27 February 2020

Vancouver park board general manager Malcolm Bromley plans to retire after leaving lasting mark on city

by Charlie Smith on February 27th, 2020

After nearly a decade as the de facto CEO of Vancouver parks and recreational facilities, Malcolm Bromley will soon have a lot more time to make use of them.

That's because the veteran municipal administrator plans to retire in May.

Bromley was Toronto's director of recreation when he replaced Susan Mundick as the park board's general manager overseeing golf courses, swimming pools, community centres, and city parks a few months after the Vancouver Olympics ended.

His tenure has been marked by several bold initiatives aimed at renewing facilities and creating new recreational opportunities as the population continues growing.

In addition, Bromley provided a steady hand during some tumultuous political battles, as control over the board during his tenure switched from Vision Vancouver to the NPA to what appears at times to be an alliance between three Green commissioners and two COPE commissioners.

Cetacean displays banned in Stanley Park

There was also no shortage of controversies.

The society that runs the Vancouver Aquarium took the board to court when politicians voted to ban keeping cetaceans in captivity on park property after five of these animals had died at the facility in Stanley Park over a three-year period.

Last year, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the board's authority to do this.

Then there was the ongoing saga at Oppenheimer Park, which has twice forced the Powell Street Festival to dramatically change its plans.

In 2019, Bromley was prepared to seek an injunction to enable police to remove the longest-standing tent city in Oppenheimer Park. However, a majority of commissioners at first prevented this and later set conditions. One of those conditions involved engaging a third party to conduct an independent assessment.

In addition, Bromley had to deal with annual public and media flare-ups when organizers of the 4/20 cannabis celebration decided in 2016 to start holding the event at Sunset Beach even though the park board refused to provide permits.

While issues like these dominated the headlines, Bromley helped steer through some major initiatives that didn't generate nearly as much attention.

That included a progressive trans- and gender-variant inclusion policy well before most other governmental bodies, an urban forest strategy, and a biodiversity strategy.

In addition, he's overseeing a major initiative to decolonize the Vancouver park system, which was created in the 19th and 20th centuries through the theft of Indigenous land and the erasure of the city's Indigenous history.

 Bromley welcomed music in parks

Bromley has rarely sought public attention for his efforts, despite his enormous influence, preferring instead to put the park board chair in the spotlight.

Another of his lasting legacies has been the reintroduction of live music in a multitude of Vancouver parks.

For many years, the Vancouver Folk Festival was the only major musical event on park-board-controlled land. Concerts in Stanley Park were forbidden.

That changed during the Bromley era with major musical shows taking place in Stanley Park at different times and the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival bringing free concerts to David Lam Park. Musical events have also been held in other parks.

In an interview with the Straight in 2013, then park commissioner Constance Barnes heaped praise on Bromley for this dramatic change in attitude.

That wasn't the only slice of fun promoted by Bromley.

During his tenure, the VanDusen Festival of Lights set attendance records with its elaborately themed annual holiday shows. And the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre became a true hallmark of arts and culture, as well as a gathering place for events showcasing the city's diversity.

Bromley also played an instrumental role, along with NPA commissioner John Coupar, in saving and enhancing the Bloedel Conservatory. A new roof has been installed and attendance there has increased four-fold since 2008.

VanSplash approved last year

Bromley also demonstrated grand ambitions to enhance sports and recreational facilities.

In October, the board approved the final two reports' recommendations for a new parks and recreation master plan called VanPlay. As part of its 25-year outlook, it will emphasize more equitable
distribution of parks and recreational assets by applying a geographic priority-setting approach.

That same month, the board gave the green light to an aquatics strategy called VanSplash.

There were several bumps along the way, but ultimately, it will lead to a pool replacement at Britannia Community Centre, the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, and the Kerrisdale Community Centre; renovation of the Kensington pool; a new large-scale pool at Connaught Park; an investigation of the potential for naturally filtered outdoor swimming experiences at Trout Lake; and an extension of the life span of Templeton and Lord Byng pools for at least 10 years.

There are also calls in VanSplash for a new outdoor pool in South Vancouver and the creation of large-scale accessible spray parks in highly urban parks serving large populations.

In addition, the park board broke ground on a $14.5-million downtown park in January at Smithe and Richards streets.

(c) 2020 Georgia Straight

10 February 2020

Vancouver parks to offer free 'basic necessity' menstrual products in all washrooms

The board could join other municipal agencies, including in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Moody, in offering the products for free. All schools in B.C. were also mandated to offer the products in their washrooms by the end of last year but not all are doing s.