23 May 2014

I believe in better parks and recreation for Vancouver.

It is strange to think that the ideas I was fighting for in 1999 are still the issues 15 years later. Below is from the original BetterParks site that I started in 2001. Values never change.
I have always cared passionately for our parks and green spaces. Growing up in Vancouver was like growing up in a magical land, filled with green fields, tall trees, forests, sandy beaches and sunny days at the poolside. I want every child to be able to share this experience. 

 Parks and community centres are the lifeblood of our city. They should be open to all—not just the wealthy and not just for those lucky enough to live near a destination facility. Parks and community centres are for everyone.

 We must re-examine recreational fees to ensure fairness and equal access. We have a special responsibility to our elders and those on limited and fixed incomes, to make community centres affordable.

 Every neighbourhood should have the opportunity of having recreational facilities. The closing of neighbourhood pools must stop. Our parks are the refuges of the city for people and wildlife. We must preserve and promote them as green spaces.

 The unionised workers in the parks system have a vested interest in promoting and preserving them and should play an active role in their management.

 Stanley Park is a natural treasure; it is our duty and responsibility to protect it for all future generations. We must stop the destruction; we must stop the expansion of the aquarium; and we must stop the commercialization of this jewel in the crown of Vancouver.

Working together we can have better parks.
from BetterParks.ca circa 2001

22 May 2014

300 postings on making Better Parks for Vancouver

This marks the 300th posting since 2008 on this incarnation of the BetterParks blog. I originally started this blog in 2001 on an old Telus members site, and migrated over to blogspot 6 years later. One of the first postings on the original site was about my excitement with a COPE win at the Park Board after the 2002 civic election. I talked about my hopes after years of the neglect and deterioration of our parks and community centres, increasing fees, and the commercialization of our public spaces.

Since 1999 I have been advocating for parks and public spaces. This advocacy has taken me to some fantatsic places like SPEC - the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, and the VanDusen Botanical Gardens Association. I have been honoured by being elected to the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation (the Park Board), and being a Trustee of the Vancouver Public Library.

Over the years I have blogged about parks and gardens, beaches and natural spaces. About whales and dolphins in captivity, and about dogs in parks. About trees and flowers, recycling and bathrooms. I have advocated for seniors and children, for natural spaces and outdoor swimming pools. And a lot more.

Six months from now there will be another civic election, and the issues that meant so much to me a dozen or more years ago are still in the forefront. I have been asked by many people and many political parties to run again. To be honest I haven't yet decided. It takes a lot of time and effort to be a candidate, and even more to be an elected official. I'll take the summer to decide and will make my announcement here first.

Thank you to all the readers, casual and regulars, for caring about parks and recreation as much as I do. It is for you that I do what I do.

14 May 2014

Summer starts in Vancouver with the opening of outdoor pools and beaches

Well...here's a press release we've wanted to see for a while. Seems like summer has started at Vancouver Parks!

Vancouver Park Board
News Release
May 14, 2014

Starting this Victoria Day long weekend, the city’s outdoor pools and beaches will open, and lifeguards and Park Rangers will be on duty.

 The heated seaside pools at Kitsilano Beach Park, Second Beach in Stanley Park and New Brighton Park open Saturday, May 17. Swimmers often line-up to be the first in. Please check pool schedules for operating hours. Vancouver’s outdoor pools operate through the Labour Day weekend. Kitsilano Pool is typically open until mid-September. Maple Grove Pool, an outdoor pool in Kerrisdale, opens June 21 and closes September 1. Hillcrest Centre’s outdoor pool will open in July after annual maintenance and repairs are complete.

New this year, temporary windbreaks have been installed at both Kitsilano and Second Beach pools. The screens will significantly reduce heat loss and goosebumps! A two-week trial in early June last year at Second Beach reduced the pool’s energy consumption by 400 gigajoules of natural gas—a savings of $4,000. The windbreaks will also protect swimmers and sunbathers from chilly prevailing winds.

The Park Board’s outdoor pools offer a range of affordable admission options from single drop-in visits, 10 visit passes or monthly Flexipasses. These pass products save users money and can be conveniently loaded onto the system-wide OneCard recreation passport.
Starting this weekend, beach lifeguards and Park Rangers will also be on duty.

Lifeguards patrol the Park Board's 11 supervised bathing beaches from Victoria Day to Labour Day, from approximately 11:30 am to 8:30 pm daily (closing at 9 pm from mid-June to mid-August), except when the red light is on at the Lifeguard Station. Almost 18 kilometres of ocean beach stretch from Spanish Banks West all the way around English Bay to Third Beach in Stanley Park. Trout Lake, located in John Hendry Park, is the only freshwater, lifeguarded supervised beach in Vancouver. Residents and visitors are reminded to always be water smart. Choose a supervised swim location at a Vancouver beach or pool.

A team of five full-time and more than 30 seasonal Park Rangers act as the Park Board's ambassadors in more than 230 city parks. Uniformed Rangers help visitors with wayfinding, park services, monitoring of play fields, by-law enforcement, and park activities such as filming and special events. For the second year in a row there is a dedicated Ranger to manage homeless issues and outreach. The public is asked to call 311 if they require a Park Ranger’s assistance.

All beaches and parks are smoke-free. Dogs are not permitted on beaches and must be leashed in other areas (except in designated off-leash areas). Fires are not allowed in parks or on beaches at any time. Barbecue coal pits are provided for hot coals at many popular beach and picnic locations.

- 30 -

Media contact:
Vancouver Park Board

12 May 2014

What kind of a City do you want?

In the 9 May 2014 edition of the Vancouver Sun in a section called this day in history, they ran an article entitled "The failed industrial plans for Spanish Banks", describing the plans of the former Municipality of Point Grey (1908-29) to industrialize the area we know today as Spanish Banks beach. The plans included heavy industry, docks and even an airport. Point Grey Road would have continued through Jericho Beach and have become a major thoroughfare.

All a bit of nostalgic fluff? Not at all. This was a town doing what towns do: planning. If not for the amalgamation of Point Grey into Vancouver, the beloved beaches of the west-side might not have existed today. This is why planning is so important. So important that it should not be left solely up to the politicians to make these decisions. It is the residents, the citizens, the taxpayers who must make these important decisions.

We have an opportunity to comment on Vancouver's next Capital Planning right now. The Capital Plan is our financial plan to invest in the City's systems. Make your opinions known. Make your voice heard. Get involved. Share your views at the City's Capital Plan website.

04 May 2014

No Campaign Finance Reform This Year

With a vote of 9-1, Green Party Cllr. Adriane Carr's motion for campaign finance reform was defeated at City Council this past week. Surprise? Not really as all 9 dissenting votes came from Vision Vancouver and the NPA--the two parties that benefit most from unlimited campaign donations and lax rules on donation disclosure.

Vision Vancouver in their usual insulting manner, declared Carr's motion as "naive" and "dangerous". Both Vision and the NPA talked of lack of trust and the inability to enforce voluntary rules. Kerry Jang, who seems incapable of adding anything intelligent or useful to any debate, added his usual demeaning and childish contribution talking of "scout’s honour" and "pinky promise".

If the two largest civic political parties cannot be trusted to follow volunteer finance rules, how then can we trust them with our tax dollars?

The truth is that the NPA and Vision Vancouver have the most to lose. All those millions of dollars from their deep pocketed friends in the development community could be lost. Elections couldn't be bought any more by groups who have the most to gain from city decisions. Both the NPA and Vision spent millions of dollars on their last campaign and chances are they will spend even more this year to keep their places at City Hall.

Despite their claims that they have been calling for Victoria to change the rules for years, the proof of their commitment to reform was shown with the 9-1 vote. Isn't it time that honesty and integrity were returned to our civic politics? More than ever this vote shows where each of the parties stands. Come November the people of Vancouver will have the opportunity to make real changes at 12th and Cambie. Will it be four more years of the same old cynical politics or will the people take back their city government?