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

16 March 2009

An unpublished letter to the editor from Mike Cotter re: Jericho Wharf

Dear Editor:

I am writing to correct some misconceptions left by the March 4 letters of the organizers of the group seeking to reverse the former Vancouver Park Board’s decision to return Central Jericho Beach to its natural state.

This year the Jericho Sailing Centre Association is celebrating 35 years of providing low cost, accessible ocean access opportunities to the people of Vancouver in small, naturally powered craft-ocean kayaks, row boats, windsurfers, canoes and sailing dinghies. The Jericho Sailing Centre, the former Jericho Beach Air Station “Building 13”, recycled by our non-profit volunteer driven organization has always been accessible to the public-it is our mission-over 15,000 people accessed Vancouver’s ocean playground from our facility in 2008 including the 8,000 who went through our ocean kayaking, windsurfing and dinghy sailing lesson programs. Vancouver’s demand for such ocean access will continue to grow in the future.

The beach adjacent to the Jericho Sailing Centre is the only public park space specifically designated to allow ocean access for small naturally powered craft in Vancouver. There were over 150,000 launches from this busy public space last year, a stark contrast to the sparsely used 1 ½ acre dilapidated concrete wharf immediately east of it.
During the original public consultation process the members of the JSCA and other users of the Jericho Sailing Centre were among the majority who favoured the complete removal of the Jericho wharf and reinstatement of the natural beach. The eventual decision to retain a 5,000 square foot section of the eastern end of the wharf for public viewing and commemorative purposes was supported by the JSCA.

In his letter to the Courier Mr. Gary Wedeking is incorrect when he states that the JSCA presented “relatively detailed plans” to expand the sailing centre launch facilities into the natural beach. In fact, I was careful at the meeting he refers to, to reference the Park Board’s own wording with respect to the positive aspects of the decision to remove the wharf which included, along with the obvious economic and environmental “Pro’s”, that the removal of the majority of the wharf provided the greatest flexibility for future public recreational use.

Considering the historic significance of the adjacent native village of E’eyoughmough, dating back thousands of years, it’s not a huge stretch to imagine what possible future uses might include and that the local population may, once again, choose to launch canoes and other small naturally powered craft from a naturally reinstated Central Jericho Beach.

The future recreational use of Central Jericho Beach will undoubtedly involve a separate public consultation process. In the meantime the natural beach recently liberated by the former Park Board faces the grimly ironic possibility that the current, self professed “greener” Park Board may choose to reoccupy it with 400 creosote leeching pilings, 1 ½ acres of crumbling concrete and an ongoing maintenance bill expected to exceed one million dollars over the next ten years.


Mike Cotter,
General Manager

11 March 2009

Jericho Wharf

It seems my decision to uphold the previous Park Board plan regarding Jericho Wharf has not sat well with some members of the community (though I must say I am very heartened by the overwhelming support I have received overall). One only has to look at my record over the past 10 years of advocating for the preservation of, and public access for, our foreshore to know that it would have to be a very compelling argument for me to vote against more public access.

One writer accused me of not fulfilling a campaign promise to reverse the previous Board decision. This is in fact wrong, as I never promised to reverse the decision, but to re-examine it. Here in part is my reply to that writer:

During the civic election campaign I made a commitment to re-examine the decision made by the former Park Board to remove a portion of the wharf and return the area to a natural foreshore. On February 3rd the newly convened Planning and Environment Committee, of which I am member, met to discuss this issue. At that meeting members of the public were invited to share new information with the committee showing that the decision made was not the correct one. At that meeting I heard no new or compelling information suggesting that the decision was not the correct one.

Staff shared with us the plan proposed, which includes the retention and refurbishing of about 1/3 of the existing pier to serve as a reminder of the usage of the area during wartime and for the use and enjoyment of the public, as well as a return of the remaining area to a natural foreshore. Staff then shared with us the process of public consultation which was taken to seek input to the plan. I think the public process was fair and allowed all stakeholders a voice.

Vancouver being a coastal city is blessed with a beautiful natural foreshore, but unfortunately much of it is not accessible to the public. I believe that the plan presented allows for a dignified memorial to those who served, as well as allowing more of our foreshore to be accessible.

No decision can fulfil all of the interests expressed during the public process, but I truly believe that this plan satisfies the wants of the community. It retains a portion of the pier as a memorial, while allowing access to a natural foreshore."

There are many other compelling reasons to uphold the decision, which I will share with this blog at another time. I believe I made the right decision at the committee meeting and continue to believe this is the right plan for Jericho.

08 March 2009

A fine balancing act

After a few months as a Park Board Commissioner, my role as member of the Board is becoming clearer and more focussed. Being a caucus of one, even in a progressive alliance, can sometimes feel a bit lonely, especially when others on the Board haven’t always shared my worldview (Hollow Tree and Jericho Wharf come to mind). However I have to be true to my values and true to the people who helped elect me.

Responsibility is my watchword: financial responsibility; social responsibility; and environmental responsibility. Each of the decisions I make have to make sense from all three perspectives.

The Park Board, like any other level of government, uses public funds and so we must always keep in mind that every decision we make will have some sort of impact on the taxpayers of the city. Every dollar must be of value—especially in these tough economic times.

Each decision has to be socially responsible—it must not adversely affect one group over another nor favour one group over another. This is a very fine balancing act, as decisions made often have unforeseen consequences.

As an elected Green I have a strong responsibility to make sure each decision is environmentally sound and sustainable. This is probably my biggest role and responsibility on the Board, but I am happy to say that the Park Board workers and senior management all share these values. In the months ahead when the long term vision for Stanley Park is discussed this will become very evident.

One of the things I have learned in my brief tenure is how hard the Park Board staff work making our parks and recreation system so wonderful. To the folks who keep the parks clean, to the foresters who look after all the wonderful trees in the city and to all the rest of the fine employees of the Park Board, I say thank you. We can all be very proud of your work and dedication.