How much parkland do we really have?

This is second in a series about the state of Guelph’s parks. Here, I discuss the data analysis of Guelph’s parkland — comparing the values in the City’s report to the actual sizes of the land parcels. If you already knew we were short by 136 hectares, skip to the next post, which explains how we got to where we are today, and what I’ll do to fix it.

Green space is important to the vast majority of people in Guelph. As we’ve seen in the previous post, to emphasize the importance of differing types of green space, the city has a Recreation, Parks and Culture Strategic Master Plan which defines two types: parkland, for sports fields and playgrounds, and conservation land, for woodlots, wetlands, and hiking trails.

So how much parkland do we really have? On October 3rd, the City of Guelph released its master list of parkland, including the areas of each park, to each candidate in the municipal election. I’ve uploaded the full list here. The city claims to own 442.36 hectares of parkland, and lease an additional 39.25 hectares from the Wellington Catholic District School board (WCDSB). This is well above the target of 3.3 hectares per 1000 people — which works out to 435.6 hectares needed for a city with a population of 132,000.

But when you look closely, the numbers just don’t add up. With some help from GIS software experts (working in an engineering school has its benefits) I was able to compare the amount of claimed parkland to the actual size of the parkland parcels. Thanks to the Guelph Open Data portal, we were able to obtain the actual size and shape of every land parcel within Guelph, and a separate list of those which are designated parkland. We also obtained (from the GRCA data catalogue) maps of every watercourse and wetland in the Grand River watershed.

It quickly became clear that the city is counting large areas of conservation land as parkland, amounting to over one hundred hectares in mis-counted parkland.  In particular, following discrepancies were noticed:

  • Guelph Lake Sports Fields is counted as 57 hectares, but only 13 hectares is parkland. The rest is wetland.
  • Kortright Hills Park is counted as 13 hectares, but only 0.36 hectares is parkland; the rest is conservation land.
  • A similar overcount occurred with Hanlon Creek Park: the city claims 23 hectares, but 18 hectares is conservation land.
  • Eastview Community Park is counted as 25 hectares, but only 7 hectares of the park is actually built.
  • Riverside Park, Eramosa River Park, and York Road Park contain large areas of wetland and significant woodlots.
  • Areas of leased parkland: the numbers given by the city are the entire parcel size, effectively counting the interior of elementary and high school buildings as parkland.
  • Large significant natural areas are counted in Margaret Greene Park, Marksam Park and Silvercreek Park, and many smaller parks.

In total, the city only owns 300 hectares of actual parkland, and leases an additional 30. This amounts to just 2.49 hectares per 1000 people, well short of the target.

In Ward 4, the situation is worse. The city owns less than 36 hectares and leases another 5, for a total of 41 hectares, or (given a population of 20175) we have 2.04 per 1000 people. If we add just a few hundred more people (and with the apartments on Paisley it’s likely we already have) we will be below the minimum requirement.

The full report and all the data can be found here.

Up next: How did we get here, and how can we fix it?

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