City of North Van wants to add more benches throughout municipality

You better take this one sitting down.

The City of North Vancouver will be reviewing possible locations along Lonsdale Avenue, the Green Necklace pathway, and other areas throughout the municipality where it could potentially add more covered and uncovered benches.

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“We’re North Vancouver – we’re hilly, we’re rainy,” said Coun. Don Bell, who proposed the motion during Monday’s council meeting. “I’ve noticed in particular, as I’m trying to get more exercise, that walking up Lonsdale from Esplanade can be challenging and when you hit Victoria Park that first bench looks pretty good.”

While Bell noted that there was currently a decent number of benches around Victoria Park, areas such as the Green Necklace, the Spirit Trail, the city waterfront and “Moodyville, as we extend that park area there” could be decent destinations to add more infrastructure that would let pedestrians on the move to take a rest.

“There comes a point where you get a certain distance where you could use a bench,” said Bell. “If we want to encourage the walkability goals of our community – if we want to get seniors, those with disabilities, out – there’s an opportunity for that to happen.”

Noting a recent grant request from the Lionsview Seniors’ Planning Society for $1,200 to study the issue of benches in the city, which was rejected, Bell said now was the time for action.

“It seems that $1,200 won’t even buy a third of a bench. … I think rather than study it further, maybe we take action and ask the staff to include something in next year’s budget plan, but also at the same time develop a policy and program for a broader inclusion towards that goal,” he said.

A memorialized or commemorative bench could fetch $3,500 over a 10-year period, Bell said, so his motion gives staff the option to look at sponsorship of some benches from local businesses or individuals.

Coun. Holly Back supported the motion, but was wary about letting businesses take up too much bench space.

“I definitely don’t want to walk down the Green Necklace and see a big advertisement,” she said.

Coun. Tony Valente, referencing the city’s still-in-development Walk CNV plan, which will prioritize and give a detailed plan on new potential walkability investments the city could make, supported Bell’s motion.

“I’m really excited about that and I’m happy to see this motion come forward because it looks to me like a piece of that plan, which I realize is still draft, but starting to get implemented,” he said. “The question I would share with council is: Are the benches enough? We hear a lot about public washrooms… .”

Coun. Jessica McIlroy wanted to broaden the scope of what adding more benches could mean for the city, noting that pedestrian benches could do more than just encourage movement and a place to rest through city, but actually “create a more engaging city” that allows people to socialize and connect with others.

Mayor Linda Buchanan concurred, referring to her time in Vienna where “you go into a park and it is lined with benches, one next to the other next to the other.”

“Walking is the primary mode of transportation that we prioritize in the city,” said Buchanan. “As we age, we certainly still want people to get out and enjoy the community.”

The motion passed unanimously.

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