Ecology North and the City of Yellowknife launched a pop-up park competition today.

The competition “aims to transform empty lots in the downtown core into a temporary park,” according to a press release from Ecology North.

The new park will be in the currently empty lots between the Gold Range Hotel and the Raven Nightclub on 50th Street.

The park will be partially landscaped by Ecology North and the City, with clover instead of grass for pollinators, as well as trees and berry bushes to harvest from. It will also feature a “functional installation” by local artist JD Hollingshead.

“In three to four weeks this park area is going to transform  into something that’s hard to imagine, it’s going to be a lot different than this,” said Craig Scott, executive director of Ecology North.

There will be a round platform which will be used as a community space, where people can host events such as yoga.

Proposed plans for the pop-up park.

There are also five plots available for community groups and individuals to build on, which will be determined by the community competition.

“We’re asking community groups, individuals, businesses, to come up with ideas to turn these five plots into installation art or installation areas. And those installations could be anything, like community gardens or a giant chessboard,” said Scott.

To make this happen, Ecology North will be offering $500 prizes to the winners.

“This is all going to happen in the next like, three weeks. So it’s ambitious and we’re really hoping to make this happen in our timeline,” Scott said.

The goal is to get the park ready for people to enjoy before the summer is over.

Scott recalled the history of the plot, which has been used a parking lot and once housed a Corner Mart Plus.

“We got tired of waiting for something to happen and we decided to talk to the city and see if we could pitch making this a park. So we did. We went there and said, how about a pop up park? We can help you make it happen. And to the city’s credit, every single person we talked to loved the idea and they encouraged us to do it,” said Scott.

“We’re looking forward to redefining what this area is like. This is a really important, historical part of downtown core, and it’s an area that could use a bit of a spruce up, honestly,” he said.

What is a pop-up park?

“It’s a new thing kind of sweeping urban areas around the world where underused or areas that are challenged get spruced up with community support and new ideas without necessarily always endorsement from the city,” said Scott.

“We’re trying to encourage people to use creativity and ingenuity and come up with innovative ways to make this area better

In this case, Ecology North decided to work with the city.

“Downtown revitalization has been a top priority for our city council, and this is another project that we’re very happy to be participating in, to bring life back to a part of the city that has certainly seen better days,” said Mayor Mark Heyck.

Homelessness in Yellowknife

William Gagnon at Ecology North acknowledged that people may have some concerns about the new public space, given Yellowknife’s homelessness situation and the park’s proximity to shelters and liquor stores.

“We thought about this a lot,” said Gagnon.

But removing park benches does nothing to combat homelessness, it just makes those people go somewhere else, he said.

“You can’t exclude these people from the city, because they’re a part of the city and sustainability is a lot about not leaving anyone behind,” Gagnon said.

“So if we include the homeless population in the pop-up park, then they’re taken care of, there’s more people walking around to check in on them. So it reduces risks and increases the sense of safety for everyone. So I think the Yellowknife pop-up park is going to be a great place for the homeless population to better connect with help but also with the community, so I think it’s very positive for everyone. “

Submissions to the Yellowknife Pop-Up Park competition are due Tuesday July 3.

Community groups can submit ideas to www.ykpopuppark.ca or at the Ecology North office.

From there, a jury will narrow it down to ten finalists, and the public will vote to choose the best five ideas for the pop-up park.