The Breathe team pictured above are, left to right: Ryan Andres, Paul Giang, Geoff Smith, Nathan Roth, Heloisa Ceccato Mendes, Angela Hobson, Grant Pearsell and Theresa Piorkowski.
Editor’s Note: Today we continue a series of video stories about City of Edmonton employees. In their own words. But, first, just a few more of ours. Together, the 14,000 people who work for the City help to imagine, construct, maintain, operate, and animate this place called Edmonton—where we have all decided to build, together, the value of our lives.
This is our story. This is the story of Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy team.
What makes Edmonton an excellent place to live?
Many would agree it is the open spaces where we gather for festivals, play frisbee, walk the dog or just chill and take in some nature. Together these spaces make up Edmonton’s Green Network and Breathe is the strategy supporting, building and protecting this network.
But who is behind the strategy? Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy team is a group of employees dedicated to ensuring Edmontonians have access to the healing benefits of open space now and long into the future.
“Having access to open space, green space, is so important. Truly it is about ensuring we maintain our high quality of life in the city we have chosen to live in, which is largely influenced through our enjoyment of nature, ability to recreate, and support our overall well being and mental health,” says Geoff Smith, Senior Planner with the City of Edmonton’s Urban Growth and Open Space Strategy Section. “The strategy aims to preserve the integrity of our environment, while providing places to gather together and celebrate our community spirit and identity.”
But Breathe wasn’t built in a day. For over 2 years the team undertook rigorous research, analysis, engagement and collaboration with other branches. One of the results is a database with an inventory of the city’s open spaces with information about function and connectivity. This data helped to build a deeper understanding of the green network. “We recognize that it’s not enough to just have a certain amount of space, it has to be functional and accessible as well,” says Smith “And every community has different open space needs, so we need to understand that need and how to meet it.” The tool will help City of Edmonton managers make integrated, data-driven decisions regarding the City’s precious land assets.
Breathe’s approach to open space planning was so innovative it was recognized nationally with two distinct awards: 2018 Award of Planning Excellence in the category of Recreation Planning, from the Canadian Institute of Planners; and the 2018 National Award of Excellence in the category of Planning and Analysis, from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects.
So next time you are enjoying some time in one of Edmonton’s excellent green spaces, whether it be riding a bike or hanging with friends, remember to take a moment and just breathe.