrastructure to improve safety and support sustainable transportation. Regina Advocates for Design has been provoking great discussion and participation with a film and lecture series, their summer sketch club, and, recently, spearheading Regina’s first Park(ing) day (I had the pleasure of stopping by their installation last weekend while I was in town- see above)! This group is really fantastic and I can’t wait to see what they’ve got next. The Queen City Hub (Regina’s first coworking and skill-sharing space) has also been active promoting discussions about the City with panels and facilitated discussions about housing in the city and the future for arts and culture in the downtown.
All of this is to say that the last five years have been a pleasure and, although RUE continues to shift and change, I can’t wait to see what fun new collaborations and conversations are coming. Many thanks to everyone who’s ever read, shared, and commented on a post, as well as those working to make our city even better.
I’m here to let you know about a cool project that launched this week to help you inspire change in your neighbourhood. The Montreal Urban Ecology Centre (MUEC), in partnership with the Center for a New American Dream and One Earth, is launching the 2014 Get2gether Neighborhood Challenge – a call to citizens across Canada to transform their city, one block at a time.
MUEC is accepting applications over the next few weeks from citizen groups who want to lead local improvement projects in their communities, and will help teams raise funds to make their project a reality. To do this, MUEC is partnering with IOBY, a platform for citizen-led, neighbour-funded projects.
After evaluating the applications, selected teams will begin the project process in August with targeted training sessions on how to crowd-fund their projects and whatever amount the teams raise through this process will be matched dollar-for-dollar by MUEC up to $2,000 per project. The deadline to apply is July 27, 2014 UPDATE – the deadline has been extended to August 4, 2014.
Regina Urban Ecology is working with MUEC, providing local support and information for groups in Regina who are interested in submitting an application. Have a Regina-specific question (e.g. “Our team wants to improve the pocket park behind the RPL Central Branch – do you know who I might talk to at the RPL to get their support?”)? Feel free to send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll do our best to help you out!
For more info about the project and how to apply, visit the project website here!
Summer in the Queen City is in full swing! In addition to attending festivals, relaxing on patios, and vacationing at the lake this summer, there are also some cool “urban” themed things that you should add to your summer to-do list:
1) Take part in the Regina Advocates for Design Summer Sketch Camp: RAD hosts an informal gathering every other Tuesday for people to brush up on their sketching skills. Bring your own materials and meet the group in front of Regina Central Library downtown. No previous experience required. Remaining sessions take place: July 15, July 29, Aug 12, Aug 26).
2) Participate in the community engagement regarding the Regina Public Library Central Branch: The RPL has launched a new public consultation to discuss the future of the RPL Central Branch – including the physical building and programming needs of the future. Engagement activities will be happening through the summer, including a booth that will be popping up at various events. Right now there is an online survey you can fill out – get on it!
3) Add your voice to cycling advocacy in the city: Bike Regina is looking for a new member on their Board of Directors! The membership of Bike Regina has been growing and they are increasingly a positive force for improving cycling in our city. Applications are open until July 31, 2014.
4) Map your thoughts on the Regina Cycles Map: While we’re talking cycling, Bike Regina and Regina Urban Ecology have an online crowdsourcing initiative to map the good, bad, and ugly about cycling in Regina. As you’re out biking and enjoying the wonderful weather, add your thoughts on improvements to the network, where cyclists can access existing amenities, and potentially dangerous conditions (e.g. collision hotspots).
5) Follow the Traveller’s Building on Twitter:The Traveller’s Building is a designated heritage building in downtown Regina that has been left empty and in disrepair for over a decade. There is so much potential for this building’s future. There’s a new twitter account to show this building the attention and love it deserves – you really should follow it!
For this week’s Friday Feature, I wanted to share the work of Minneapolis artist Eric Rieger (HOTTEA). I came across Eric’s work a few weeks ago and it continues to inspire me. Eric uses yarn and other simple materials to create non-destructive street art installations.
What really delights me about Eric’s work is how simple modifications to common built spaces can create a completely different experience. In pieces like Ritual and Optimism, everyday public spaces (old tennis courts, connector walkways) become visible, colourful, and playful. It’s a good reminder that small, ephemeral interventions can have a big impact.
In contrast to a lot of street art, Eric’s installations are sculptural and transform how people move through and interact with space. I rarely consider the three dimensional and sculptural opportunities of public space interventions. His work has inspired me to consider so many new possibilities for neglected spaces as I walk around.
It’s that time of year again – the Jane’s Walk festival is just over 2 months away (Friday May 2 – Sunday May 4). That means it’s time to start dreaming, scheming, and planning the logistics!
This year, Regina is hosting its 6th Annual Jane’s Walk event! Over the last five years we’ve seen a fantastic collection of walks take place all over the city: as far north as Rochdale Boulevard and as far south as the University of Regina. Walks have included those that delve into the city’s history, that explore personal experiences in the neighbourhoods in which we grew up, and that encourage dialogue about important community issues like homelessness. I love connecting with new and returning walk leaders and continue to be inspired (and delightfully surprised) by the walks they create. Needless to say, I’m excited to see what this year will bring!
If you’re interested in leading a Jane’s Walk or volunteering to help on the days of the walks (taking photos, assisting walk leaders) please get in touch!
Here’s a link to a new study that suggests that ivy growing on walls may be better than street trees in cleaning the air in “street canyon” situations. (Street canyons are roads surrounded by tall buildings, where air tends to linger.)
Here’s more from the website:
“The researchers ran computer simulations to determine how green walls and roofs might affect pollutant concentrations at street level. Adding plants to walls would cut nitrogen dioxide levels by 15 percent and small particulate matter by 23 percent, the authors estimate. In areas with little wind, those numbers could reach 40 and 60 percent. Green roofs didn’t perform as well because they don’t directly affect the air near the street.
Trees also help clean the air, but they can keep street-level air from mixing with the air above. At low to medium pollutant levels, planting trees will still reduce air pollution, the team predicts. If a city is very polluted, however, trees could actually increase nitrogen dioxide levels near the street.”