Inglewood greenspace will transform from ‘gopher park’ into urban park

A small, unused green space dubbed “gopher park” by Inglewood locals will soon be transformed into an urban park complete with a basketball court, chess tables and seating.

The area is at the corner of 11 St. and 11 Ave. SE, across from the the parcel of land across from Ol’ Beautiful and Smiltbilt Hats and the Cold Garden brewery. 

Rebecca O’Brien, with the local Business Improvement Area, calls the project a low-cost, high reward endeavour.

“I’m 100 per cent sure that we will see a total transition of previously unused space except for gophers, bless the gophers,” she said.

O’Brien says the lot will eventually be used for a fire hall. But in the meantime,  with a ton of pedestrians and businesses nearby, an urban park is perfect for this space.

Dan Allard owns Cold Garden, a brewery that faces the unused greenspace. For years, he’s had a vision of doing something with it.

“So the original drawing is on a little grid paper that I always have in my briefcase and just drew it out at the bar.”

Now that drawing is coming to life. The basketball court was poured last week, and the net is being installed next week. 

Group effort

The labour of love is a real group effort — Allard, O’Brien and the Inglewood BIA got the support of Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra’s office, as well as City Roads and Urban Strategy to make this “public space activation” project.

“I’d say it took the record for for an activation and a permit for application purposes,” O’Brien said. “But the process started, the seed was planted a few years ago, when this gopher park space was designated as a possible public pot consumption site, which most of us just thought was a ridiculous idea.

“What it did do was shine the spotlight on what’s essentially a neglected green space in the midst of a very busy pedestrian area.”

O’Brien said her first thought was a public art installation, but that all changed when she met up with Allard, who had sketched out a basketbal court.

“He suggested the idea of basketball court here,” she said. “I don’t think it took more than three seconds for that to click as yes, that will be the central focus for this space, and then have also other uses around it — the additional components, the tables for chess and the seating. And the bike racks just kind of built in. I don’t think it took very long to formulate a very simple and doable concept.”

Once they had a concept, they took Allard’s sketches to the Business Improvement Areas board of directors.

“And the next phase was really trying to work within the city requirements to get this moving. And of course, there were a number of obstacles right away, typically, this would not happen in a matter of months in the city is a big step for them.”

O’Brien says the final step will be complete by July.

“The final piece that should be done at the end of June will be the beautiful graphic design work, which is an homage to the gophers, and the artists Daniel Kirk and Lane shorty have done a graphic design for the surface,” she said.