29 April 2015

Vancouver zipline rushed through approval process, says commissioner

By Metro,

A Green party commissioner is accusing the Vancouver park board of rushing approval of a temporary zipline in Queen Elizabeth Park this summer without properly consulting nearby residents and businesses that operate in the park.

The park board voted in favour Monday night of a proposal to install the temporary zipline in Queen Elizabeth Park to help celebrate the park’s 75th anniversary.
Local company Greenheart approached the park board with the idea and will pay for the entire project, which will operate from May to September.
According to a staff report, the 190-metre-long zipline will run from a launch tower built on the west side of Bloedel Conservatory, travelling over the quarry garden before landing on the southwest side of the garden.

But the Green Party’s Stuart Mackinnon, one of two commissioners who voted against the motion, said he is concerned that residents and businesses that use the park, like wedding planners and photographers, weren’t adequately informed of the proposal before it was approved.

“One of the questions I asked last night was ‘had the wedding industry been consulted on this?’ And they had not,” Mackinnon told Metro. “The zipline goes right across the quarry and in summertime, many, many people use that area for wedding photos and family photos. To have people streaking across the sky above them doesn’t fit with that.”

With only two people speaking out against the zipline at Monday’s park board meeting, Mackinnon wondered whether it may have been “overshadowed” by the board’s controversial motion to possibly tear down the Mount Pleasant skateboard park, also up for debate Monday.

Allan Burnett, owner of the Chapel Group, which has a contract with the park board and offers wedding ceremonies at Queen Elizabeth Park, was surprised to hear the zipline had been approved Monday.

Burnett, who had only seen news reports about the zipline, said he wasn’t aware the proposal would be up for debate already.

“It seems to me that it would be good to let contractors and operators in the park know when things like that are happening because obviously we are going to be affected by it one way or another,” he said.

As for whether a zipline could be a disturbance to weddings at Queen Elizabeth Park, Burnett said he isn’t overly concerned.

Burnett said he supports any attraction that can help draw people to the park, regardless of how the increased visitor traffic might affect his business.

“I always tell people the plaza area on a sunny summer day in July or August is like opening day at PNE,” he said. “But I appreciate the fact that it’s being done on a trial basis so at least then we can revisit it if it does seem to become an issue.”

Still, commissioner Mackinnon said he doesn’t believe a zipline is an appropriate fit with Queen Elizabeth Park’s aesthetic.

“Most people see (the park) as a tranquil place of peace in the middle of the city,” he said. “An amusement park type ride just doesn’t fit.”

Although it has been approved as a pilot project, Mackinnon said he is also concerned it could become a permanent fixture if it generates significant revenue for the city.

The city will get a share of the profits if the zipline generates more than $75,000 in revenue.
But NPA board chair John Coupar emphasized the zipline is temporary and will only be in place this summer. If there is public demand for the zipline to return next summer, Coupar said the parks department would issue a request for proposals.

Coupar said Monday’s park meeting was well publicized and that staff followed the process completely to ensure the public was aware of the meeting.

He said he doesn’t expect the zipline to affect weddings as the chapel is located on the opposite side of the park. If anything, he expects to see wedding parties going down the zipline and posing for photos, said Coupar.

“You’re always going to get people who are negative about things,” he said. “But I’ve had a lot of really positive feedback. People think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”