What Is Community?
On June 2nd, West Vancouver celebrated its 35th Community Day. The event dates back to the May Day celebration, first held at Ambleside Park in 1931! On the same weekend, my neighbourhood cordoned off a leafy section of Haywood Avenue for our annual block party. The festivities left me pondering what it means to be part of a community and why we celebrate it.
Community means different things to different people. In the fullest sense, it describes a group of individuals sharing common values, interests and responsibilities. Research shows that humans have a basic need for belonging. A positive sense of community is highly correlated with physical and mental health, among other benefits. Sadly, Vancouver suffers from a lack of social connectedness and studies reveal it to be one of the unhappiest Canadian cities as a result.
West Vancouver, by contrast, has always had a strong community spirit, shaped over time by our shared history, our natural environment, and our exceptional residents and local institutions. We celebrate belonging to something very special.
Recently, many residents have expressed the fear that we are losing our sense of community. This feeling is understandable given the changes around us. The make-up of our community is being transformed, becoming more transient and fragmented. How can we respond?
How Do We Build Community?
Creating and maintaining a sense of community takes effort and intention. It requires forming relationships with people and places and deepening these bonds over time. We create opportunities for residents to connect by supporting community groups and organizations that bring people together, reinvigorating town centres as places to gather and interact, and creating inviting neighbourhoods where residents young and old walk the streets and talk toeach other. We do it by holding more block parties.
At the same time, the bonds we form with people and places can only solidify with a measure of continuity. We develop a strong sense of place by protecting and enhancing the unique character of our neighbourhoods, sustaining our institutions and preserving our treasured natural heritage. Importantly, our relationships with each other can only endure by finding a way for our families and friends to stay in our community. Young adults need places to live when they are ready to leave home and new couples need places to raise their children close to schools and parks. Older residents need homes where they can downsize and remain active and engaged in civic life.
This is just a start. I seek your ideas. Sustaining community is not always easy, but it is something we must do. Next Community Day, let’s ensure we have even more to celebrate.
THIS COMMENT IS THE PERSONAL OPINION OF THE AUTHOR AND IS NOT MADE ON BEHALF OF ANY OTHER PERSON OR ENTITY.