Country Lane’s 10th birthday a great success!

Chalk up another successful event held by the Mountain View Neighbourhood Group, who have been coordinating community gatherings for over a decade now. The 13th community BBQ held on Sunday, June 14th had special meaning for the neighbourhood, as it was to mark the 10th anniversary of a unique piece of Vancouver’s public realm – the Country Lane (south lane at 700-block east 27th).

To make this event as meaningful as possible, it was important to ensure that key individuals were in attendance. These included local community advocates Sharole Tylor, Jackie Larson, Jeannie Kamins (all of whom were involved in spearheading the Country Lane), Lilli Wong and former Vancouver city planner Sandy James. Sandy was the Lane’s most vocal proponent at city hall.

It was also suggested that we invite members of Vancouver city council to mark the occasion. Councillors Elizabeth Ball and George Affleck attended, as did MP Don Davies and a representative of the office of MLA Mable Elmore. The Country Lane was built following its approval by city council in July 2002, then led by Mayor Philip Owen.

Philip Owen was also proposed as a guest, and to the delight of organizers he agreed to join the festivities. He arrived with his grandson, who enjoyed the BBQ food and the company of other children in attendance.

The biggest challenge facing the event was trying to make sure everyone possible could attend this public event. Once we had commitments from many people, the next challenge was getting the community to know the event was happening, and where. Posters were circulated all over the neighbourhood, each featuring a small map where the Country Lane was.

We also used social media – our website, email lists, and Facebook group helped to raise awareness. Using Twitter had an additional bonus. A reporter for the National Post saw a ‘tweet’ about the event and, intrigued by the Country Lane concept, persuaded his editor to run a page 3 story about the Lane, along with a photo of organizer Mike Klassen and Sandy James. It helped to give organizers the boost they needed to generate interest in the July 14th event.

Mike contributed his semi-regular “community correspondent” column to the Vancouver Courier newspaper discussing the Country Lane and forthcoming event, which helped to give it a final bit of profile. On July 14th just before noon, community members began to straggle in for the food and good company. Neighbour Robert Major took on BBQ duties and roasted all the beef, turkey and vegetarian weiners. Several also brought their own dishes, and two ‘soccer tents’ were provided additional shade from the sun.

The images show what a great event it was – many members of this diverse community gathered, young and old.

Thanks to everyone who joined us that day, and especially to Sandy James and Philip Owen for your leadership and foresight to create a great public space like Mountain View’s Country Lane. Many thanks also go out to the Vancouver Foundation and their Neighbourhood Small Grants program, which provided us with a grant to cover the event costs.

Written by Mike Klassen