18 November 2010

Is this the least progressive Park Board in living memory?

Last Monday night the Park Board approved a new and revised fee schedule for Park Board recreational services. This revised schedule included the lowering of the age of children’s fees to 3 years from 6. Up until now children 5 and under were considered preschoolers and did not pay. I moved an amendment to the fee schedule to return the preschool age to 5 years and under from the new 2 years and return children to age 6. COPE Commissioner Loretta Woodcock seconded this amendment and supported it. It was defeated with all Vision Commissioners voting against it.

I moved the amendment as I believe this is an unfair burden to put on parents of young children. I simply don’t understand how bringing in new fees for toddlers will generate a significant amount of revenue for the Board. It will most probably discourage parents and children from being active and this will have long lasting costs for all of us. This new fee for young children follows the reduction in Community Centre programmers, a summer of cut-backs in playground programs, and the closing of the Kids Street Clubhouse after-school care program.

Since being elected in 2008, this Board has made more cuts to programming and park maintenance than in all the years of the previous decade combined. Last year alone saw a combined total of nearly $4 million in budget reductions to the Park Board. Since 2008, Recreational Services have been reduced by $1.7 million and Parks Maintenance by $1.2 million.

It is hard to imagine any more cuts to our Parks and Recreation system, and yet we are facing the possibility of an additional $2 million in reductions this year. If Vision Vancouver thinks our parks are a luxury that we can afford to neglect or forget; if they think that recreational services are not an integral part of our city; if they think they can dismantle what has taken more than 100 years of progressive voices from all shades of the political spectrum to build, then they are sorely mistaken. Vancouverites will not sit idly by and watch their community programming dismantled; they will not sit back and watch as their parks and gardens are neglected.

It is time Vision Vancouver stopped and took a really good look at what they are doing to our city. It is time they asked themselves if this is what they were elected to do.

This is not what attracted me to an electoral alliance with them. I thought that we would usher in a new and better way of doing things in this city. I thought there would be more meaningful consultation with the public. I thought that green issues like natural areas and healthy living would be important. I thought that kids and families would be important. I thought that parks and recreation would be important. I have been terribly disappointed.

The Vision Vancouver commissioners have the opportunity this year to finally stand up to their city council comrades and say enough is enough. No more cuts. It is now time to start re-investing in our parks; time to encourage recreation. Times are tough—I know that. But it is when the economy is hardest hit that people need their neighbourhood parks and recreational services the most.

It is time to make parks and recreation a priority.


  1. Stuart - I totally agree with your comments. Not only are programming and park maintenance suffering at the magnitude of the cuts under this board, but we almost lost an institution in the City of Vancouver - The Bloedel Floral Conservatory. If not for the rallying of a few dedicated individuals, this too would have suffered the cut.
    I believe that there is always another solution to difficult problems. Budget restraints are a part of every Park Board's responsibility and prudent care to balance all of the requirements for the city must encompass all options. If you are creative in your thought process and are motivated by the needs of the PEOPLE first, the solutions will come. They may not be conventional solutions but they do not always have to entail cutting services. Sometimes this is inevitable, however, I do not see this Board looking at other alternatives. It is very disheartening to watch the erosion of a parks and recreation system that was the pride of North America. I recall people from New York City and from other parts of the world wanting to know more about our system and adopting our "best practices" in their own municipalities.
    I fear that the damage done by this board will take years to rectify and there are some things that can never be fixed - because once it is gone - it is gone.

  2. I agree with you Stuart. This was a mistake. As a former Park Commissioner it is my opinion this will actually decrease revenue because the mums & dads + their older kids, who do pay, won't come in many cases.

  3. Stuart, I find it disappointing that you failed to mention the support you received from Constance Barnes. You can refresh your memory at: http://www.straight.com/article-359612/vancouver/barnes-votes-against-park-fee-hikes

  4. Stuart

    Right on with your comments!

    Also the way they handled the out of school care issue in Champlain is a complete joke

    "nothing to do with us" they say

  5. Constance did not support my amendment. She did ultimately reject the fee schedule. You can check the minutes at the Park Board site: http://vancouver.ca/parks/board/2010/101129/Minutes2010Nov15.pdf

  6. Thanks for your hard work to try to keep our green spaces beautiful, usable and accessible to all, Stuart! I am happy to support you on the Board in any way I can. ~Lorinda~