In the October 15 2022 Vancouver civic election, the new Mayor-Elect Ken Sim and the ABC (A Better City) team ran six candidates and claimed six of the seven commissioners positions on the Park Board. The seventh position went to Tom Digby of the Green Party.
The ABC party first talked about abolishing and not supporting the park board, but changed its strategy and ran a slate. All were successful, and all are new to the Park Board.
You can take a look at the ABC party’s platform on parks here:
Their priorities identified are allowing alcohol in parks, fix fields and infrastructure, make it easier to rent for events, audit everything, keep fees down, and make parks “the most safe, inclusive, and accessible in the world”.
On the first working day after the civic election there was a surprise from the ABC Team on the shared use of Park Drive for cycling and driving, a priority that was not listed in campaign literature pre-election. While Mayor elect Ken Sim had previously spoken with the CBC’s Justin Mcelroy about a bike lane being left on Stanley Park’s Park Drive, it turns out that a lane may not mean a lane of Park Drive, but a “lane” for travel nearby.
On Jill Bennett’s CKNW Radio Show Park Board Commissioner-elect Scott Jensen stated that two lanes of vehicular driver traffic would be opened to minimize congestion, suggesting that a separate bike facility may be built, or that people may be back to using the already crowded bike loop on parts of the route along the seawall. Driver access from Beach Avenue would be opened up, and driver park access would be restored to what it was pre pandemic.
It was also announced that the temporary bicycle lane on Park Drive would be taken out in November, and a new “lane” would be constructed in the summer of 2023.
This appeases the vehicle drivers who did not like the 30 km/h restriction or one lane of traffic, and others that complained about a lack of parking. But the big takeaway is that the ABC Team want to keep traffic flowing to the contracted businesses in Stanley Park which rely on the larger tourist dollar for revenue. Half of the funding for the Park Board operations comes from business generated revenue.
Of course Stanley Park is a city park and is not a regional park. But it is a tourist destination, with the now American owned Aquarium (sold in 2021) and restaurants in the Park catering to a more significant tourist dollar. Some of those uses approved for tourist purposes are problematic, outdated and colonial, including using horse drawn trams(at 40 or 50 dollars a person) where work horses spend their day standing or plodding on pavement in Stanley Park. Activist, musician and actor Jann Arden points this out: we choose to ignore it.
As the city densifies more locals are using Stanley Park for recreation as their closest park. A preliminary report on the Stanley Park Mobility Study shows that there were 18 million annual visits by 9.5 million people, with 48 percent of those people visiting living within ten kilometers of the park. That 48 percent visit the park an average of 55 times a year and use it as their main park.
The burgeoning interest in E-bikes also makes Stanley Park more accessible from other parts of the city. Travelling to Stanley Park by bike of course leaves more space for those that drive vehicles.
The Park Board staff is currently working on the Stanley Park Mobility Study which reviews the use of Stanley Park by different modes, and makes recommendations for change in the future.
It was CBC’s Justin McElroy that found the following statement from Mayor elect Ken Sim that clarifies the Stanley Park bike lane. Justin does ask Mr. Sim to “square the circle” in clarifying how two lanes of traffic and a bike lane will be accommodated, especially on the Prospect Point hill which appears not to have room for a bike lane on that incline.
Mr. Sim responded “We have a lot of incredible engineers in the city and people that live in the city that understand traffic flows…Now this isn’t complicated, if you go to every every single major city they’ve already done this and they have mutimodal transportation where cars exist to coexist with bikes and pedestrians. This is no different”.
The Vancouver Park Board has a separately elected board with its own budget, staff, and vehicles, often duplicating equipment that is owned by the City of Vancouver. It is the last separately elected Park Board in Canada.
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.
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. A survey undertaken by Mario Canseco with Research.co in 2022 found that 52 percent of voters were willing to give the Park Board the heave ho, up from 44 percent in favour in 2020.
As Mr. Canseco noted “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%).”
At the last civic election four years ago, anti-park board sentiment was across the civic election party spectrum especially those that voted for the two top Mayoral candidates. “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%).”
Enjoy the current Park Drive bike lane while you can before it it taken out in November.