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Great turnout for Greenspace Plan meeting

I was incredibly amazed at the full house turnout for Brandon's Greenspace Master Plan community consultation on Wednesday night.

The old plan is several years expired, and wasn't fully followed anyway. It's wildly out of date, and Brandon is badly falling behind the curve when it comes to things like bike lanes and pedestrian bridges.

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I felt it was important that as many people as possible have their voices heard.

Although I had a family engagement for much of the evening, I saw several tweets (1, 2, 3, 4) declaring it a success, and I made sure to get there for the tail end of it.

And I do mean the tail end — when I arrived, it was just Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and a couple of other stragglers, while a Keystone Centre employee cleaned up the room.

Decter Hirst told me that there were so many people, they had had to bring in extra tables.

Luckily, there was a pen and a blank questionnaire on the table, and I was quickly able to fill in my opinions; the mayor said she'd make sure it gets to the right people.

It's weird bordering on worrisome that in 2014, an evening community gathering with photocopied questionnaires and draw-on maps is still considered the most effective way to get community feedback.

No one's heard of the Internet? 

I'd also like to point out that, these days, people who use the city's recreational greenspace also use smartphone apps to track their bike rides or runs using GPS. There's a really interesting company, Strava, that takes all those GPS pings, and has made a global map of where the most popular routes are.

Here's Brandon's:

A few things stand out to me — in particular the apparent need for paths on southbound First Street North as well as Rosser and Princess avenues downtown. Twenty-Sixth Street, too, gets a lot of traffic yet there's no path on most of it. The mountain bike paths on the North Hill get insane levels of activity. I had no idea.

This is data, not anecdote, so even though the sample size is limited to people who use the Strava app (as opposed to, say, Nike+ or RunKeeper or MapMyRun), it is in some ways more valuable than public surveys.

People in surveys tend to tell an "aspirational" version of the truth. They exaggerate the things that they want to do more of, and minimize the things that they want to do less of. It's a well-known problem to any social scientist.

That all said, I'm extremely pleased at the great turnout to the Greenspace Master Plan consultation. It's just the first step — collating the responses will take a few weeks, apparently, and then the consultants will come back to the community for some refinement.

I'm looking forward to participating more in those meetings as well. I hope the consultants take the time to open things up to online feedback, as well.

I would hate for family commitments in the evenings to make it impossible for people with families — heavy users of greenspace, which includes parks, paths and pools — to have their needs heard in the consults.

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