21st Century Park Wayfinding for a 21st Century Town

January 13, 2020

Clemence Marcastel

Bowmanville, Ontario has taken a decidedly thoughtful approach to growth. While the town has experienced significant population growth, residents maintain a deep commitment to the local agricultural sector and environment.

Bowmanville is uniquely situated at the convergence of Bowmanville and Soper Creeks. These lush river valleys have always been central to the town’s identity. In the past, the creeks powered several mills and were home to apple orchards and a World War II prisoner of war camp.

Local fish anglers led the effort to actively re-naturalize the local valleys and creeks, and as a result, more and more people began using them. The City of Bowmanville recognized that the trails fulfilled people’s need to connect to their river valleys and watersheds and invested in creating 6km of paved trails that have been extremely popular.

Since the trails were established, people have flocked to the river valleys to experience nature, fishing and cycling. For the past several years, the community has been working to create a connected network of river valley trails. The project is what Lloyd Rang, treasurer of the board for Valleys 2000, calls “a community dream.”

A key step in realizing this dream happened in 2017 when Greenbelt protection was extended to 21 major urban river valleys and 7 coastal wetlands across the Greater Golden Horseshoe – including the Bowmanville Creek. As Lloyd Rang says,

“Greenbelt protection of the river valley makes us part of one of the most successful conservation projects in the world.”

Now, Valleys 2000 wants to help people fully experience all the protected river valley has to offer. With support from the Greenbelt Foundation and Park People’s Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program, this 21st-century town is getting a 21st-century wayfinding system in its Greenbelt-protected river valleys.

 

In the spring, visitors to Bowmanville Creek and Soper Creek will be able to tap their smartphones on one of 17 well-marked digital wayfinding stations to learn more about wildlife, flora and history of the creek systems. The new stations will send participants’ phones to web pages, games and activities that help tell the story of the valley and its place in the Greenbelt.

Lloyd Rang is bursting with excitement as he shares:

“My son is now 15. Since he was a little kid we spent a lot of time in the creek, following animal tracks, exploring plants and seeing salmon in the creek. He’s developed a strong sense of and appreciation for nature. Now, this wayfinding system is going to be scaled up so more people, especially families and kids, get to have this valuable experience.”

The innovative digital wayfinding system is also intended to build momentum for Valleys 2000’s vision to join Soper and Bowmanville Creek trails to create a circle of greenspace and trails around Bowmanville for cyclists, anglers, runners and families to enjoy.

The solution may be high tech, but the wayfinding system has a decidedly old fashioned goal to keep the town meaningfully linked to its beloved watersheds. As Lloyd Rang says:

“Good planning and people have been key to preserving all of the key features of small-town life and a big part of that is sharing all that our Greenbelt-protected river valleys have to offer.”

 

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