16 March 2018

Another run for Park Board

At the Green Party of Vancouver AGM on Sunday 11 March 2018 I stated my intention to seek another endorsement for Park Board Commissioner from the party. It has been a honour and a privilege to be an elected Green  representative on the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation twice: 2008-11 and 2014-18. I hope to receive the endorsement of the Green Party and to continue to serve my community as Park Commissioner for another term.

14 March 2018

Proposed Ray-Cam community centre renewal gets council approval

  / Vancouver Courier
March 14, 2018 11:34 AM

They were celebrating at Ray-Cam Co-operative Community Centre Wednesday morning as the push to upgrade the centre got a boost from city council, but now the real work begins.

Council adopted Green Coun. Adriane Carr’s motion to have staff review the proposed renewal so that it can be considered as part of the city’s 2019-2022 capital plan. That approval means the project will be included on the ballot this October.
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“There was a very big cheer in the lobby,” said coordinator Kate Hodgson. “That’s very exciting.”

"Today's resolution signals that the city is serious about this project — it's a real opportunity to meet some urgent housing objectives and invest in our community," said Strathcona resident and Ray-Cam board member Guy Wakeman. "We're very excited to move this forward and hipefully take advantage of some of the provincial funding opportunities we know are coming down the pipe."

Ray-Cam has been serving Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood for more than 40 years. Originally constructed in 1976, the community centre on the eastern edge of the Downtown Eastside has expanded over the years but it’s now bursting at the seams and starting to show its age.

Ray-Cam currently provides much-needed services for more than 6,000 members. Diapers, snacks and supplies are stacked against the walls in meeting rooms. The gym and weight-rooms leak, and an inadequate, and chronically broken furnace, means parts of the centre are freezing in the winter. There are only two public washrooms.
The centre exists under a unique partnership — the land is owned by the province and has been granted in perpetuity for the use and enjoyment of local residents. The centre is jointly operated by the Ray-Cam cooperative, the city and the park board.

"Ray-Cam is a caring and safe place that welcomes everyone," said park board chair Stuart Mackinnon, who is the centre's official commissioner liaision. "It is the community's rec room. I am very happy that city council feels that it is time for a renewal."

The movement to see a renewed Ray-Cam started in earnest in 2016. Hodgson said the vision includes a new community centre with more childcare spaces and more room for the increasing number of programs offered at the centre. Also at the top of the list is a residential component.

Residents involved in the community-visioned redevelopment have already secured in-principle support from B.C. Housing for the construction and financing of a residential component, pending a commitment of municipal funding for a new community centre.

Hodgson said a steering committee, which includes representatives from Ray-Cam, BC Housing, the city and the park board, will meet first thing Monday morning to get to work to make sure the proposal is ready for inclusion on the ballot.

“It’s really exciting and really needed,” she said. “We’re so ready for it.”


02 March 2018

Park Board Appeals BC Supreme Court Decision on By-Law Amendment regarding Cetaceans in Parks

Vancouver Park Board
News release
March 2, 2018
The Vancouver Park Board has filed an appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court (BCSC) ruling of February 9, 2018, in which the Court determined that a by-law restricting cetaceans in city parks is inapplicable to the Vancouver Aquarium’s operations in Stanley Park. 
The BCSC ruling by Justice Mayer was in response to the Aquarium’s application for judicial review of amendments to the Parks Control by-law, passed by the Board in May of 2017, restricting the importation and keeping of cetaceans in Vancouver parks. 
The Court held that the contract between the Board and the Aquarium restricted the Board’s authority to pass a by-law that applied to the Aquarium’s operations in Stanley Park. This holding could have far-ranging impacts on the Park Board’s legislative powers, which are granted to it under the Vancouver Charter. 
“We believe that the BC Supreme Court ruling of February 9th poses a real and substantial challenge to the legal power and authority of our elected Board,” said Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon. “Our Board has decided we must appeal this decision.” 
As outlined in a notice of appeal filed March 2, 2018, the Board will ask the B.C. Court of Appeal to overturn the order of the B.C. Supreme Court and affirm that the by-law restricting cetaceans in Vancouver parks applies to the Aquarium. 
The Park Board continues to support the care of the only cetacean remaining at Vancouver Aquarium, a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen. 
The  Board also continues to support the excellent work by Vancouver Aquarium staff and volunteers in the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre run at a facility outside of Stanley Park. 
The Park Board, along with applicable provincial and federal laws pertaining to cetaceans, permits and regulates Aquarium activities in Stanley Park. The Board has a long-term agreement with the 60-year-old Vancouver Aquarium to operate within Stanley Park. The current licence runs to 2029.
Stanley Park is owned by the Government of Canada and leased to the City as a park. City Council has designated Stanley Park as a permanent public park under the Vancouver Charter.The Park Board has exclusive jurisdiction and control over Stanley Park.
Media contact:
Vancouver Park Board
Twitter: @ParkBoard
Instagram: @VanParkBoard

01 March 2018

Nest big thing: new bird garden unveiled at VanDusen Botanical Garden

Vancouver Park Board
News Release
March 1, 2018
There’s a new destination for birds and birders in Vancouver!
Officially opened today at VanDusen Botanical Garden, the Backyard Bird Garden offers an enhanced habitat for resident and migratory birds.
“The Backyard Bird Garden demonstrates how anyone with a yard or balcony can create habitat for birds with the right selection of plants and shrubs to provide food, shelter and nesting habitat,” said Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.
More than 85 bird species have been recorded at VanDusen Garden.
Sure to bring the birds flocking, colourful nectar-rich perennials such as anise hyssop will be a source of food for hummingbirds, goldfinches, and other small birds native to North America. Deciduous trees such as vine maple grow well in containers, and provide food and open branches for perching. Evergreen shrubs such as salal offer cover and a safe place to nest.
The new garden was a collaborative effort developed and funded in partnership with the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association, a charitable organization which jointly manages VanDusen Botanical Garden and Bloedel Conservatory with the Vancouver Park Board. 
An anonymous gift of $10,000 from a private donor was used towards constructing a child-sized birdhouse in the Backyard Bird Garden.
To celebrate the opening, up to two children get in free with each paid adult, senior or youth between March 1-29 at both VanDusen Botanical Garden and Bloedel Conservatory. 
Family friendly bird walks, talks and activities—free with admission—will be hosted on weekends in March at VanDusen.
At drop in workshops Saturdays from 10 am to 2:30 pm, children can join VBGA Education staff to investigate bird nests and predict which birds built them, explore the functions of feathers, and learn how to preen like a bird.
Any day of the week young birders can enjoy the Junior Birder Challenge while exploring the garden and receive a junior birder button upon completion.
A bird themed spring break camp “Citizen Science: The Birds in your Backyard” takes place Friday, March 23. More information at vandusengarden.org
The Backyard Bird Garden will be a highlight for visitors and their families during the Vancouver International Bird Festival and 27th International Ornithological Congress, both held in Vancouver August 19-26, 2018.
The Backyard Bird Garden supports the VancouverBird Strategy and ParkBoard’s Biodiversity Strategy.
Media contact:
Vancouver Park Board
Twitter: @ParkBoard
Instagram: @VanParkBoard

23 February 2018

Park board approves Vancouver’s World Cup bid

/ Vancouver Courier
February 22, 2018 02:33 PM

The park board is on board with Vancouver’s bid to be a host city if the World Cup comes to North America in 2026.

Commissioners earlier this week unanimously approved a series of staff recommendations needed for Vancouver to be considered as one of the Canadian host cities if the united North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup is successful.

“This is kind of a big deal,” said Michelle Collens, the city’s manager of sport hosting, who outlined the process for commissioners.

Vancouver city council last week voted in favour of proceeding with the bid.
Last April, Canada, the United States and Mexico joined their respective soccer associations together to create the United Bid Committee in a push to host the World Cup in 2026. Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal were selected as potential host cities in Canada and another 25 cities in the U.S. and three in Mexico area also in the running to become host cities.

If the bid is successful, and Vancouver is chosen as a host city, soccer fans could expect three to five games to be played at B.C. Place Stadium, depending on how many host cities are in Canada. If two cities are chosen, then each would host five games. A total of 80 matches are played during the tournament — Canada and Mexico would host 10 each with the United States hosting the remaining 60 games. All the semi-final and final games would be played in U.S. cities.

If Vancouver is chosen as a host city, the park board would be responsible for providing training venues. For the purpose of the bid, the city must propose four options with the assumption that two would be chosen. Collens said that any costs associated with provided the training sites during the tournament would be recovered as part of the rental fee paid by FIFA.

Staff identified four potential sites — Memorial South, Trillium Fields, Empire Fields and Jericho Field. Collen said the training sites have to fulfill specific requirements including not being visible from any public or private buildings, available for exclusive use for 14 days before the tournament starts until the final game is played and the venues must be within a 20-minute drive of team accommodations.

“This is an incredibly exciting prospect,” board chair Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said ahead of the unanimous vote. “In 1986 we invited the world to come and look at Vancouver, in 2010 we showed the world just what Vancouver was and that we were a truly modern 21st-century city. In 2026 we’ll not only show the world how beautiful Vancouver is but that we can host a truly world-wide event.”

“It’s an exciting sport and I know the kids in the community are also really excited to see this kind of program or this kind of event in the city, and it’s just wonderful to offer them that opportunity to see such an amazing world event,” said NPA commissioner Casey Crawford.

The bid deadline is March 26. On June 13 FIFA will announce the winning bid however the official host cities won’t be announced until June 2020.

Morocco is the only competing bid.


22 February 2018

Meters Fees & Charges: Nobody likes them!

Last November, in the 2018 Park Board budget deliberations, seasonal parking fees were introduced at Spanish Banks beach. This is the last beach in Vancouver to have parking fees, and the community, not unexpectedly, reacted negatively. No one likes to pay for parking. Nobody likes additional charges. 

I get it. I dont like to pay either. But that fact is beaches, parks, and recreation cost money. According to a CUPE report from 2017, while 60% of infrastructure in Canada is in urban areas, only 12 cents of every dollar paid in taxes in Canada goes to municipal governments. Municipal governments build, maintain, and replace this infrastructure and yet dont have the ability to collect income related taxeswhich is why we pay property taxes. 

Unfortunately, for the Park Board, only 51% of the annual operating budget comes from municipal taxes; the remaining 49% comes from fees & charges (about 41%) and other revenue sources. So the Park Board must find sources for this gap. Year after year, ratepayers in Vancouver have said they would rather have increased user fees than increased property taxes.

Beautiful beaches, nice parks, and active recreational programs dont come for free. The 2018 Park Board Operating Budget consists of $122,805,851 in expenditures and transfers, which is funded by $63,256,313 of tax-based operating funds and $59,549,538 in revenues. The choice for Commissioners each year is do we ask City Council to raise taxes (which they may or may not do) to fund increased cost, or do we find new sources of revenue or increase the current ones.

This year staff recommended, and Commissioners voted, to increase fees in some locations and add an additional parking charge at Spanish Banks. 

Spanish Banks beach is a unique place and public transportation is limited. These beaches are popular partly because parking has been free until now. But has it really been free? Someone pays. Just as someone pays for lifeguards, the change-rooms, and beach maintenance. Nothing is really free.

After hearing from the public the Park Board made some changes to the program this week. Rather than the usual April 1st through September 30th period at most seasonal pay lots, Spanish Banks will see metered parking only between the May long weekend and the Labour Day long weekend. Charges will only come into effect at 9 am (rather than the usual 6 am) so that early morning walkers and dog runners will be able to park without charge. And a $87 seasonal parking pass (working out to about 80 cents/day) will be promoted.

No one runs for office on a platform of increased fees or taxes. No elected official likes to increase costs for constituents. But the fact remains: costs increase year over year. Park Board has no control over taxation and so it can either propose to cut services or increase fees. This year the Commissioners chose to increase fees. Next year we may have to choose to cut services, and I can guarantee, the outcry will be similar.

18 January 2018

Park Board responds to Vancouver Aquarium decision on cetaceans in captivity

Vancouver Park Board
News Release
January 18, 2018 

The Vancouver Park Board applauds the announcement today by the Vancouver Aquarium that it will end the importation and display of live cetaceans in Stanley Park.

In May of 2017, after thousands of community submissions on the issue and a number of special public meetings, the Park Board approved and enacted amendments to the Parks Control Bylaw governing importation and display of cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium. The amendments provided for the continuing care and display of existing cetaceans. There is only one cetacean, a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen, currently at the facility.

“We are pleased that the Aquarium, with this decision, has acknowledged and recognized what we as Commissioners observed in passionate public debates on this issue over the last years,” said Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.

“The public told us they believed the continuing importation and display of these intelligent and sociable mammals was unethical and incompatible with evolving public opinion and we amended our by-laws accordingly. We look forward to working with the Vancouver Aquarium as it intensifies its focus on Ocean Wise research and conservation.”

Last summer, the Vancouver Aquarium launched a legal challenge to the Park Board’s amendment of its by-laws. The matter is still being considered by the BC Supreme Court. As this legal matter is pending and unresolved, there will be no further comment by the Park Board at this time.

The Board, along with applicable provincial and federal laws pertaining to cetaceans, regulates Vancouver Aquarium activities in Stanley Park. The Board has issued a long-term license to the 60-year-old Vancouver Aquarium to allow it to operate within Stanley Park. The Aquarium has operated under a legal agreement with the Park Board since 1956 and the current license agreement runs to 2029. 

Stanley Park is owned by the Government of Canada and leased in perpetuity to the City as a park. City Council has designated Stanley Park as a permanent public park under the Vancouver Charter. The Park Board has exclusive jurisdiction and control over Stanley Park.