24 December 2009

Happy Holidays

I want to wish my regular readers and visitors a very happy holiday and all the best for the new year. Let's hope 2010 is a better, greener year for parks in Vancouver.

18 December 2009

Council passes budget-nothing new for Parks

City Council passed their budget today with a general tax increase of 2.26% (this will mean 0.26% for business and 4.26% for residential thanks to the tax shift). The extra 0.26% will go to added funding to libraries to keep the Riley Park branch open for an additional year and keep some of the other branches open longer hours (these were being cut under the original funding to libraries this year). This is good news for libraries and library users.

There was no good news for people who use parks and community centres though. The Park Board was given no additional funding, so expect to see more garbage in your local park--collection will be reduced; fewer flowers at Queen Elizabeth park; longer grass on boulevards and verges; and expect to see the Bloedel Conservatory and Stanley Park Farmyard either closed or in private hands. There will be service reductions at Community Centres; an after school program will not be funded; the Active Communities program will be ended; and less maintenance at your local community centre. And of course there will be fewer trees on the sides of our streets. All this and your taxes will still increase.

an independent Park Board, part 2

"Resolved: That this Board views with regret a recent attempt to interfere with its affairs on the part of the City Council, and as the Board is an independent body, its members being elected by the people and directly responsible to the people, they consider it their duty to protest against and if necessary resist any interference with park matters on the part of any outside body or corporation."

From the minutes of the Park Board in the year 1890

15 December 2009

A brief reprieve for the Bloedel Conservatory

At last night's Park Board meeting the Bloedel Conservatory was given until the 30th of April. In the meantime someone--entrepreneurs? volunteers? benefactors?--are supposed to "submit written business cases/concept plans and other relevant information for the use (in a similar or new capacity) of the Bloedel Conservatory facility in Queen Elizabeth Park". I opposed the motion as I don't support the idea of the Bloedel in a 'new capacity', believing that it was given to the people of Vancouver as a public conservatory and should stay as such. I also don't think an extra 60 days is sufficient for community groups to come together and submit a plan for keeping it public. Once again the vote was 4-3. What was surprising was the continuation of personal attacks. It seems those who want rid of the Conservatory can only argue in a negative manner.

A large contingent from the community came out to plead for the conservatory. One of the highlights was a presentation from the lawyer who wrote the original deed of gift for the Bloedel Foundation. Regardless of any motions passed by this Board, this story is far from over and we should all be hearing a lot more about the Bloedel Conservatory in the weeks and months ahead.

07 December 2009

What will become of the Bloedel Conservatory?

Yesterday marked the 40th birthday of the Bloedel Conservatory and there were a lot of people out to celebrate and sign a petition to save it. At the last meeting of the Park Board, Commissioners voted 4-3 to close it down. No thought was given, however, to what will become of the building.

This is a class 'A' heritage building and can't simply be destroyed. And even if the Park Board wants to take it down, it would probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to deconstruct it and redevelop the land. So, what will become of the Conservatory? I am hoping it will be given a one year reprieve and that the Park Board in association with a community group will come up with a marketing plan to improve and enhance this site as a destination for visitors and residence alike. As I said at both the Park Board meeting and at City Council, budget time is not the time to debate the worthiness of this facility. We need to engage the community and see if the citizens think it is worth preserving and re-investing in. For close to 40 years we have taken this place for granted. Now is the time to ask the tough questions that need asking. To simply close it would be a lost opportunity to engage the citizens in a discussion on what kind of city they want.

06 December 2009

A Surreal Experience with City Council

Last Thursday night I made a presentation to City Council at their public hearings on the budget. I had expected to make my brief (about 3 minutes) statement and then be thanked and sent away--after all there were nearly 90 speakers on the list, and what I had to say wasn't exactly what the majority of council wanted to hear. I was asking them to rethink their strategy of a 2% tax increase and 20 million dollars in cuts. Imagine my surprise when Councillor after Councillor grilled me over my views on everything from animals in captivity to whether there really were any inefficiencies within the city government. Here is a transcript of my remarks:

Your worship, Councillors, my name is Stuart Mackinnon. I have the honour to be both a Trustee of the Vancouver Public Library and a Commissioner of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. Tonight though I speak mostly as a homeowner and taxpayer.

I stand before you tonight to ask that you re-think your budgetary strategy which includes a property tax increase of 2%, a 2% tax shift from business to residential property tax, and an additional $20 million in savings from a combination of increased charges to the public and/or cuts in programs and services. As a homeowner and tax payer I applaud you for your concern for the citizens who pay property or business taxes, but I ask you to re-think this in light of the damage and hurt that will be caused by the imposed short-falls on the Park Board and Library Board.

These shortfalls are on top of shortfalls that each Board had to deal with last year. These shortfalls mean that libraries will close earlier, that fewer books will be purchased and that fewer workers will be available to help the public. These shortfalls mean that two iconic destinations in Vancouver—the Children’s farmyard and the Bloedel conservatory will be closed forever. Fewer trees will be planted on our streets, fewer flowers will be planted in Queen Elizabeth Park, an after school care facility will close, hours will shortened at community centres and there will be fewer programs. The closures will affect everyone who lives in or visits Vancouver. The reduction in hours and services will most probably affect most the people who can least afford them—the very people we were elected to help. This recession has affected everyone, but it has affected most those on limited incomes, those on fixed incomes and those without incomes. These people use libraries, community centres and parks because they can’t afford to pay for movies or other entertainments that cost more.

Your 2% tax increase is admirable, but it is arbitrary. It is not fixed in stone. It is your choice. No one likes to pay more taxes, but equally no one wants to lose the valuable services and programs that this city offers. You can choose to raise the taxes to 4 or 5 or 6% and each percentage will allow the Library and Park Boards to fulfil their mandates to serve to citizens of our great city.

You will hear tonight many people asking you to save this or that particular service or amenity. I am asking you to save them all, to not cut the heart out of our city. I am asking you to re-think and re-adjust you budgetary expenditures.

Thank you.

All but three of the Councillors plus the Mayor asked me questions resulting in an astounding 40 minutes of dialogue--all the while 80+ others were waiting to speak. Cllr Jang and Cllr Louie both seemed to take it as an affront that I would speak against their plans, with Cllr Louie badgering me on how I would spend an extra hundred thousand dollars. I had thought he was asking what I, in my capacity as an elected official, would spend it on, and so replied that I couldn't make that decision as I didn't have the authority. In what can only be described as a surreal exchange I finally declared that if I was the sole arbiter of the money, then I would spend it on the trees on the street program. For those in attendance, they must have been wondering what was going on. Why were two city politicians spending so much time in conversation when they wanted to speak.

Surely the most bizarre exchange had to have been with Cllr Stevenson who stated that there were no inefficiencies in the city so no savings could be made there--this after City Council spent tens of thousands of dollars on a Core Services review to find inefficiencies and duplications. If there are no inefficiencies does Cllr Stevenson think this was tax dollars well spent?

I had tried in my submission to be non political, tried to keep partisan politics out it. I can only think that the Vision councillors were so angry that I had had the nerve to speak out against their budget that they had wanted to punish and embarrass me in public. All they manged to do was to look extremely mean and petty and ended up embarrassing themselves.

05 December 2009

Of Zoos and Animals in Captivity

In a petty attempt to embarrass me and score cheap political points at last Thursday’s public consultation on the city budget, Cllr Jang started off his questioning of my presentation by asking after my dog. He then went on to ask my views on zoos and animals in captivity, attempting to find fault with my perceived support of the farmyard at Stanley Park. If Cllr Jang had done his homework he would know that I do not support wild animals in captivity. The petting zoo keeps lizards and other reptiles in glass cages and I have always thought that this made it into more of a zoo than a farmyard. I said as much to Cllr Jang and then went on to say that I was ambivalent to the keeping of farm animals in Stanley Park.

It is believed that humans domesticated animals during the Mesolithic Period (more than 10,000 years ago) and that this is what led to our development of sedentary cultures. A documentary I show my students suggest that without the domestication of dogs, civilization could never have begun. Farm animals are domesticated for work and for food. Without them most of us wouldn’t be able to have meat for our suppers.

I think that if people want to show their children farm animals they would be better off visiting a working farm, but for some city dwellers this isn’t possible and so the Farmyard at Stanley Park is the next best thing. I told Cllr Jang that while I was personally ambivalent towards the Farmyard, I would not oppose it if the citizens of Vancouver indicated they wanted to keep it. The Farmyard has already indicated that they are willing to stop keeping wild animals.

The White Ribbon

Twenty years ago, on the 6th of December 1989, I was working at the student information counter in the Hall Building in downtown Montreal's Concordia University. It was a calm afternoon, close to Christmas break and all was quiet as students made their way home. A news announcement that was to shatter all of our lives was brought to me: a gunman had shot students at the Universite de Montreal. It was later that we learned that he had entered a classroom and separated the men from the women and then executed the women. Why? Because they were women. In news reports his name is often still mentioned, but it is their names that I want to remember:

Geneviève Bergeron, 21
Hélène Colgan, 23
Nathalie Croteau, 23
Barbara Daigneault, 22
Anne-Marie Edward, 21
Maud Haviernick, 29
Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, 31
Maryse Laganière, 25
Maryse Leclair, 23
Anne-Marie Lemay, 27
Sonia Pelletier, 23
Michèle Richard, 21
Annie St-Arneault, 23
Annie Turcotte, 21

I wear the white ribbon to remember these women. I wear the white ribbon to remember all the women who have been killed, injured or harmed by men. I wear the white ribbon to remember the pledge I made to never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls. Have you made the pledge?

29 November 2009

Tell Vancouver City Council NOT to cut our parks, our trees, our services!


Thursday, 03 December 2009


18:00 - 21:00


Vancouver City Hall, 12th and Cambie


Public Hearing/Press Conference

- closing the Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park.
- slashing Vancouver's tree program so severely that the city will be 400 trees 'less green' by 2011.
- reduced operating hours at our Vancouver Library branches, and cutting back on staffing and collections.
- across the board service reductions in community centres, fitness centres, pools and rinks.
- slashing 55 parks board staff positions, many in front-line service positions at our community centres.
- reduced garbage pick-up and street cleaning.

Did we vote for this?

Is this helping make Vancouver a better, greener, city?

Let's tell them they're on the wrong track. Join this event. If you can, come to the press conference. Speak at the public hearing and have your concerns heard.

Want to speak at the public hearing? Register by 5 pm on Thursday, December 3 or at the door before the meeting between 7 and 7:30 pm. To register to speak, call the city at 604.871.6399 or e-mail teresita.burke@vancouver.ca

More details will be posted here closer to the day.

26 November 2009

Shutdown of Bloedel Conservatory, Stanley Park petting zoo divides park board

By Matthew Burrow straight.com

Vancouver Trolley Company owner Jim Storey called it “a sad day for the city”.

Storey was referring to the 4-3 vote by the Vancouver park board on November 25 to close down the Bloedel Floral Conservatory and the Stanley Park petting zoo to help deal with a $2.8-million anticipated budget shortfall.

“We don’t have enough attractions in the city now and to lose a few is very sad,” Storey said by phone. “I wish there could have been alternatives found.”

Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Aaron Jasper, a former long-time Gray Line tour bus driver and guide, said the closures were unavoidable in light of Vision’s decision not to bring in more than a two-percent tax increase in the next city budget.

Jasper, along with fellow Vision commissioners Constance Barnes, Sarah Blyth, and board chair Raj Hundal, voted in favour of the shutdowns.

COPE commissioner Loretta Woodcock, NPA commissioner Ian Robertson, and Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon were opposed.

“COPE’s position, obviously, is that we should increase the taxes, right?” Jasper fired back to the Straight regarding the cuts. “Fine, I respect that she [Woodcock] has taken that position, that is different to Vision Vancouver’s. Stuart just thinks we should just say no, and doesn’t propose any solutions.”

Jasper claimed that, when comparing park board cuts to those facing other city departments, the park board has “the lowest percentages”.

“The kind of choices that we were facing: close down a community centre or close down the Bloedel Conservatory,” Jasper said. “Well, the choice is pretty clear.”

Mackinnon told the Straight he has “already written to city council to ask them to reconsider their [planned] two-percent tax increase”.

“The city has what they consider a global inflationary increase of four percent,” Mackinnon said by phone. “That includes regular inflation and increased costs and everything, plus wages. Two percent is what they are proposing as a tax hike, even though there’s a four-percent inflationary rise. So there is a two-percent gap there.”

Mackinnon said a four-percent tax hike would still result in a shortfall, but he said he has calculated that it would be half what it is under Vision’s scenario.

“Aaron and I had some sharp words last night, and I don’t suppose I am his best friend at the moment,” Mackinnon added.

According to Mackinnon, the park board is also the cart being placed before city council’s horse, in that council has based estimated cuts on a two-percent increase, but does not know what the final numbers will be.

For that reason, Mackinnon has not given up hope on the conservatory and the petting zoo yet.

“I’m advising everyone who calls me and e-mails me to get on to mayor and council and phone,” he said. “Do whatever you can to let council know—especially if you’re willing to pay a higher tax bill. If you’re not willing to pay a higher tax bill, then you have to live with these cuts. But if you’re willing to pay a little bit more in order to have libraries, parks, and community centres, then get on to city council and let them know.”

Tourism Vancouver spokesperson Walt Judas told the Straight his group is understanding “when tough budget decisions are made”.

“But obviously when it affects an attraction like the conservatory or the petting zoo, that’s unfortunate, because it impacts both residents and visitors alike.”

The park-board budget will go to city council for approval December 3.

One of the many letters I have received from someone I have never met.

Over the last two weeks I have received more correspondence than in the entire previous year. Not all of it necessarily favourable, but nonetheless it is a sign about how passionate Vancouverites are about their parks. The following is one I received after last night's vote on the 2010 budget allocations. I wanted to share it because it sums up so succinctly my own view of our beautiful city:


Thank you very very much for voting no. The city I love is the one with tree-lined streets, parks in every neighbourhood, quaint fish and chips stands on the beaches, a train in Stanley Park, and a magnificent dome at the top of the city to give us all a glimpse of precious plants and birds we all need to cherish.

Best of luck,
Drew Meikle

Here is a portion of my reply:

I still have a little bit of hope left in me that a ground swell of citizen support can change things, and barring that, that a private benefactor will come forward to offer some support for the conservatory. Maybe I am a misty-eyed idealist, but I still have some optimism left in me (perhaps rare for some one in politics)--maybe that's why I am a Green.

Thank you Drew.

Bloedel Conservatory and Stanley Park Children’s Farmyard to close

Park board facing $2.8 million budget shortfall

Evan Kelly/Sheila Scott VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) 2009-11-26 06:30

The Vancouver Park Board has voted 4-3 in favour of closing two well known Vancouver attractions. The Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park and the Stanley Park’s Children’s Farmyard will both be closed.

The cuts come in light of a $2.8 million dollar funding shortfall. Dozens of speakers, both for and against the closure, gave emotional pleas to the park board commissioners.

Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon is among those unhappy with the decision, "The economy is on a downturn, we need these services more than ever, we need community centers, we need parks, we need libraries, city council has to listen to the people."

But Commissioner Aaron Jasper says the board did what it had to in light of the shortfall, "The city has to live within its means. We aren't a provincial government, we can't run a deficit, so we all have to do our part."

Many people who argued against the closures felt their voices weren’t heard during the meeting.

Some park commissioners are entertaining some hope of a third party running the Conservatory. The park board must submit its budget to city council by December 1st.

24 November 2009

Press Release

Here is a copy of the press release I sent out yesterday. It garnered a lot of coverage from CKNW radio to the Vancouver Sun newspaper

23 November 2009 Green Park Board Commissioner to Oppose Budget Initiative - "Save Vancouver's Trees"

At this Wednesday’s Park Board meeting Stuart Mackinnon, Green Party of Vancouver Park Board Commissioner, will oppose the 20009 budget initiative to reduce the Trees on the Street program.

"We need to save Vancouver's trees" said Mackinnon. "How can we be the greenest city while reducing the number of trees in the city? This is the most basic form of being green. From a birds eye view Vancouver would in fact be less green if these budget cuts go through".

One of the budget proposals coming to the Park Board this coming Wednesday is the reduction by 1/3 of re-planting of street trees. Approximately 1200 trees are taken down each year by the Park Board due to death, disease or danger, and these are replaced. A reduction in the trees on the street program funding would mean that only 800 of these trees will be replaced.

"Over time this will result in significant loss of trees for the city if we don’t stay on top of at least maintaining the existing number of trees. It also begs the question of which neighbourhoods will lose trees and which neighbourhoods will not, and who and how those decisions will be made." said Mackinnon.

Vancouver City Council recently released their Greenest City Action Plan which calls for the planting of 150,000 new trees by 2020.

“Most troubling to me is direction the Park Board would be going if this budget initiative is adopted” said Mackinnon. “While the city is advocating for the planting of an additional 150,000 tree over the next 10 years, the Park Board would actually be planting 4000 fewer! Not only would we not be on board with Greenest City Action Plan, we would be actively working against it”.


For more information contact Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon at 778-389-1956

City tree-planting program facing the axe

A great article about the Trees on the Street program budget cut in today's Sun. If you think trees on the street are important I encourage you to contact the Park Board (pbcomment@vancouver.ca) and tell them.

22 November 2009

Trees on the Street

One of the budget proposals coming to the Board on Wednesday is the reduction by 1/3 of re-planting of street trees. The current situation is that approximately 1200 trees are taken down each year due to death, disease or danger, and these are replaced. A reduction of 400 trees means that only 800 will be replaced. While 400 fewer trees may not seem to be a lot, over time this will result in significant loss of trees for the city. It also begs the question of which neighbourhoods will lose tree and which neighbourhoods will not, and who and how those decisions will be made.

Most troubling to me is direction the Park Board would be going if this budget initiative is adopted. Recently the city released its Greenest City Action Plan. In the section entitled “Greener Communities” objective 6 reads:

Easy Access To Nature: Provide incomparable access to green spaces,
including the world’s most spectacular urban forest

2020 Targets: Every person lives within a five-minute walk of a park,
beach, greenway, or other natural space; plant 150,000 additional
trees in the city

While the city is advocating for the planting of an additional 150,000 tree over the next 10 years, the Park Board would actually be planting 4000 less! Not only would we not be on board with Greenest City Action Plan, we would be actually working against it.

This budget option I cannot accept.
Our mandate is not to be removing green space but to be adding and enhancing green space.

21 November 2009

When enough is enough

I wasn't elected to oversee the dismantling of the Park Board or the degradation of our parks and recreation system. Yet for the second year in a row I am being asked to approve a budget that contains another cut for the Park Board. Granted every department in the city is faced with budget cuts, but no other department has an elected board whose mandate is to 'provide, preserve and advocate...to benefit people, communities and the environment'. I would be remiss in my duties if I were to simply accept the estimated budget allocation without advocating for our parks and community centres, our programs and our gardens.

Park Board management has prepared a document that outlines the cuts they recommend and will be asking the elected board to approve these cuts on Wednesday (November 25 at 7 pm) at a special meeting of the Park Board. I have been inundated with pleas from citizens to protect areas that are on the chopping bloc. Whether it is the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, the Sunset Nursery, the Trees on the Street program, the Children's Farmyard or any of the other cuts, people have consistently said they would rather pay higher taxes than lose the precious services the Park Board offers

So I am asking you to write/call/e-mail Vancouver City Council and tell them if you are willing to accept higher taxes to support your parks and recreation services. Nothing is free. Without cuts our taxes will increase more than the projected 2%. It is your choice. Without more dollars in our estimated budget, services and programming will be reduced

23 October 2009

Autumnal thoughts

As the weather finally changes and before we have to bundle up for the winter chill I wanted to share a few thoughts and some great photos from my friend Louis. Autumn is definitely my favourite season. There is something magical about this time of year. I love the colours and the hint of chill in the air. The smells are terrific. Spring always smells fresh, but autumn has a distinctive smell that always reminds me of my childhood. I know it is politically incorrect--especially for a Green--but I have to admit that I miss the smell of burning leaves. I recall coming home after soccer practice as a lad on a Saturday to find my Dad burning the leaves we had raked earlier in the week in an old oil drum in the back yard. We would stand around and chat, watching the smoke and the fire. I loved that time with my Dad. It is a good thing we don't burn leaves any more, but it is a childhood memory I will always cherish.

Vancouver is especially beautiful at this time with the juxta-position of the leaden sky and the trees with their turning leaves. I hope everyone who reads this has taken the time to go for a walk around Stanley Park, or even just through your neighbourhood and seen nature in all its blazing glory. It is hard not to be in awe at the beautiful display. If you have ever wondered where I got my slogan "People and Nature in Balance" for my campaign from, just step outside and look at the autumnal city.

Photos by Louis Lapprend (c) 2009 used with permission

Wood Stock

There is a terrific article in the Courier this week about former Park Board employee (now retired) Jim Lowden and what happened to the wood from the trees that fell during that terrible wind storm of 2006. Check it out.

09 October 2009

Dogs Dogs Dogs

Probably the thorniest issue that comes before the Park Board concerns dogs. Love 'em or hate 'em, everybody seems to have an opinion. At the most recent meeting of the Planning and Environment Committee a proposal for new off leash areas at Devonian Park and Stanley Park (Ceperley picnic area)as well as extended hours in Portside and Fraser River parks was brought forward. All four were forwarded to the full Board for decision.

The Devonian Park proposal is long over due because of the increased density of the area. The difficulty here and at Ceperely is the abundant wildlife in the area and the proximity to Stanley Park. I suggested that at Devonian the entire proposed off leash area be fenced and staff will look at the cost. The Ceperely area is even more challenging. The Stanley Park Ecological Society spoke at the meeting to this. It is close to the Heron roosts and is in a woodpecker nesting zone. I don't believe there should be any off leash areas within Stanley Park and will advocate for that at the Board meeting.

Portside was simply a change in hours, making it an all day off leash area in the winter months. The staff proposal for Fraser River Park was similar, however some Commissioners suggested that the entire park should be off leash all year. I spoke against this. As there are only two foreshore parks along the Fraser this would mean that people who do not want to encounter off leash dogs would lose 50% of their foreshore public space.

In an urban area we have to accommodate dogs in our parks, and we should be able to share the space. I do not believe valuable foreshore area should be given over to one user group to the exclusion of others. I believe that a portion of the park can be used off leash within reasonable limits in the summer and perhaps that portion could have unlimited access off leash during the winter. I cannot support giving over the entire park all year.

Watch the agendas for the meeting when this issue will come before the full Board.

08 October 2009

Soap and Water resolution passes!

Just a quick update to let you know that after a lot of really good discussion around access and finance, my motion to supply soap and warm water at all Park Board amenities passed unanimously at the October 5 meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

29 September 2009

Park Board Commissioner wants you to wash your hands

Press Release: 29 September 2009

Green Party Park Board Commissioner, Stuart Mackinnon, wants you to wash your hands. “Health care professionals say that hand washing is our best defence against the spread of infection” says Commissioner Mackinnon, “and public washrooms maintained by the Park Board are on the front line of that defence”. At the October 5th meeting of the Park Board, Commissioner Mackinnon will be putting forward a resolution that will ensure that soap and, where possible, hot water is available in as many Park Board amenities as possible. “Washing with soap and water was what our parents taught us to do—and it was good advice” commented Mackinnon.

“For many people, public washrooms are a necessity and the place where they will be able to wash their hands on a regular basis” continued Mackinnon. “The more we wash our hands, the less chance of the spread of infection.”

Families using playgrounds, sports players using fields, people just enjoying our parks and tourists sight-seeing all need places to wash their hands, says Mackinnon. Having soap and if possible, warm water, increases public health and makes everyone’s life a little better. “Why should anyone have to buy some fries to be able to wash their hands?” continues Mackinnon in a reference to having to use restaurants rather than public amenities, “soap and water should be available in public amenities.”

Commissioner Mackinnon’s motion will be debated on Monday, October 5th at the regular meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation at the Park Board Office, 2099 Beach Avenue.

For more information, contact Commissioner Mackinnon at 778-389-1956 or e-mail to: stuart.mackinnon@vancouver.ca

18 September 2009

an independent Park Board

The e-mails and blogs have been flying fast and furious this week after Park Board General Manager Susan Mundick announced her retirement. I'm sure the cellular phone companies' profits will be up this month as well. Most of what has been written has been based on rumour, innuendo, leaked documents read without context, and speculation on what has gone on in meetings. Accusations have been made about who did what and when. None of this puts any part of our civic government in a good light and reinforces the negative view of politics and politicians in the public mind.

For the record, I believe in an independent Park Board that is accountable fiscally to the City, but politically to the citizens of Vancouver. The citizens elected me and the other Commissioners to oversee our parks and recreational facilities and it is to them that I answer to. If the citizens want to reexamine the role of the Park Board, I am prepared to engage in that conversation.

With so many problems challenging our city and so many opportunities to work in new and innovative ways, let's not squander our time on petty bickering and jousting for position. Let us all work together for better parks and a better city. It is what I ran for and believe I was elected to do. I intend to get on with the job.

And a little more on the Hollow Tree

Letter of the week
Vancouver Courier
Friday, September 18, 2009

To the editor:
Re: "Filmmaker branches out with Hollow Tree doc," Sept. 11

I've been following the fate of our famed Hollow Tree in Stanley Park and after reading Cheryl Rossi's article in last week's Courier I had to write in to suggest she may have spent more time and energy presenting the point of view of park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon and less time backing Ontario native Dan Pierce who knew absolutely nothing about the tree and had never actually visited the tree until a short time ago. In the four short years Mr. Pierce has lived in Vancouver he'd never taken the time to go see the tree and now he's taken on this huge crusade to save her.

Save her from what? From naturally decomposing into our earth and sprouting new trees and bushes from her fallen trunk?

I've enjoyed that tree many times with my parents when I was young, and with my children as a parent and with friends who visit Vancouver. I can speak of the generations that have enjoyed it. Dan Pierce can't. He did his research on the tree on the Internet to try and understand its history and importance to our city.

And since all this started, we've had the unpleasant experience of having a little parking lot closed completely with ugly blue construction fencing while the workers slowly and methodically demoralize this tree with chains, cables and steel beams. It's truly sad to see her dignity being stripped away bit by bit as her lifeless carcass is suspended in a RoBo Tree state.

That tree has lived through many generations and I agree with Mackinnon that we should allow her to lie down in peace with her brothers and sisters in our magnificent park.

The ironic part of this is that only 100 yards away on the trail leading from that closed parking lot is the fallen trunk of the what was the oldest western cedar in Stanley Park that was once profiled by the National Geographic Society. It fell down less than two years ago and is a magnificent sight to see as it lays there split in two, providing life to many more forms of vegetation. Sadly, no one can park anywhere close to this trail now to take that short jaunt to go see it. Maybe Mr. Pierce will take that stroll in the next four years or so?

Ken Read,

© Vancouver Courier 2009

Outgoing park board manager proud of accomplishments

Susan Mundick leaves after 11 years on the job

Sandra Thomas
Vancouver Courier

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sitting in the dark wood panelled "commissioners' room" at the park board office on Beach Avenue Tuesday afternoon, Susan Mundick reminisces about the past 11 years she's spent as general manager of the board.

Mundick announced her retirement Tuesday, but will remain on the job for the next several months until a replacement can be found.

"I've worked with five boards," said Mundick. "And I feel good about what we've accomplished."

Mundick is most proud of the restoration of Stanley Park, two strategic plans for facility renewal and leveraging the 2010 Olympic Winter Games into huge legacy projects, such as the new Hillcrest community centre.

And what won't she miss?

"The late night rounds of meetings," said Mundick, who's worked in parks and recreation for 35 years, largely in Ontario. "I'm looking forward to having a halfway normal life."

Mundick said while the long meetings were often tiring, she appreciated that Vancouver residents were so passionate about their city and its parks, particularly when it came to subjects such as off-leash dogs, the expansion of the Vancouver Aquarium and budgets.

Suzanne Strutt, chief executive officer of the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association, said Mundick played an important role in parks and recreation provincially as well as at the municipal level. Mundick was president of the association from 2005 to 2006.

"She's taken a real leadership role, and not just that year but before and since," said Strutt. "She was instrumental in the complete restructuring of our governance and there was a real need for that."

Strutt calls Mundick "visionary" in her work provincially with parks and recreation and added she's able to get people of varying opinions to work collectively.

"Although Susan is very strategic and makes sure none of the details are overlooked, she never micro-managed," said Strutt, who notes she still intends to call Mundick for advice.

Mundick is not the only member of senior management at the park board to announce their departure in the past year, particularly since Vision Vancouver came to power after last November's municipal election. That lofty list includes maintenance supervisor of Stanley District Eric Meagher, manager of Stanley District Jim Lowden, park board supervisor of maintenance for Queen Elizabeth District Mike Mackintosh, director of parks and recreation for Vancouver East District Lori Mackay, communications coordinator Terri Clark, manager of the board's nursery Susan Graham and Al Regan, supervisor of the Children's Farmyard and Railway. At the city the list of recent departures of senior staff includes director of Olympic operations Dave Rudberg, city manager Judy Rogers, deputy city managers James Ridge and Jody Andrews, fire chief Ray Holdgate and the city's drug policy coordinator Donald MacPherson.

Mundick, who was reluctant to give her age, said that while she's retiring from the park board, she's looking forward to her "next adventure," which could include another job or travelling with her husband, a retired insurance claims manager.

Could Mundick's next "adventure" include writing for Hollywood?

"I'm going to apply to the producers of [the NBC comedy series] Parks and Recreation and see if they need a writer for the show," she said. "Have I got a lot of ideas for them."

On a more serious note, Mundick made a point to thank the various staff members, commissioners, community associations, mayors and councillors she's worked with in the past decade.

"I couldn't have done it without their support," she said.

One final question: what does she really think of the Hollow Tree?

"No comment," she replied, laughing.
© Vancouver Courier 2009

13 September 2009

District of North Vancouver invites comments on parks, open spaces

By Charlie Smith
Georgia Straight
September 13, 2009

The District of North Vancouver is home to some of the most spectacular parks in Metro Vancouver. The district has an incredible 140 kilometres of trails as well as some world-renowned mountain biking areas.

On September 28 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., the district is hosting an open house as part of a process to create a strategic plan for the park system through to 2020.

It will take place at the Lynn Valley Library Community Meeting Room (1277 Lynn Valley Road), and include interactive workshops to help establish key goals and create a common vision.

For more information, call DNV Parks at 604-990-3867.

Source URL: http://www.straight.com/article-256877/district-north-vancouver-invites-comments-parks-open-spaces

07 September 2009

When you have to go…

It’s a fact of life, perhaps one we don’t want to acknowledge, but we all have to go sometimes. We all try to go at home, but sometimes we can be caught short. For most of us this is an inconvenience, but for those who don’t have a home or for those who need to go frequently, this is a chronic problem. Public conveniences have been available since at least the time of the Roman Empire—in fact until recent times, public lavatories were all that was available except for the very rich. Towns and cities had public conveniences for the masses but over time a lot of them have been decommissioned and removed. Many cities are now rebuilding these.

Here in Vancouver we are fortunate to have several public washrooms installed by the city, and many more throughout the city in our public parks. A debate on the cost and necessity of these park facilities is coming before the Park Board in the next year, and I would like to know your views on these facilities. Do you think they are important? Should scarce public funds be used for public toilets? Every park can’t support a public washroom, so which ones should?

Let me know what you think. Write to me at: betterparks@gmail.com or drop a line to the Park Board.

20 August 2009

What's in a name?

The Park Board has received some complaints over a sign at the park being redeveloped at the corner of Hastings and Carrall. The official name is Pioneer Place but it has been known locally for many years as Pigeon Park. The Park Board erected a sign with the official name on it and one blogger accused the Park Board of 're-branding' the Downtown Eastside. When I pointed out that the official name was Pioneer Place and if people wanted it changed all they had to do was ask, I was called defensive.

For years the Park Board had no protocol for naming parks. I am very proud to have been the one who presented a protocol for park naming in 2007--a protocol the Park Board by and large accepted and now uses. It calls for a naming committee made up of community members to ask for submissions and then recommends a name to the Board for ratification. This was the protocol used for the naming of Ebisu park in Marpole.

It is easy to make accusations of elected officials and bureaucrats, but in this case the Park Board has simply followed practice. Its hard to accuse the Park Board of 're-branding' when the name is officially 'Pioneer Place'. This is even harder to swallow when the Board has assured residents that signs in the redeveloped space will say Pigeon Park.

My advise to those who don't like the name 'Pioneer Place' is to make a request to the Park Board to have it officially re-named Pigeon Park. If the community supports a name change, I will be more than happy to sponsor a motion to that effect.

07 August 2009

Starfish on the beach

When I was a wee lad it seemed our beaches and foreshore teemed with life. There were sand dollars, sea stars and all sorts of shellfish around. We would put on our 'clam diggers' and go down to Spanish Banks and dig for hard clams, while others were out digging for geoducks. We actually had to be careful on some parts of the beach as we might cut our feet on the shells of the clams.

Alas that seems to have all but disappeared. Where has all the life gone? I'm sure I'll get a complaint that if I look hard enough there is abundant life in tidal pools and other areas--but that's the point--I have to look hard to find it.

Today while walking around the Stanley Park sea wall I was thrilled to see this sea star. One of my companions, who grew up in Vancouver, had never seen one before outside of the aquarium. My other companion, who has recently moved to Vancouver, couldn't believe it when I told my story of abundant sea life on the foreshore.

I live down by the Fraser river and often see people fishing from the shore. They catch quite a bit and always take it--no matter how small. I see folks fishing all along the Stanley park foreshore and wonder if they too keep everything.

I hope one day our beaches and foreshore can again teem with life and children don't have to visit the aquarium to see what they should be able to see naturally outside their door. A report in the Vancouver Sun in June suggests that global warming is actually having a positive effect on the purple ochre sea star population at Jericho beach. This could be why we saw the sea star today.

So maybe, if we can survive the rising waters and adapt to the changing climate, we might see more sea life around Vancouver after all.

04 August 2009

Mounted patrols added to Stanley Park in wake of arsons

By Kimberly Shearon, The Province August 4, 2009

Expect to see a heavier police presence the next time you visit Stanley Park.

The Vancouver Police Department's Mounted Squad has stepped up patrols of the landmark park in the wake of four fires police say are the work of a serial arsonist.

Six reserve officers have joined the squad's seven regular officers for patrols.

"It's really augmented our strength," said Const. Cinda Michael. "We're able to get out en masse and get the word out."

Police are on the lookout for any suspicious activity, and for people in violation of the park's "extreme" fire rating.

This rating means smoking and charcoal and wood-burning barbecues are prohibited on park grounds. Visitors must also stay on established trails.

Propane and gas barbecues are still permitted, but they must be used on elevated surfaces.

Michael said many of the people the squad has stopped are tourists unaware of what the park's "extreme" fire rating means.

"Everyone's been really cooperative. This is really about public education, not so much enforcement."

She said she is confident the patrols will help avert a major incident, but reminded people to be vigilant when enjoying the park.

"I've been down here for almost six years, and this is as dry as I've ever seen it get," Michael said. "Just be careful. It's something none of us want to lose."

The rest of the city's parks have been slapped with the "extreme" rating, too.

While Vancouverites might feel far removed from the wildfires devouring tinder-dry forests in other regions of the province, a very real risk still exists close to home.

"We have to be so vigilant, especially today with the temperatures rising so much," said Vancouver park-board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon on Monday.

"People, please use common sense."

All it takes is an improperly extinguished cigarette to ignite a parched park, fire experts warn.

Not only are the trees above the ground dry, but so is the ground below. When this ready supply of dry fuel combines with scorching temperatures, it creates an environment where brush fires can quickly spin out of control.

"It's definitely scary," said Michael.

Mackinnon said he still sees people using charcoal and wood-burning barbecues in local parks, even with the ban in place. He has also noted cigarette butts littering park trails and grassy areas.

"Some ash flying away can light fires. We ask people to please respect the rules."

Mackinnon has seen firsthand the destruction a wildfire can wreak. When he was a child, a massive wildfire chewed through Manning Park. It took years for the park to recover.

He said he would hate to see the same thing happen to Stanley Park.

"It would be such a tragedy for the whole city and for the world. To have it go up in flames would be heartbreaking," he said.

"It would be something we'd have to live with for years and years and years. As we saw from the wind storm a few years ago, nature takes its time to replace damage."

© Copyright (c) The Province

03 August 2009

Vigilance called for in public parks with extreme fire risk

By Kimberly Shearon, The ProvinceAugust 3, 2009 11:01 AM

As wildfires devour B.C.'s tinder-dry forests — and in the wake of four deliberately set fires in Stanley Park over the last few days — Vancouver residents are reminded to be mindful while enjoying the city's parks.

"We have to be so vigilant, especially today with the temperatures rising so much," said Vancouver park-board commissioner Stuart MacKinnon on Monday.

An "extreme" fire rating is in effect in the city's parks. This means smoking — as well as the use of charcoal and wood-burning barbecues — is prohibited on park grounds. Visitors must also stay on established trails.

Propane and gas barbecues are still permitted, but they must be elevated above the ground.

All it takes is an improperly extinguished cigarette to ignite a parched park, fire experts warn.

"It's not so much, I think, people deliberately setting fires, [it's] more forgetfulness," MacKinnon said.

Not only are the trees above the ground dry, but so is the ground below. When this ready supply of dry fuels combines with scorching temperatures, it creates an environment where brush fires can quickly spin out of control.

While Vancouverites might feel far removed from wildfires in other regions of the province, a very real risk still exists close to home, MacKinnon said: "People, please use common sense."

He said he still sees people using charcoal and wood-burning barbecues in local parks, even with the ban in place. He has also noted cigarette butts littering park trails and grassy areas.

"Some ash flying away can light fires. We ask people, 'Please respect the rules.'"

MacKinnon has seen firsthand the destruction a wildfire can wreak. When he was a child, a massive wildfire chewed through Manning Park. It took years for the park to recover.

He said he would hate to see the same thing happen at Stanley Park.

"It would be such a tragedy for the whole city and for the world. To have it go up in flames would be heartbreaking," he said.

"It would be something we'd have to live with for years and years and years. As we saw from the wind storm a few years ago, nature takes its time to replace damage."

© Copyright (c) The Province

Fire safety in our parks is just common sense

With the very hot weather and absence of rain over the last couple of weeks the Park Board has issued a severe fire warning. It asks park users to use common sense.

Don't light fires in the parks. Campfires are not permitted at any time in any of Vancouver's parks or beaches. This means no wood or charcoal fires/BBQs. If you use a propane BBQ keep it at least 75 cm off the ground.

Report any signs of smoke or fire by calling 9-1-1 immediately

Watch for forest fire hazard signs in some parks and additional fire safety information posted in parks and on the Park Board web site

Don't smoke or light matches in the parks.

Don't throw away cigarette butts--make sure they are extinguished and then carry them out of the park.

Stay on the park trails.

It really only requires basic common sense to keep our parks safe. Everybody loves our parks--let's make sure we keep them green for generations to come.

30 July 2009

During Hot Dry Spell Young Street Trees Need Water

Press Release
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation

July 30, 2009 (No. 44) - The current long hot, dry spell means additional stress on young street trees in Vancouver. The Vancouver Park Board is asking residents to assist by watering trees adjacent to their property. The record-breaking weather is especially damaging to newly planted trees which are still establishing their root systems. Trees planted within the last four years – many of which have “new tree” tags attached—would benefit most by watering at this time.

Residents are asked to keep vigilant for young stressed streets trees adjacent to their property—usually indicated by leaves turning brown or falling. The best practice is to apply at least 12 to 20 litres of water (five to 10 minutes with a slow running hose or a couple of watering cans full) two to three times per week over the roots. Regional water restrictions do not apply to trees and shrubs, but be water-wise by ensuring that all of it gets to the tree.

In the past decade the Park Board has planted over 40,000 new trees on our streets. It is estimated that the 135,000 trees currently found on our streets are valued at approximately $500 million.

More information about Vancouver's street trees can be found at vancouverparks.ca and click on the ‘Trees' link under ‘For your information.'

- 30 -

For more information contact Carol DeFina, Communications Coordinator, at 604-257-8440.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation maintains 220 parks and 40 major facilities throughout the City of Vancouver. The Park Board's mission is to provide, preserve and advocate for parks and recreation services to benefit people, communities and the environment.


Copyright © 2003-2009 Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation,
2099 Beach Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6G 1Z4
Telephone: 604-257-8400, Fax: 604-257-8427, vancouverparks.ca

29 July 2009

Neighbours decry Oppenheimer Park closure

By Carlito Pablo
Publish Date: July 9, 2009

On most nice days, Delanye Azrael hops across the street from her apartment building to read in Oppenheimer Park.

Occupying one city block in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the park may not be much to look at, with no pretty flower gardens and dancing water fountains. It actually has quite a rough image, as a gathering place for homeless and often drug-dependent people with dope dealers always close by.

But for many residents in the community like Azrael, Oppenheimer Park is more than just one of the few public spaces where they can sit down on a patch of grass to relax or let their kids loose in the playground. For them, the park is an extension of their homes.

That’s why Azrael considered it an offensive act when a tall fence covered with a dark tarp went up and closed off the entire park on June 15, while bulldozers ripped up the ground, rendering it a jagged bit of urban land.

Using yellow tape and strips of colourful clothing, the community artist immediately went to work, embroidering her outrage in huge letters on the webbing of the steel barrier facing her apartment on the 400 block of Cordova Street.

When the feisty resident spoke to the Georgia Straight on a recent Sunday morning, she was fixing a letter A in the slogan, which reads: “An offence against our neighbourhood.”

“This was completely not what we have talked about in the meetings that I went to,” Azrael said about the total closure of the park. “I expressed a lot of concern, and many other people did too, as to how that would disrupt the neighbourhood. This park is the heart of our community. This is our living room.”

At a cost of $2.3 million, the Vancouver park board is redeveloping the almost one-hectare park bounded on the west by Dunlevy Avenue and on the east by Jackson Avenue, with Cordova and Powell streets skirting its southern and northern sides, respectively. It will have new walkways, improved drainage, and a new field house that will be located at the Jackson Avenue side of the field.

Construction is expected to be completed on February 5 next year, just before the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games open. Until then, residents and regular visitors will have to do without Oppenheimer Park.

Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Sarah Blyth told the Straight in a phone interview that fencing the park is a “necessary inconvenience”.

If the park upgrade were done in phases, according to Blyth, the project might encounter delays and become more costly. “We want to see this project done in six months or as soon as possible so residents can start using it again,” she said.

Ann Livingston lives in a nearby building just west of Main Street, and she used to walk through the park with her son on the way to a nearby daycare centre.

“I go through it at 8:30 [a.m.], back through it at 9, back through it at 4 [p.m.], back through it at 5, and I would count the number of people in the park, and routinely in this month of the year there’s 200 people in the park,” Livingston told the Straight.

Livingston, a volunteer with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, noted that the Downtown Eastside is the most park-poor area in the city, and the closure of Oppenheimer Park isn’t helping any.

Worse, according to Livingston, drug users who used to frequent the park are now turning up in alleys south of Hastings Street, potentially creating conflict with residents in the Strathcona community. This, she fears, may just invite intense police crackdowns.

It’s not only Oppenheimer Park that’s under construction, Livingston noted during a weekend walk through the Downtown Eastside. Pigeon Park, a 3,000-square-foot triangular paved plaza at the corner of West Hastings and Carrall streets that is a popular resting spot for locals, is also undergoing renovation. Construction signs have sprouted on various Hastings Street curbs to the west and east of Main Street.

According to Livingston, much of Hastings Street, a major corridor, will be repaved between Carrall Street and Clark Drive. “The whole neighbourhood is in a state of torn-up-ness,” she said.

Vancouver Green park commissioner Stuart Mackinnon acknowledged that some residents aren’t happy about the closure of Oppenheimer Park and wanted a phased redevelopment.

“I understand that the way it was designed, it has to be done all at once,” Mackinnon told the Straight. “It’s just the nature of the design. The park board has asked the city if they would close one of the streets beside the park and allow that to be used by the residents as a recreational area. But as far as I know, we haven’t heard back from the city.”

Mackinnon added that the situation is just unfortunate. “The construction industry is such that we have to be able to construct when they’re available. Summertime is the best time, of course, for construction. It’s one of these unfortunate things that when park redevelopment happens, parks generally have to be closed. We’re hoping that the residents will be happy with the redevelopment.”

Azrael claimed that not much is actually being done at the park. In the week before she talked with the Straight on July 5, she said, the only work that went on was that somebody came in to turn on earth-moving machinery and move some dirt back and forth.

It’s a “tactic” that’s hurting people, according to Azrael. “That is part of moving people,” she said. “This is social control.”
Source URL: http://www.straight.com/article-238653/neighbours-decry-oppenheimer-park-closure

23 July 2009

We "mean business", warns Vancouver park board chair Raj Hundal

By Matthew Burrows, Georgia Straight - Vancouver,British Columbia,Canada
Publish Date: July 23, 2009

Vision Vancouver park board chair Raj Hundal told the Straight that he’s putting the Vision Vancouver–controlled city council on notice after it withheld part of the board’s capital budget last month.

"We do have to work together with council, along with management, to look at ways of providing the services that are needed across the city of Vancouver," Hundal said during the July 20 board meeting. "But [we need to] be mindful that we will always push back, and to let the folks over at council know that we are independent, that we are elected."

Hundal added: "We do mean business at the park board."

The park board’s capital budget—this year totalling $66.6 million and approved by the electorate in November 2008—is normally allocated in the first year. On June 11, council voted to allocate only $30.4 million, which covers "planning" and initial funding for the renewal of Trout Lake Community Centre and buildings at VanDusen Botanical Garden, as well as the conversion of the Hillcrest curling venue after the Olympics.

On June 1, prior to council’s action, Vision commissioner Aaron Jasper moved a motion, which passed unanimously, demanding that the city provide the full $66.6 million. "I guess I look at this as, ‘We might have lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war,’ " Jasper said to the Straighton July 20. "What sends a strong signal to city council is when you have a unanimous board, so I think we do have a backbone."

Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon told the Straight that Jasper’s motion was "a step in the right direction", but said he still felt that council displayed "a lack of trust" in the park board, and that he would like to see "a stronger stance" taken to defend park-board interests. He acknowledged that not all projects have come in on time and on budget, but blamed that on factors beyond the board’s control, such as rising construction costs.

"I think we’ve always done our due diligence, and would wish that city council would show a continuing trust and support in us," Mackinnon said by phone.

Lone NPA commissioner Ian Robertson said he has developed a "respect" for Jasper, but believes a Vision-led council, along with city manager Penny Ballem, is "trying to muzzle the park board".

"You have to be able to stand up and say, ‘This is not good enough,’ " Robertson said. "I’m not seeing that type of backbone developing with this particular group, except of course for Aaron, who is beginning to understand that."

Vision councillor Raymond Louie, chair of the finance committee, did not return a call by Straight deadline.

21 July 2009

Vancouver park board approves Olympic RV parks despite residents' objections

By Matthew Burrows, Georgia Straight - Vancouver,British Columbia,Canada
Publish Date: July 21, 2009

The Vancouver park board has approved the establishment of temporary RV parks at Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks during the 2010 Olympics, despite opposition from area residents.

But Vision Vancouver commissioner Aaron Jasper has promised that, if the revenue projections don’t add up, the park board could “reconsider” its decision.

“If we sat down with staff, and we were working with the residents and we had all the numbers on the table, and it actually showed that this would be a loss to the park board, I think that would definitely make the park board reconsider,” Jasper said last night (July 20) in the foyer of the park-board office after the 4-1 vote, in response to a question from Point Grey resident Ardy Zia. “Our goal was that, even with a modest occupancy, that this would break even. The bonus would be extra revenues.”

The parking lots at the beaches will accommodate up to 365 RV sites between February 8 and March 2, 2010. Visitors will pay $95 per night per recreation vehicle, a price that will cover access to washrooms, showers, waste disposal, and a free shuttle.

At the meeting, Vision’s Jasper, Sarah Blyth, and board chair Raj Hundal, along with Non-Partisan Association commissioner Ian Robertson, voted in favour of all of the recommendations contained in park board revenue-services manager Philip Josephs’s report. The park board awarded the $134,832 contract for managing the RV parks to Duckworth Management Group Ltd.

Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon severed the recommendations into a separate motions, saying he could not support the main recommendation to approve the temporary RV sites. The other recommendations passed unanimously.

“The most troubling for me is the commercialization of parkland,” Mackinnon said. “I have a fundamental and philosophical opposition to the commercialization of parkland and beaches.”

Coalition of Progressive Electors commissioner Loretta Woodcock and Vision’s Constance Barnes were absent from the meeting. Barnes is on a leave of absence.

At one point during the fractious meeting, Robertson told the crowd that he represented all of Vancouver’s residents and not just the few that had chosen to heckle and yell at almost every turn for close to an hour.

Frank Tyers of the North West Point Grey Home Owners’ Association claimed that no adequate “cost analysis” had been done that took into account the cost of a pumping station and a scenario where occupation was lower than predicted.

In the foyer, with questions coming at him thick and fast, Jasper fired back at Tyers: “I tell you sir, with all due respect, a half a million dollars revenue is a big deal to this board right now....It’s not BS.”

Tyers said, “It’s $700,000 [in projected revenues] if every space is rented, every minute....All of the expenses that you’ve put up there don’t include the pumping station.”

North West Marine Drive resident Tom Elliott was the most vocal critic, slamming commissioners for what he said was a disgusting display of “expediency and opportunism”.

Vancouver park board approves RV parking during Olympics

By David Karp, Vancouver Sun July 20, 2009

VANCOUVER — Recreational vehicles will be allowed to stay overnight in city parking lots at Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks during the Olympics, the Vancouver park board decided Monday night.

The board voted 4-1 to approve a staff recommendation to allow roughly 365 RVs to park for $95 per night, despite residents’ protests.

Green party commissioner Stuart Mackinnon was the lone opponent.

The city sent information about the proposal to 460 homes near the beaches, and received 23 e-mails, letters and phone calls opposing the move, with just three communications in favour.

“We were confident that the business case was a good one,” said Vision commissioner Aaron Jasper.

“The RVs are coming, and this is a way for us to do our part to help with the logistics of the Olympics, and to do this in a controlled way that has minimal impact to Vancouverites.”

The city will pay Duckworth Management Group Ltd. $134,832 to manage the sites.

According to the staff report, the only RV site close to downtown is the Capilano RV Park, which had a waiting list of more than 100 people as of February.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

25 April 2009

beer at the folkfest

The Vancouver Folk Festival approached the Park Board to approve the sale of beer and wine during the festival. They wanted a 750 seat public tent and a 250 seat tent behind the scenes for the artists and staff, for a total of 1000 seats. Alcohol has never been served at the festival. In fact Gary Crystal, one of the founders of the Folkfest, said on CBC radio that the festival deliberately did not sell alcohol as they didn't think it was conducive to the spirit of the event. Times and ideas change of course and the festival now believes it needs alcohol sales to help defray the costs of the event.

The motion came to the Board without public consultation. The Folk Festival organizers did not attend the meeting to make their case, rather relying on staff to put the recommendation forward. Staff explained that as the Folk Festival had been approved for a 500 seat tent last year, there was no need for public consultation this year.

I disagreed and put forward a motion to refer the matter to the Planning and Environment committee so that the public,especially the neighbours, could have input. I believe that the original permission, granted last year but not followed up on, was not relevant as this new permit was for double the original request. My referral motion was defeated 4-1 and subsequently the motion to approve the beer tents passed, again 4-1 with mine being the vote to disapprove.

I found it odd that the majority of the Board did not think that public input was necessary on this motion when it could have significant impact on the neighbourhood, yet the majority had previously voted to re-visit the Jericho wharf decision, even though there had been a public process on that.

07 April 2009

Wendy Ladner Beaudry

The death of Wendy Ladner Beaudry has touched many of us in the community. The following is a statement I made at the April 6th Park Board meeting:

"I imagine that everyone here tonight is aware of the tragedy that occurred in Pacific Spirit Park this past weekend. I am sure that everyone at this table joins me in expressing our great sorrow and extending our condolences to the Ladner-Beaudry family. The death of Wendy Ladner-Beaudry is a shock and a terrible loss to our community. Any untimely death is a tragic event but the circumstances of this one is particularly significant to those us who advocate for parks and public spaces. Our parks are safe places but we must always be vigilant and aware of our surroundings. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the entire family."

18 March 2009

Letter to the editor: Jericho Wharf

Letter of the week
Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To the editor:
Re: "Wharf advocates attack park commissioner," Letters, March 4.

Joan Bunn needs to get her facts straight. To suggest that the crumbling concrete, creosote and steel of the Jericho Wharf is green because "it is basically inert" is not only incorrect, it shows a complete misunderstanding of ecological health. The decaying wharf is the opposite of "green." Its creosoted pilings continue to leak toxic compounds into an area that has been designated by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans as prime juvenile fish habitat. The concrete and steel of the wharf and the rip rap provide absolutely no healthy habitat for any creature, except perhaps rats.

I have worked as a volunteer with the Jericho Stewardship Group for the last five years to restore and enhance habitat in the park. Despite its relatively small size, the park is critical habitat for a number of species, including species at risk. Rare species are also encountered in the park, whether a northern goshawk, a water scorpion or a tiny shrew. I can assure readers that none of them are dependent on the dilapidated wharf for their survival.

Originally, the Jericho Stewardship Group advocated for the wharf's complete destruction and restoration of the foreshore with native dune plants and features that would have provided habitat for another complement of species to further enhance the biodiversity of the park.

When the previous park board and park board staff recommended the demolition of most of the wharf, but restoration of a 500-square-foot section to recognize its value to part of the community, we thought it a compromise that we could live with. That this small special-interest group is unwilling to accept a reasonable compromise and acknowledge the biological and natural values of the site is disappointing, to say the least.

Dawn Hanna,

© Vancouver Courier 2009