20 June 2018

Preserving and protecting parkland in an urban landscape is our duty

 This is a letter I wrote to the Regina Leader Post after a resident of Regina contacted me concerning the proposed building of a commercial development in Wascana park. You can find some background information from this CBC link.

Park should be preserved

Letter to the Editor of the Regina Leader Post  June 19, 2018

I love Saskatchewan. I don’t visit as often as I would like, but when I do, it always feels special: The wide-open spaces, the slower pace in many parts and the sheer beauty of every part. Regina fills my heart because of the wise decision made years ago to surround the legislature in a beautiful park. Anyone who visits Regina knows Wascana Park. Anyone lucky enough to live in Regina knows that it is part of what makes the city so special.

I have the honour to be an elected Commissioner of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. My duty is to preserve and protect our parkland including Stanley Park. It is a responsibility I take seriously. For me, our parkland is sacred. It is held in trust not only for today, but for the generations that come after.

Preserving and protecting parkland in an urban landscape is our duty because once we give it up it is gone forever. Land is limited and so is money. To give up any portion of a park is to betray those that come after us; to deny them the opportunities that we have had.

The business of Saskatchewan lies with the people, and I wouldn’t dream of interfering with your governance, but when I heard that parts of Wascana Park were being given over to commercial development it broke my heart. Such a beautiful place, that so many love and enjoy, should be preserved for all, and for always.

Stuart Mackinnon, Vancouver

19 June 2018

Vancouver park board rejects separate review of Langara Golf Course

Commissioners will continue with long-term strategy of looking at future of all parks

10 June 2018

Plant thieves still at work at Vancouver's parks

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It appears some people are doing more than ‘smelling the roses’ while strolling through Queen Elizabeth Park.

Several flowers were recently stolen from the rose garden at the park with someone putting an ‘I was stolen by a plant thief’ sign in their place.

Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart MacKinnon doesn’t know who put the signs up but says the theft of plants is an ongoing concern.

“It’s an unfortunate fact of city living that some people will come in at night and take things that don’t belong to them,” he says “We rely on the public to be honest and to enjoy the plants that are in the park and to let others enjoy it as well.”

He says their parks are not policed at night and while they tell people not to go in them, some disregard the rules, adding when people steal from parks, they’re stealing from the community.

His message to the thief or thieves: “Be respectful and mind that other people come into our parks to enjoy the plants as well,” he says “You can always go to your local nursery and buy a plant for your garden and leave the ones in our parks for everyone to enjoy.”

News 1130

07 June 2018

Vancouver Green Party to nominate candidates on June 27

The Vancouver Greens will nominate their slate of candidates on Wednesday June 27 at the Heritage Hall (information here). At that meeting the membership will also vote on whether to support the Vancouver and District Council (VDLC) proposal on electoral accommodation with the other progressive forces in Vancouver. The proposal calls for 9 Green candidates, 3 each at Council, Park Board, and School Board (3-3-3). The VDLC will endorse a Mayoral candidate at a later time.

There are 17 seeking Green nomination, including 7 for Council, 4 for Park Commissioner, and 6 for School Trustee, thus ensuring a contest for all 3 levels of civic government.

At Council the nominees are:
Denise Brennan
Terry Martin
David Wong 
Pete Fry
Michael Wiebe
Adriane Carr
Francoise Raunet
 At Park Board the nominees are:
Stuart Mackinnon
Dave Demers
Mash Salehomoum
Camil Dumont

 At School Board the nominees are:
Lois Chan-Pedley
Alex Dow
Estrelitta Gonzalez
Nicholas Chernan
Janet Fraser
Ralph Fraatz

You can learn more about the prospective candidates here and you can meet them on Friday June 8 at a special 'meet and greet' event at the Performing Arts Lodge, 581 CARDERO St, Vancouver, BC from 6- 9 pm. Just follow the link to RSVP.

I am one of the nominees for Park Board Commissioner. I actively seek your support. You can support my nomination by joining the Vancouver Greens here and coming out to vote on June 28.

For more information about me visit: www.stuart4parks.ca

06 June 2018

Candidate names to be listed in random order on 2018 election ballot

City of Vancouver
Information bulletin
June 6, 2018
Vancouver City Council has voted today to list mayoral, councillor, and Park Board commissioner candidates in random order instead of alphabetical order on Vancouver’s municipal election ballots.
The update to the election by-law was requested by Council to create a more even playing field for candidates. Research has shown many voters are more likely to vote for those listed first on a ballot, meaning that candidates at the top of an alphabetical list are perceived to have an advantage over those lower down.
As this will be the first year Vancouver voters will vote with a random order ballot, Council has approved $235,000 for strategies to prepare voters for the change.
The confirmed randomized list of names will be circulated well ahead of the election, supported by additional communications to ensure voters feel informed and know what to expect at the voting place. Voters will also be strongly encouraged to vote in advance in anticipation of longer vote times expected on Election Day.
As well, more staff and more voting booths will be available at voting locations wherever possible, to offset longer vote times and ensure assistance for those who may need extra support to vote.
The City does not have control over the list order of candidates for school board trustees. The school board has authority under the School Act, and the City’s Election Office will seek direction from the board on their desired order of names for the 2018 election ballot.
For more information, read the full report to Council:
Media Contact:
Corporate Communications

27 May 2018

Vancouver files claim over 2015 fuel spill in English Bay

Denise Ryan 
Vancouver Sun

25 May 2018

Access for All: Park Board improves beach experience with second Mobi-Mat and new water wheelchairs for those with mobility challenges

Vancouver Park Board
News Release
May 25, 2018
The beach is calling …. and this year two of Vancouver’s most popular beaches will be fully accessible to people with mobility challenges.   
It’s the second phase of the Vancouver Park Board’s commitment to a better, more inclusive beach experience for all residents.
This week, the Vancouver Park Board installed a Mobi-Mat, a non-slip beach access pathway, at Kitsilano Beach. It’s the second beach mat in Vancouver with the first installed at English Bay Beach last summer. In addition, 10 new water wheelchairs will be available at beaches across the city. The floating wheelchairs will provide persons with disabilities safe access to the ocean, with the assistance of an attendant. 
“Inclusion and access are core values of the Vancouver Park Board. In addition to our commitment to accessible beaches, the Board has removed barriers to recreation based on income, race, gender, and mobility and has forged a new relationship with community centre association partners through a shared commitment to equitable access to recreation for all residents,” said Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.
“Feedback from the beach mat at English Bay Beach has been extremely positive. If you’re in a wheelchair, going to the beach can be an ordeal as you need the help of a strong friend or a lifeguard. Beach mats give those with mobility challenges the freedom to visit the beach on their own if they want,” said Mackinnon.
Jacques Courteau, Co-Chair of City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, used the Mobi-Mat at English Bay last year and again last week.
“I got out of my chair and lowered myself onto the ground. It was awesome to just stretch there on the warm sand. I stayed about one hour. It was glorious! I will certainly do this more often this year,” he said.
Water wheelchairs will be available as of June 1 at Kits, Second Beach in Stanley Park, and New Brighton pools and the following beaches: English Bay, Kits, Jericho, Second Beach, Spanish Banks East and West, and Trout Lake. The chairs require an attendant and are available on a first come first served basis, at no charge, at each location’s lifeguard station between Victoria Day and Labour Day long weekends from 11:30 am – 8:00pm. More information at vancouver.ca.
The Park Board offers many adapted and integrated recreational activities for children, youth, adults, and seniors with mobility challenges. These activities include aquatic lifts, wheelchairs and assisted entries at pools and ice sleds at rinks. In addition, the Board provides free access to facilities for attendants who support persons with disabilities to swim, skate, exercise in fitness centres, participate in recreation programs and visit parks. Support is defined as assistance of a physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual or sensory nature to ensure that the patron with the disability is able to participate. Information on the full range of adapted and integrated Park Board programs can be found at vancouver.ca.
Every year the Board is doing more to make our facilities, parks and beaches more accessible. Two years ago, the Board opened the Southeast False Creek paddling centre. It provides Vancouver’s paddling community with a permanent home and has ramps to allow paddlers with mobility challenges easy access to their boats.
Current estimates are that about 15 percent of Vancouver residents have some form of physical disability or mobility restriction. This includes people using wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and strollers. When you add family and friends, approximately 50 percent of Vancouver residents are affected by barriers to accessibility. 
Media contact:
Park Board Communications

24 April 2018

Park Board statement on closure of Sunset Beach Park and field

Vancouver Park Board  
Information Bulletin
April 23, 2018
The Park Board will attempt to have Sunset Beach park and field open to the public in six weeks, by early June. This revised estimate of field impacts after the 4/20 marijuana event comes after a full inspection of the field by senior park operations staff this morning.  A forecast of hot and dry weather this week will greatly assist us in preparing the wet field for rehabilitation.
Park operations staff did a preliminary inspection in the immediate aftermath of the event and fenced the field to protect the damaged field from public use over the weekend.  Park Board and City staff worked together all night after 4/20 to clean event debris on the field, but there were still objects such as glass and discarded edibles on the field that posed a danger to the public. The fencing was installed on Saturday morning partially as a protective measure to ensure safety, particularly for children and dogs.
The fencing used to close the field was repurposed by Park Board as it was ordered before 4/20 as protection for new plant beds, young trees and vulnerable species such as eucalyptus and palms. The fencing was removed from these plantings and used to close the field on Saturday morning after the preliminary inspection.
The process to rehabilitate Sunset field involves the following steps:
  • Drying the field – requires a good long stretch of warm weather
  • Cleaning the field – ensuring debris such as cigarette butts, metals and glass are fully removed so machinery can operate
  • Aerating the field – Soils can become compacted through heavy use and thatch (a fibrous layer of dead grass stems, leaves and roots) can develop. Aeration, the process of puncturing the surface of the soil, mitigates this by allowing oxygen into the roots, carbon dioxide to escape and water and nutrients to more easily flow through the soil.  Aeration is necessary for healthy turf grass. 
  • Topdressing the field - This process involves spreading an organic mixture - usually sand, soil, clay or compost or a mixture of these materials - over the field. This helps even out the field, adding an extra element of safety for athletes. Topdressing is like a conditioner for athletic fields, giving turf a fuller feel and extra layer of protection.
  • Seeding and germination – waiting for the grass to grow enough so that public use does not damage the grass. With the right preparation, new turf will have shallow roots in about two weeks. This first stage of root growth is very sensitive and requires us to keep the public off the vulnerable young grass. In fact, all weight should be kept off the grass to allow for healthy, resilient turf with deep roots. This takes between 30-45 days in good conditions.
The Park Board understands that Sunset Beach Park is a much loved community asset, and provides vital recreation space for the dense downtown core.  We regret any closure, but must take steps to ensure the long term viability of this field which also experienced major impacts in 2017 during the same event.  Sunset Park field was closed for 10 weeks last spring after the 4/20 event.
The Park Board will tally all costs associated with the field restoration and other related expenses and will be billing organizers for these costs.  A full accounting of 4/20 costs will be released by the City and Park Board when all associated expenses are in.
Organizers did install about $30,000 worth of plastic turf protection around the main stage at this year’s event, which helped to mitigate the cumulative damage. 
The Park Board will continue to work with partners at the City to encourage organizers to find a more suitable, alternate location for the event in future years. 
Media contact:

19 April 2018

Park board takes next step in reconciliation

Commissioners take on mission to ‘decolonize the Vancouver Park Board’

In January 2016, the park board adopted 11 strategies in response to the 94 calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The strategies encompass a range of goals, including adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, staff training on Indigenous issues and reconciliation, and ensuring the integration of Aboriginal history, heritage values and memory practices in policies around monuments, memorial and public art.

This week, commissioners took things a step further and adopted a reconciliation mission, vision and values.

“We’re at a critical juncture for the future of reconciliation,” Rena Soutar, the board’s reconciliation planner, told commissioners. “The park board and institutions at all levels have done important work in recognizing the unique issues inherent in reconciling our relationship with the Aboriginal peoples of this land, but this work is only phase one.”

Soutar presented the mission, vision and values statement, saying that a “good compass” is needed to guide the work of reconciliation.

“We believe this journey will enrich us all and that articulating an inspirational vision with core values to support it helps us all paddle in the same direction.”

She said the 11 strategies address a specific set of issues and provide tactics to implement in park board processes and projects, work that has already started and will continue, while adopting the mission, vision and values statement embeds the reconciliation principles.

The mission is to decolonize the Vancouver Park Board by recognizing “the institution’s colonial history” and upholding its commitment to the 11 reconciliation strategies.

“In my mind this does mark quite a significant shift in paradigm and attitude to reconciliation,” Soutar told the Courier, adding that it shifts the focus from improving relations with First Nations people to examining what made the relations problematic in the first place and figuring out how to fix those problems.

“I’m just really pleased with how well it was received,” she said of the statement, which was adopted unanimously. “I’m looking forward to this next piece of deciding with my colleagues and whoever else is buying into this mission, vision and values on what that means for us.”

The vision is for the park board to be “an evolvable organization in which every employee and commissioner recognizes the humanity in themselves by recognizing and respecting the humanity of First Peoples” and one that sets an example in treating reconciliation as a process of decolonization.
And the values include clarity, pragmatism, leadership, learning and patience.

“We’ve heard something from our staff partners at Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations, and that’s that important things take time,” Soutar said. “And it’s not just that we need to be patient because important things take time, it’s that they actually need that time to take root.”

Board chair and Green Party commissioner, Stuart Mackinnon said that reconciliation isn’t just up to a few individuals.

“It doesn’t fall on two or three employees, it falls on all of the staff, all of the commissioners and in fact all of the residents of our city to move forward with this.”

Fellow Green commissioner Michael Wiebe echoed his sentiments and praised staff for a making a strong statement in the mission to decolonize the park board.

“I think sometimes we tip toe around a subject that we’re all involved in and I think they’ve done a great job here of not doing that and making sure that we’re pushing the boundaries.”

Mackinnon also introduced a reconciliation motion of his own, which was carried unanimously, directing staff to analyze the park board’s colonial roots and current practices, asking for a report back that includes “recommendations to acknowledge any and all injustices uncovered as part of the ‘truth-telling’ phase.”

“It’s time that the park board told those truths,” Mackinnon said. “It’s from those truths that healing can begin.”


(c) 2018 Courier.com

17 April 2018

Reconciliation and truth-telling—acknowledging our colonial past