29 September 2010

Future of Stanley Park's petting zoo land under debate

By Carlito Pablo

Park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon doesn’t want the Vancouver Aquarium to get the land that will be vacated by the Children’s Farmyard at Stanley Park. Due to funding constraints, the park board is closing down the petting zoo on January 2, 2011.

The Green commissioner, who noted that he didn’t know whether the aquarium had expressed interest in the site, argues that it’s better to have the area returned to natural uses.

“I don’t think the aquarium should be expanding any further in Stanley Park for commercial ventures,” Mackinnon told the Straight in a phone interview.

The aquarium didn’t make a spokesperson available for an interview before deadline. According to its website, the tourist attraction, which features whales and other marine animals, occupies 9,000 square metres in Stanley Park.

Last December, the park board called for business plans to keep the farmyard open. A staff report dated September 10, 2010, stated that two expressions of interest were received. However, one was eventually withdrawn. The other didn’t demonstrate the required financial capability. Staff didn’t identify the two parties.

Peter Hamilton, founding director of the animal-rights group Lifeforce, claimed that the aquarium has shown an interest in the farmyard land.

“They had put in a proposal to use it, and the parks board wouldn’t tell us what the proposal was, so I have a freedom-of-information inquiry at city hall now,” Hamilton told the Straight by phone.

Like Mackinnon, Coalition of Progressive Electors park commissioner Loretta Woodcock said she didn’t know whether the aquarium was interested in the farmyard site. However, Woodcock told the Straight by phone that it “wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that the aquarium might take a look at that area”.

According to Vision Vancouver park commissioner Raj Hundal, the park board will issue another request for proposals for the petting-zoo site after the facility closes down early next year.

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