For my inaugural Ground message, I wish to highlight a few themes of a maturing professional association that will remain a central focus over my term as your new President.
Adaption of Public Space
After finishing the first CSLA/OALA joint virtual conference, participating in several discussions around Nature-Based Solutions, I see tremendous potential for landscape architects to be the lead role in the adaption of public space to support the big move outdoors, and in providing outdoor design solutions for addressing larger societal issues like mental health, by bolstering human connection with nature. The time is right to look at how we utilize nature to help achieve healthy living goals.
Over the last year, political leaders at all levels of government have been advancing priorities for our shared public spaces, streets, and parks to function in a different light. Promoting the importance of physical distancing outdoors, reducing available space for vehicles within right-of-ways, and managing parking congestion at recreational trail access points is an urgent focus for municipal planners. As a profession, we need to respond quickly to the design challenge of improving public space, and promoting public health and safety.
As we embark on a new strategic plan, we’re hearing from you! The recent membership survey to 1,895 members generated 508 responses—we’re calling that a 27 per cent response rate, which is excellent! Members’ input will form a large part of the 2021–2023 strategic plan development with membership engagement, a key theme for this term of Council.
Increasing our efforts to raise awareness of the association cannot be accomplished by Council alone, it is the collective effort of members: whether meeting with their local politicians, or being active in addressing issues of public policy. Supporting volunteers will be a key theme. Our association can make a difference if we have a collective voice, which comes from volunteers assisting committees and Council.
I look forward to the year ahead, as we move closer to the majority of Ontarians receiving vaccines and our population becoming re-energized with its newfound love of the outdoors.
Steve Barnhart, OALA, CSLA