It’s a map, but not the sort of map that you might imagine.
This map doesn’t concentrate on marking streets, geographical features or any of the traditional aspects that we’ve come to expect. This document might be said to map the soul of the Oak Bay community. It’s called a green map and it’s been six years in the making.
The genesis of the process occurred when Oak Bay councillor Pam Copley, Oak Bay Community Association volunteer Jill Croft and a group of other Oak Bay residents took a course at Royal Roads University that introduced them to the concept of green mapping.
It’s an idea that began in New York City in the 1990s as a way of connecting tourists, residents and new arrivals to the green spaces and culturally significant locations within New York. The idea caught on and soon grew into a worldwide phenomenon. There are more than 750 interactive on-screen maps in 61 countries.
“It really caught fire, to where it’s now a growing movement to create a collective vision for communities,” said Ken Josephson, a cartographer and graphic artist at the University of Victoria, who has been a major participant and contributor to the Oak Bay project.
“It really is a way for us to establish a heart connection between people and their landscape.”
It’s been a long process for Oak Bay and has involved forums, consultations and a level of public participation that has transcended what one would generally associate with a map-making exercise.
“It really is about the process,” said Tom Croft, the president of the Oak Bay Community Association and one of the driving forces behind the green map project.
“We had a transportation forum, a multitude of conversations about green space preservation and use, conversations with schools, heritage organizations – you name it,” said Croft.
The end result of the process is twofold. The most obvious outcome of the process is the map itself. Its production was made possible by contributions from the heritage commission, local businesses and individuals and the real estate board.
The document is visually stunning and arguably more a work of art than a map.
Richly illustrated with vibrant, colourful images and icons, it plots the locations of those things the people of Oak Bay identified as being central to their identities.
Bike trails are marked, as are walking trails and great places to play with the family dog. There are the predictable icons that identify public libraries and schools, but there are also icons for mystical places, great places to watch the sunset or sunrise, and wonderful spots to fly a kite or watch the night sky.
“The choices of the icons are a reflection of what the people of Oak Bay find important. Central points of their existence. It’s a reflection of who they are, what they have and in some cases what they fear they might lose and need to preserve,” said Croft.
The flip-side of the document is also richly illustrated and provides narrative details on the history, heritage, climate and community resources of Oak Bay.
It also details aspects of life in Oak Bay that engage or concern the population, including environmental stewardship groups, community resources and emergency preparedness agencies and initiatives.
The green map group sees it as a living document. “It would be great to have the map posted online as an open document so that people could constantly be adding to, or amending it,” said Josephson. “That has been done with some green maps for other areas and it helps to keep the document relevant over time.”
There is a second equally important outgrowth to the mapping process and that is the human legacy.
The creation of the map required “thousands of hours and hundreds of people,” said Croft.
“Those conversations and relationships led to the creation of the Oak Bay Community Association, the Active Transportation Committee and a whole group of other organizations. Once we started talking to one another, we found that we had common concerns that we wanted to network around.”
“The six years we spent talking to people was a life-changing experience,” said Croft.
“You build relationships and share perspectives and you realize that the map is only a reflection of the incredible people and the talent pool who can continue on to make a real difference.”
The green map group hopes to present a laminated version of the map to Oak Bay municipal council in the near future. The public can get a copy of the map at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre, Monterey Recreation Centre, Henderson Recreation Centre and at Oak Bay Volunteer Services, located in municipal hall.
More information on the Oak Bay Community Association can be found at oakbaycommunityassociation.org. Information on the green map movement can be found at greenmap.org.