In Vancouver there’s a crowded starting line for Mayor, and many people running for Council and Park Board that want to get their message out and be delineated in a very large crowd. Election date is October 15, not that far away.
Mario Canseco of Research.co as always has his finger on the polling pulse. His latest survey shows that people in Vancouver want to discuss the dissolution of Vancouver’s Park Board.
Two years ago Mr. Canseco found that a minority of voters, 44 percent wanted to see the Park Board eliminated. In June of 2022, that proportion has reached 52 percent, showing a tipping point. The Vancouver Park Board is the last one in Canada and an outside consultant’s civic management report prepared over a decade ago suggested it was time for that body to be abolished because of a duplication of staff and services.
What is interesting is that the people most likely to use parks in the downtown lead the charge to have the Park Board gone: As Mr. Canseco states, “Public support for abolishing Vancouver’s Park Board is highest among likely voters who reside Downtown (63%), followed by those who live in the West Side (52%) and the East Side (45%).”
This anti-park board sentiment was across the civic election party spectrum especially those that voted for the two top Mayoral candidates four years ago: “Vancouverites who voted for Kennedy Stewart or Ken Sim in the 2018 mayoral election are significantly more likely to endorse the abolition of the Board of Parks and Recreation (61% and 60% respectively) than those who cast a ballot for Shauna Sylvester (43%).”
Viewpoint Vancouver has written about the duplication of city tax paid services many times, as well as the sometimes very antiquated approach to park use championed by the Park Board. For 2022 the Vancouver Park Board had an operating budget of 143.2 million dollars.
The Park Board has separate buildings, planners, engineers, landscape architects and accompanying staff/service equipment that only focus on parks and park services, and not any other civic activities. Folding this work into city services would allow for more prudent management of financial resources, and enable co-ordinated work that can take advantage of other engineering, planning and future development in one staff.
There’s also been some challenges with Park Board Commissioners expanding their reach outside their jurisdiction: Section 23 of the Vancouver Charter very clearly says that the mandate of the Parks Board and Park Commissioners is to “provide, preserve, and advocate for parks and recreation services to benefit all people, communities, and the environment.”
During the pandemic one Park Commissioner has made unfortunate remarks on how the City of Vancouver manages its own Slow Streets and other initiatives outside of Stanley Park, specifically on Beach Avenue. The City’s pilot projects and shared street work is clearly in the City’s jurisdiction and completely outside of the Park Board’s purview.
While the Park Board has served as the junior training ground for ambitious commissioners that then launch to a Council position at city hall, it may be time to review the efficacy of this body, and the Research.co survey suggests citizens are ready.
You can take a look at the full Research.co survey here.
You can also take a look at the Gord and Sandy Chatbox from last year about dissolving the Park Board.
Perhaps abolish the parks board and create an affordable housing board. I believe the $100M+ a year would be better spent.
From my point of view the Parks Board used to be very well run – efficient, imaginative and responsive. Unfortunately all their in-house procurement and project management roles have been subsumed by the Penny Ballem tsunami into the greater ‘soup’ of the overall City Facilities group and projects have since suffered, delayed, dithered, diffused, and pandered to critics who shriek the loudest.
Strong projects have been reduced to a checklist of ‘dezine one-liners’ mandated by community engagement surveys – one would be hard pressed to find a large enough swath of grass to safely throw a frisbee without tripping over curvy retaining walls and river rock swales in most recent projects.