11 May 2011

Vancouver park board resurrects summer camps

By Sandra Thomas, Staff writer May 5, 2011

Seven Vancouver parks will see the return of summer day camp programs this year, albeit part time.

Vision Vancouver park board chair Aaron Jasper told the Courier he’s wanted to have the summer playground camps reinstated after the board cancelled the programs due to budget restraints last year.

Cancelling playground programs were some of the service cuts that came about as the result of a $1.9 million deficit in the park board’s 2010 operating budget approved by the Vision Vancouver commissioners on the board. NPA commissioner Ian Robertson, COPE’s Loretta Woodcock and the Green Party’s Stuart Mackinnon voted against the budget.

“As the result of budget deficiencies some tough decisions had to be made,” said Jasper. “But we weren’t insensitive to the concern of parents, so I made it a priority to find funds for these summer programs and asked staff to revisit the issue.”

Jasper said staff recently came to the board with an idea for the mobile playground program, which will rotate between seven community parks at a cost of $25,000. The seven parks that will offer part-time recreation programs this summer include Bobolink, Nanaimo, Falaise, Clinton, Garden, Burrardview and Balaclava. Parks adjacent to community centres that offer summer programs, such as Killarney, Renfrew and Riley Park, are excluded from the extra programming this year.

Jasper said the parks were chosen based on need and demand. Last year the park board reduced the summer playground program budget by $160,000. Jasper said the Vancouver School Board defines “need” in relation to children who attend inner-city schools. Last year’s budget cuts meant the end of 10 playground programs, while community centre associations at Douglas, West Point Grey and Jones parks paid for their own programs. Jasper noted last year the park board heard “limited” complaints from parents living near Burrardview, Clinton and Balaclava playgrounds about the lack of summer programs.

Jasper said the one-time only $25,000 will pay for staff for seven weeks between July 4 and August 19. Playground programs will be offered either Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday and Thursday, with suggested hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Two wading pools will re-open part time, but will need to be drained at the end of each day to comply with safety regulations.

Green Party commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said while he’s “thrilled” with the return of part-time summer programs, he noted under Vision Vancouver their funding has been cut by more than 50 per cent.

“In 2008 the budget was $302,000 for summer programs,” said Mackinnon. “In 2011 it’s $141,000.”

Mackinnon added the $25,000 dedicated to summer playground programs in 2011 is a one-time only deal that ends in August.

“And there’s an election in November,” said Mackinnon. “You don’t have to be too much of a cynic to see the connection.”


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