16 January 2009

Vancouver Parks Board proposal would allow corporate signage in city parks

By Mary Frances Hill, Vancouver Sun January 16, 2009

VANCOUVER - A proposal to ask for an amendment to the Vancouver Charter to relax rules around signs and advertising in parks and community centres will go to the park board Monday.

The proposal, made by park board staff, would allow for signs, banners, logos and advertising in city parks during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The “amendment will also be useful for supporting future special events on city parks,” the staff recommendation says.

At present, the Vancouver Charter, the legislation that regulates Vancouver’s operations, prohibits advertising in the parks and recreation system.

If the board approves the staff recommendation, any amendment to the Vancouver Charter would have to be passed by the provincial government.

Park board commissioner Stuart MacKinnon said he has concerns about what the proposal could lead to.

“With corporate sponsorship comes money, and like everyone we are looking for ways to improve the park and recreation system, and every little bit helps,” said MacKinnon, the sole Green Party commissioner.

“But there are some values that are more important than just money. Protecting our parks and recreation system from corporatization is one of those values.”

Ian Robertson, the sole Non-Partisan Association commissioner, said the board doesn’t have a clear policy on signage, logos or advertisements for special events such a charity fundraiser, run or corporate gathering.

Amending the Vancouver Charter would give commissioners more power, and clear guidelines, with which to decide on the parameters of signs, he said.

“If this was about allowing permanent advertising in parks, I would definitely hesitate to go forward with it. We have to maintain the integrity of our parks.”

Vancouver-Burrard MLA Spencer Herbert, a former park board commissioner, said it’s up to Vancouverites to complain if they see too much commercial signage in the recreation system.

“In my time at the park board, we had proposals for robotic dinosaurs, and the people strongly said, ‘No, we don’t want this in our parks,’” he said, referring to a proposal last year to install a robotic dinosaur exhibit in Stanley Park. “It’s up to the people to ensure their parks are up to their needs and desires.”

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