Public drives green map project

Oak Bay's community green map created unlike regular maps

Community Association of Oak Bay volunteer Jill Croft

Community Association of Oak Bay volunteer Jill Croft

Greater Victoria has one. Metchosin, Highlands, heck, even James Bay has one.

Now Oak Bay will have one too.

It’s called a community green map, and it’s taken more than five years to produce.

“It started out at Windsor Park on a ping-pong table,” said Jill Croft, who spearheaded the map project. “We spread out a blank map of Oak Bay with a number of post-its and we spoke to people as they walked past, asking them what they like about their community.”

And now, after all this time, the map is almost complete.

Green mapping was first conceived in New York City as a way to connect tourists, newcomers and native New Yorkers who had an interest in sustainability, to the natural areas and culturally significant spots that made their city unique.

The Green Apple Map, as it was called, was so well received that an entire system of mapmaking was created which would enable people in communities around the world to design their own maps. Each map uses a universal set of icons, but has a unique look which emphasizes different aspects of a given community.

Calgary’s green map has no roads, for example, instead highlighting cycling routes throughout the city. Meanwhile, the Metchosin map would be right at home in an art gallery, with its colourful illustrations of local features.

Oak Bay’s green map, according to Croft, is “somewhere in between.”

Despite the flexibility of design that green mapping allows, it was still important to make sure the end product was accurate. For that reason, cartographer Ken Josephson was brought on board.

Josephson has been working on green maps for 12 years, and was able to use his experience to help Oak Bay residents compile a list of things they wanted to include on the map.

“Traditional cartography is driven by government and business, and represents their world view,” Josephson said. “Community mapping has a bottom-up approach. Every community is different and what they choose to map is different.”

Making those decisions together, he says, is what really strengthens communities.

“If you start to focus on your assets, it’s more affirming.”

The Community Association of Oak Bay is tangible proof of how the creation of a green map can make a community stronger. It was essentially formed as a result of the green map process, Croft says.

Oak Bay Coun. Pam Copley has been involved in the project since the beginning. Initially, it was difficult to sell the idea to council as a good financial investment, she said. But with the map almost ready, she hopes they recognize the role it can play in bringing the community together.

“I think there is some room for council to be supporting it,” she said.

“Not only as it comes into its first production, but down the road. I see this as a living document – it’s not locked in time forever … It will probably change over time, and each printing will require further support.”

The community association has received money for the project from the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, and the Victoria Foundation, among others. They’ve even approached the Victoria Real Estate Board, which sees the maps as a useful tool for realtors to use when talking up Oak Bay to potential buyers.

The community association plans to print an initial run of 6,000 maps in early 2012 and put them in places like the Willows Beach Tea Room, municipal hall and other spots where people gather.

It’s a far cry from that ping-pong table, Croft said.

“Just to see how far we’ve come, it’s really beautiful.”