What is a Neighbourhood Association?
Today, for your perusal and edification, WRX Property Group proudly presents a thoughtful analysis of: the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association!
Throughout Kitchener-Waterloo, you can find Neighbourhood Associations of various sizes, shapes, and levels of activity. Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge each have multiple Neighbourhood Associations, serving multiple neighbourhoods within their respective cities. But what is a Neighbourhood Association, you ask? I’ve got some good news for you: the next paragraph holds the answer to this question, and maybe more.
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Neighbourhood Associations are composed of the residents of a specific, boundary-defined neighbourhood. These groups operate on a volunteer-basis and serve to organize activities, events, and initiatives aiming to make the area a great place to live. Residents are free to participate as little or as much as they want (or are able to), and associations have a variety of Board Positions in which keen residents can serve as guiding hands in monthly meetings and handle ongoing practical concerns. Essentially, Neighbourhood Associations serve their community, and represent the individuals therein in dealings with one another, and the city at large.
About Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association
Let’s move on to today’s specific subject: the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association. We got the inside scoop from Melissa Bowman, President of the Association, so read on to find out what it’s like in Victoria Park, and what the Neighbourhood Association’s vision of the future looks like.
According to Melissa Bowman, “The Neighbourhood Association has been around since 1974, but the neighbourhood itself is one of the older neighbourhoods in the city.” She says that Victoria Park is a mixed community, which features many single detached homes, as well as some medium- and high-rise buildings. The neighbourhood derives its name from what is arguably its most impressive feature (I say arguably because the community itself is great, as well): Victoria Park. Situated right in the middle of the region, Victoria Park is absolutely stunning. And just wait until you hear about all the activities that go on there. But more on that later.
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The Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association has an open membership: everyone within the neighbourhood’s boundaries is welcome to participate, and it is the Association’s fundamental purpose to understand every resident’s needs. This is a particularly exciting time in the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association (and, indeed, Neighbourhood Associations throughout Kitchener): the City of Kitchener recently unveiled its new neighbourhood strategy, which is charmingly referred to as ‘Love My Hood.’ This initiative, coupled with the ‘Neighbourhood Placemaking Challenge,’ aims to bring neighbourhoods together through art, safety-initiatives, and public places. Communities can come together to figure out what their neighbourhood needs, and the City of Kitchener will provide grants ranging from $1,000 to $20,000.
Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association Goals
The Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association is endeavouring to identify the goals, wishes, and hopes of its community members, through online surveys, physical surveys delivered to homes, and in-person votes. One such vote took place at one of the many community events hosted in Victoria Park: the Labour Day Street Party. This was a lovely way to spend a warm September holiday, with free ice cream, music, games, and crafts, and a more practical opportunity to hold a vote on which priorities residents considered most important.
At its heart, the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association (henceforth to be referred to as the VPNA) wants to foster a sense of engagement in residents. Neighbours should feel engaged – and a part of – the community in which they live. Another important role the VPNA plays is, as Bowman says, “Providing ways for people to stay connected to things that might impact them.” This is achieved in a variety of ways: the Victoria Park Ward Councillor has a platform within the VPNA’s monthly newsletter to communicate with ward residents. The VPNA also keeps residents up to date with city projects that may affect the neighbourhood. One such project is the Residential Intensification in Established Neighbourhoods Study (RIENS), which aims to assess the best ways in which to serve the rapidly growing Kitchener-Waterloo population through housing development in established residential neighbourhoods. The VPNA gathers important information, and shares it with the community.
Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association Fun Events
But while the VPNA serves several very serious functions, it is also responsible for a fair amount of fun functions (indeed, the VPNA puts the ‘fun’ back in ‘fundamental services’). The Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association hosts events throughout the year, for residents of all ages. For example, after Hallowe’en each year is ‘Pumpkinpalooza’ (or simply ‘the Pumpkin Parade’ if you prefer less colourful, but more descriptive, titles), during which residents take their jack-o’-lanterns down to Victoria Park after dark, light them, and go on a spookily delightful march along the trails. It should be noted that this festival was dreamt up by Victoria Park resident Steve Burrows, which goes to show that the community rewards good ideas and engagement, and that while the VPNA may be a serious, effective Neighbourhood Association, it’s not above horsing around (putting the ‘neigh’ back in ‘neighbourhood,’ if you will).
Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association Future Goals
The VPNA is looking to implement several specific initiatives in the immediate future. The first is a project that is already underway: the Food Forest within Victoria Park. Community Gardens are becoming increasingly popular (both within Kitchener-Waterloo and without), and these areas provide residents with individual plots of land to cultivate and grow food. Food Forests are slightly different: these are areas where anyone is welcome to take what they want. Currently growing in a modest Food Forest in Victoria Park are herbs, fruit-bearing trees, and edible plants, and the VPNA hopes to expand this territory. This is part of a broader initiative to ensure all parts of Victoria Park can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. To achieve this, the VPNA is looking in to a small library, public benches, and a community board upon which neighbourhood and city news, and items for sale, can be posted.
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The VPNA is planning to partner with the City of Kitchener to promote urban forestry. A key part of this is addressing and maintaining the tree canopy within Victoria Park. Melissa Bowman says, “One of the benefits of living in such a mature neighbourhood is the tree coverage is amazing. But there’s also a number of streets who are facing trees that are nearing the ends of their lives.” This is a question down the line that the VPNA and the City of Kitchener aim to address. Another key issue in the VPNA’s purview is that of safety. Elementary school students within Victoria Park are zoned for J F Carmichael Public School, and many of them cross West Avenue to get here. The VPNA is looking into painting a crosswalk here to ensure safety; some of the streets in Victoria Park’s periphery can get busy at certain times of the day.
Wrapping It Up
Victoria Park is a fantastic place to live – there’s always something going on in the park, whether it’s one of the city’s beloved festivals (Ribfest, Blues fest, and many more) or simply a pick-up soccer match. And with the neighbourhood’s close proximity to the revitalized downtown core of Kitchener, residents have access to a wide variety of independent shops, restaurants, transit routs, and much, much more. Victoria Park is a very diverse and welcoming neighbourhood; some residents have been here for decades, while others have just arrived. There’s plenty to see and do in this community, and it’s got an active, engaged Neighbourhood Association that suits it perfectly. If you’re looking for a beautiful, historic, centrally-located place to live, Victoria Park may just be the place for you. And getting involved with the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association is a great way to immerse yourself in – and contribute to – its thriving community.
Full Interview With Melissa Bowman of VPNA
Written by Will Kummer