Kelowna’s Stuart Park named greatest public space in Canada for 2015

Downtown park with it's iconic bear sculpture and free, open-air skating rink in winter proves popular with jury of planners.

Kelowna's Stuart Park has been named the greatest public space in Canada for 2015 by the Canadian Institute of Planners.

Kelowna’s Stuart Park Stuart Park has been named the greatest public space in the country in 2015 by the Canadian Institute of Planners.

The award, handed out annually for the last five years, is for one of three categories recognized by the institute. The other two are the greatest neighbourhood (Vancouver’s West End) and the greatest street (Broadway in Orangeville, Ont.).

Chosen by panel of seven professional planners, Stuart Park was praised for what it said was “bridging the re-emergence of Kelowna’s downtown with the incredible natural setting of the Okanagan Valley.”

“Energized by a civic plaza, the park comes alive at all seasons.,” wrote judge Kevin King on behalf of the jury.

“Summer performances on the plaza are memorable, while free winter-time ice-skating under the clear Okanagan skies invites people in the winter months.”

King said recent enhancements to Stuart Park make it a year-round destination and the cultural and civic heart of Kelowna.

“Ultimately, the jury was won over by the multiple strengths of the park—its everyday use, community focus, unique reflection of local character and natural environment, accessibility for multi-generational activities, and the significant role it already plays as a great place in Kelowna.”

In addition to the jury selections, the same three categories— street (Broadway in Orangeville, Ont.), neighbourhood (historic downtown Amherstburg, Ont.) and place (Labatt Memorial Park, London, Ont.) were also chose by popular vote in a people’s choice section.

Stuart Park, on the downtown lakeshore across from City Hall, features the iconic bear sculpture and the aforementioned open plaza that in winter is flooded to become a free, open-air public skating rink. The rink has become one of the most popular spots in the city in winter.

The newly designated Great Places will receive a stainless steel plaque to be displayed and an accompanying prize pack from the competition’s sponsors.

The winners were announced this week as part of the CIP’s celebration of World Planning Day.