Vancouver could get a black eye from the “sloppy” maintenance of its parks, due to a $1 million cut in service.
“I think we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Green Party park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon Friday. “Vancouver has always prided itself on what a beautiful city it is.”
The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation will vote Monday on a staff report recommending $1.03 million in cuts to its operating budget.
Included in the report are plans to cut maintenance and close some park washrooms, at a cost of $300,000, plus a 10-per-cent cut in flowers and shrubs at tourist hotspots like Stanley Park and English Bay.
“People come there to see the flowers,” said Mackinnon. “There has been talks about cuts in the rose gardens, which I think would be a huge mistake.”
Other proposed cuts include extending the street pruning cycle from once every seven years to once every eight years, reducing security and charging for the youth use of grass fields.
Mackinnon said that while city park budgets may have gone up by $1.8 million, that’s not enough to cover current operating costs.
Park board chairman Aaron Jasper, of Vision Vancouver, said the board has been asked by city hall to “whittle down” costs but has reached a “tipping point” when it comes to cuts.
“We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of good choices.”
He said the proposed cuts on washrooms would affect 40 per cent of the city’s parks.
“That’s a serious issue,” he added. “If we hadn’t put the washrooms on the list we’d be faced with a lot of bad options.”
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s office said last week the park board budget has gone up from $95 million last year to $96.8 million for 2011.
But Vancouver parks and recreation general manager Malcolm Bromley said Friday that last year’s parks budget was actually $99.3 million and $4.3 million in sanitation and information technology work is being transferred to the city, leaving $95 million.
Given inflation and rising costs, the board needs between $97.5 million and $97.7 million to pay for the same amount of services in 2011, he said.