WISE recognized for improving Glebe park safety
By Julie Houle Cezer
A comprehensive safety analysis and report on Glebe Central Park East that led to significant improvements to the park with no additional financial cost to the community has resulted in a 2012 Community Safety Awards nomination for an Ottawa organization.
The Women’s Initiative for a Safer Environment (WISE) and its leadership were nominated for the safety award, to be presented on November 5, by Elizabeth Ballard of the Glebe Community Association and Susan Courage of the Friends of Central Park East.
In September 2010, following a violent attack on a young woman in the park and other violent incidents, as well as illegal drug use and public consumption of alcohol in the park, Glebe residents called on WISE for advice and help in dealing with public safety in Glebe Central Park. WISE program director Elsy David was assigned to help Glebe residents prepare a safety audit.
As part of a dusk walkabout in the park, WISE found that park users highlighted safety issues such as access, sight lines, areas of concealment, visibility and lighting. Dog owners were identified as significant park users who enhanced park safety through their presence. David worked with the North-East Glebe Parks committee over the next year to identify safety factors, to understand residents’ concerns, and to gather data from city contractors and staff as well as the research on experiences of other areas and cities.
Given that the park is used as a pedestrian access between Bank Street and nearby homes, there is a constant flow of people. WISE identified peripheral park brush as a problem limiting pedestrian oversight and creating areas that lend
themselves to concealment. It also identified lighting as essential to improving residential sightlines.
While the city’s park lighting policy generally limits lighting in order to reduce public use of parks at night, WISE demonstrated that this park was not well served by the guidelines because of the lack of organized sports and its public pathway use. WISE also identified city contractor lighting experts to help bring more clarity to a park lighting proposal. In 2011, an agreement on increased safety lighting in the park was reached after an on-site meeting. WISE assisted with the formal proposal, requesting city implementation pending the allocation of funds.
David and WISE were key to having the city and the Glebe’s councillor understand why a “dark park policy” was inconsistent with security in the case of Glebe Central Park East. WISE’s safety analysis was also instrumental in motivating the semi-annual volunteer cleanup efforts as well as in achieving the planning, clearing, and funding of a park site for a Children’s Exploration Garden. Without their assistance, the site would not have been approved. Glebe Central Park East is now a much safer park with attentive observers and increased public use.
The Women’s Initiative for a Safer Environment (WISE) has developed and offered over the last 20 years, to a growing number of women of all ages, support in education, organizational assistance and practical action on issues of developing and maintaining safe social and physical environments for diverse populations of women in the Ottawa area.
WISE offers services in English and French and focuses on issues in rural areas as well as in the urban environment. They heighten people’s awareness about violence against women through public education (Take Back the Night, December 6th Vigil, International Women’s Day and the Clothesline Project) and conduct targeted assessments of safety deficiencies around public sites, providing a follow-up plan and recommendations for remediation. They also regularly work with the various levels of government as well as with individuals and community organizations.
For more information on WISE or their personal or community safety workshops, go to wiseottawa.ca or call 613-230-6700.