Social and cultural dimensions
The involvement of many individuals, industry professionals, educational institutions, NGOs, and several levels of government were essential in the acquisition, improvement and continued upkeep of the matrix of green spaces that make up the Green Links network (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015). The Douglas College Institute of Urban Ecology was founded in 1984 and serves as a representative of Green Links. In 1996, Dr. Schaefer and the Institute of Urban Ecology set up an endowment fund to create a funding base for Green Links’ operations that is currently being used for other regional projects (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015).
The majority of funding for Green Links came from industries operating in the region, which hold a stake in the corridors that form key stretches of the connectivity matrix. These include BC Hydro, Terasen Gas, the Real Estate Foundation of BC, and Coquitlam Sand & Gravel Co. Secondary funding sources include educational institutions and government agencies, such as Douglas College and the Ministry of Advanced Education. The Institute of Urban Ecology raised over $2.24 million for the project over 9 years (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015).
Creating and Sustaining Community Involvement
By hosting workshops and events, the Green Links team engaged over 16,000 community members and planted over 86,000 plants; this generated significant media attention surrounding Green Links. A program called “Adopt-a-Site” encouraged community members to claim responsibility for a portion of the matrix and commit to its continued upkeep; adopters ranged from elementary schools, to avid gardeners, to retirees. A contest called “Nature’s Havens” was initiated, where private backyards were entered to compete to see whose yard was most vibrant, highly functional, and supported wildlife movement (Schaefer & Sulek, 1997a). Winners received public recognition of their achievements, boosting morale and encouraging further engagement (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015).
Education and Employment-based Initiatives
The Green Links team worked to address every level of education through its efforts. Themes of educational workshops included native plant identification and propagation, wildlife identification, biodiversity, backyard habitats, creek ecosystems, and pollution control (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015). To support BC youth employment, Dr. Schaefer and the Institute of Urban Ecology provided 20-week work placements, providing training for post-secondary students studying geography and biology (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015). Areas of expertise included plant and animal identification, surveying, habitat restoration, plant propagation, plant salvaging, statistics, report writing, database management, and graphic design (Schaefer & Sulek, 1997a).
This project took a holistic approach to stewardship and aimed to include all members of the community. Dr. Schaefer highlights an initiative, for example, to improve women’s safety throughout the Green Links corridors. This initiative was education-based, with the publication of brochures on safe practices, and also practical, as safety was effectively incorporated into planting designs (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015).
Dr. Schaefer also notes the inclusion of the arts community within the region. Led by the Green Links team, elementary and secondary school students participated in the creation of murals portraying what nature and biodiversity meant to them, adding an element of community pride and connection to place to the project. Art showings were held at local galleries during the summer to display this progress (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015).
Publications and Media Coverage
Green Links effectively maintained a presence in mainstream and educational media throughout its lifetime, allowing for continual promotion of awareness of the project. On average Dr. Schaefer and his associates produced 10 formal educational and scientific publications every year. Media outlets such as the Province, the Vancouver Sun, and the Washington Post, to name a few, often covered stories that highlighted community involvement in Green Links (See Figure: Various Newspaper Clippings of Green Links Project) (Schaefer, V., personal communication, February 23, 2015).
Figure: Various Newspaper Clippings of Green Links. Source: V. Schaefer, personal communication, February 23, 2015.