Kamloops’ Riverside Park is an amazing place. All through the year from early morning to late at night, there are people there. Some are running, playing tennis or lawn bowling. Others are watching their children play in the water park or playgrounds.
People have picnics. Others sit on a bench and watch the river flow by.
On summer evenings, there is amazing music at Music in the Park at the Rotary Bandshell. And there are numerous festivals and special events as well such as Canada Day, Run for the Cure and Remembrance Day.
There is an international movement called placemaking whose goal is to create public spaces which promote community wellbeing by drawing people together and giving them reasons to interact. The idea of placemaking is that people are happier, healthier and better off when they can interact with others in their community in positive ways.
Riverside Park is an excellent example of placemaking. Because it is such a beautiful place with good amenities, it gives people a motivation to get out and exercise. People are healthier as a result. The benefits are not just physical health, as the chance to be in a place with others helps mental health as well.
One of the benefits of going to Riverside Park are the happenstances that occur. For example, this week when I went, I ran into many friends who were there too. Public places allow those chance meetings to happen which help people keep connected with their community.
Public places are also places for everyone. There are no gates, no admission fees, no guards at the gates. You can see people from all backgrounds, some from Kamloops, others from around the world. Some well-off, others having hard times.
One of the important parts of feeling part of a community, and feeling others are too, is the chance to see others doing the same things as you do. Riverside Park is important because many people from many backgrounds share the space so well. It makes us all feel a bit more like we’re part of the same community.
Riverside Park is just one of many places where placemaking happens in Kamloops. McArthur Island, McDonald Park, Victoria Street, Prince Charles Park, Centennial Park, Albert McGowan Park and numerous dog parks all bring people together on a regular basis. There are also numerous other parks as well.
When the referendum for the new performing arts centre is passed this fall, like I hope it does, then my hope is the centre becomes part of Kamloops’ placemaking as well.
It is not a given the centre would. If, for example, it is mostly locked up, and is mostly inaccessible, then it will not be a place for people to be.
My hope is the centre would be not just a venue for performances, but, will become a place which invited people to come in and just hang out. This is especially important in the winter, when spending time at places like Riverside Park gets harder to do.
There are many galleries and theatres around the world which have public foyers which are open and inviting to the public. The TNRD Building in the downtown, with the library and art gallery, does this in a small way. But that building’s foyer is small and cramped. There is limited seating so few people spend time there.
People like people. People like places where other people are, along with amenities like seating, WIFI and washrooms, opportunities for individual and group activities, as well as beautiful surroundings.
I hope the performing arts centre is more than a place for concerts. What is more important is a place for community, an amazing place, just like Riverside Park, where Kamloops spends time together.
— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.