19 September 2017

Balloon ban motion defeated by Vancouver Park Board

Majority felt the proposal, which received national attention, was too far reaching with not enough study

By Justin McElroy, CBC News Posted: Sep 19, 2017 5:56 AM PT

The Vancouver Park Board has deflated a proposal to ban balloons in all city parks.
In a 5-2 vote, commissioners rejected the motion, which had gained national attention since it was introduced last week.

Green Party Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, who introduced the motion, said its most important effect would be to let people know the environmental hazards of balloons.

"We really need some education about this. Do people really understand the consequences of their actions when they have helium balloons, when you leave balloons in the park, when you have water balloons and they explode?" he said.

"Responsible people put their trash into buckets, but not everyone does that, and these are very serious consequences for our wildlife."

The Canadian Paediatric Society agreed in 2012 that balloons are the most common non-food item children choke on. Balloons have also been blamed for power outages in B.C. after they have become entangled in power lines, including a power outage for much of Granville Island during the Fringe Festival earlier this month.

But aside from Mackinnon and the other Green Party commissioner, the Park Board ultimately felt education was a better idea than prohibition.

"There is a general consensus that we do not want to use ranger time on this and I agree that nobody wants to be policing children and anything like that," said commissioner Catherine Evans.

Other board members expressed concern community centres and restaurants that operate on Park Board land hadn't been consulted, and that park rangers had better things to do with their time, including cleaning up used needles.

There was also an amendment to the motion so it would only apply to helium balloons, but that failed by a 4-3 margin.  ​

'I'm very surprised by the attention'

After the motion was revealed, it gained significant attention and provoked a protest by clowns — a development Mackinnon said caught him by surprise.

"I'm very surprised by the attention. I thought this would be a little motion, I would be labelled no fun Mackinnon, and we would move on," he said.

Despite the failed motion, he's heartened by the public debate it produced.

"I am pleased that we had this conversation," he said to commissioners, minutes before his motion failed.

But he predicted it wouldn't be the last time a balloon ban would come up at the park board table.

"We will have to change the way we act, whether it's now or later. The time is coming when our world is becoming filled with toxic things that are killing it.

"While the earth will go on forever, we may not."

(c) CBC 2017 

16 September 2017

Vancouver Park Board floats balloon ban

/ Vancouver Courier
September 13, 2017 03:49 PM

The Vancouver Park Board will next week entertain a motion that could deflate future festivities in city parks, community centres and beaches.

The motion, tabled by Green Party commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, asks the board to prohibit balloons in parks, community centres and other areas under the board’s jurisdiction.

It states that balloons, made of plastic and latex, are non-renewable and are increasingly found in landfills, on beaches, in waterways, oceans and other natural areas. It says deflated balloons pose a risk to animals, such as sea turtles, birds and dolphins, as they frequently misidentify deflated balloons as food, which can lead to stomach and intestinal blockages and eventual starvation.

It also cites a study by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the DuPont Institute that found that balloons cause more childhood deaths that any other toy.

Mackinnon said it’s an issue he’s been considering for some time, but one event earlier this summer in particular solidified it for him. It was at the A-maze-ing Laughter statues in the West End. Several helium balloons had been tied to each of the figures and, he said, he saw children untying some of the balloons, which were then flying off over English Bay.

 “What we need is some good education here,” he said, adding that’s the purpose of his motion.
 “I love balloons myself,” he said, acknowledging that they are fun, inexpensive and easy to acquire.
“We just don’t think about what happens to them.”

Mackinnon said what was a fairly minor motion has garnered a lot of attention. After the agenda was made public, he was inundated with calls, emails and messages on social media — most of it positive.

The motion will be considered at Monday’s meeting.


© 2017 Vancouver Courier

30 August 2017

Park Board’s fall tree sale up and running

Vancouver Park Board
News Release
August 30, 2017

Restoring Vancouver’s urban forest one $10 tree at a time
The Vancouver Park Board kicked off its annual fall tree sale today with 1,500 trees available online for $10 apiece.
The Park Board’s tree sales are a key part of its effort to restore Vancouver’s tree canopy which has seen a steady decline since the 1990’s. Since its first tree sale in 2015, the Park Board has sold more than 9,000 discounted trees to Vancouver residents.
“We need residents to help us grow the urban forest or we will continue to lose our forest canopy. This fall we’re also selling potted trees for balconies so apartment dwellers can help support Vancouver’s biodiversity.” said Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe.
Given that more than 60 percent of Vancouverites live in apartments, the Park Board is now including seven varieties of trees in the sale that live well in pots and are suitable for balconies as well as yards. The majority of the balcony species are flowering—always a strong seller.
The last canopy cover study in 2013 showed about 18 percent of Vancouver was covered by tree canopy, a drop from 22 percent in 1995. Canopy is the amount of ground covered by tree leaves as seen from the air. The Park Board will take a new canopy cover measurement in 2018.
Trees are crucial for filtering rain water, cleaning the air and supporting our well-being, all key goals of the Park Board’s Urban Forest Strategy.
Trees are only available to Vancouver residents and can be purchased at vancouver.ca/tree-sale with a maximum of three per household. Tree pick up is on Sept 17 from 9 am to 4 pm at Hillcrest Centre. A limited number of trees, including some selected varieties from the Park Board’s tree farm, will also be available for cash purchase between 2 and 4 pm.
The Board and its partners aim to plant 17,500 trees this year toward the goal of 150,000 new trees by 2020. More than half the trees have been planted to meet this ambitious goal.
Media contact:
Vancouver Park Board

28 August 2017

When hate demands an answer

We toss around the word hate a lot in our common parlance. I hate Brussels Sprouts. He hates that band. She hates mornings. But those are really things we dislike, not hate. Hate is a powerful word and has real consequences when used as a threat or weapon. Hate speech and hate actions are on the rise throughout the world, and we here in Vancouver are not immune to this rise in intolerance. One definition of hate is 'denoting hostile actions motivated by intense dislike or prejudice', and it this kind of hate that has become more prevalent.

We sometimes use hateful expressions in conversations and toss derogatory words about without thinking. This laziness in our verbal expression can be very hurtful and lead to far worse consequences than simply offending someone. Hate crimes are on the rise everywhere. Fear seems to permeate all aspects of our daily lives.

Prejudice, a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience, is commonly attribute to fear--fear of the unknown, or fear of change, and is a learnt attribute. Children are not inherently prejudiced. These attitudes of fear are passed on by the adults around them. But kindness, compassion and openness to differences can also be taught through education and experience.

The news has been filled with the recent events in Charlottesville, but what happened there is not new. Every day you can find news stories of crimes based on hate, prejudice, and intolerance.

This is why I was gratified to see more than 4 000 people come to a rally against hate in Vancouver on a weekend in August. I was there to show my support for understanding and my opposition to hate and hate groups. I was honoured to be asked to be a member of a group called 'Peace Bearers'. These good folks ensure a safe environment for all. They try to isolate and diffuse confrontations.

The the rally was a peaceful demonstration, with many speakers. Hate mongers stayed away for the most part--perhaps daunted by the number of peaceful folks who showed up to say yes to love and no to hate.

It did my heart good to see so many people--young and old--come together to say with one voice that 'Hate is not a Canadian value'

'Thirsty' trees need help from residents, says Vancouver Park Board

Thousands of newly planted trees are at risk in prolonged hot, dry conditions
By Chad Pawson, CBCNews, Aug 28, 2017
The City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board are asking residents to help keep alive younger trees in the city that may be suffering in the extended hot and dry conditions this summer.
"We're appealing to the public to give us a hand if they don't mind," said Howard Normann, the director of parks for the City of Vancouver.
A young City of Vancouver street tree, one of up to 2,500 that are planted each year, equipped with a special water bag. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)
"If they see a tree in front of their home that needs a drink ... maybe spend a few minutes and use their hose and give it a bit of a soaking."
Leaves on trees turn brown and drop off as a defence mechanism by the plant to conserve water.
If residents are unable to directly water trees, they can report trees in distress by using the VanConnect app or by calling 311.
There are six watering trucks currently being double-shifted to get out to trees in distress.
Normann says around 4,000 special water bags have been attached to trees to help give long drinks. That's double the number from last year.
"The bags are refilled every two days," said Normann.
Vancouver has been in a tree-planting blitz as it tries to increase the city's canopy cover — the area covered by tree leaf canopies — from 18 to 22 per cent.
Tree math
  • Vancouver park trees: 350,000.
  • Vancouver city trees: 150,000.
  • Number of new trees to be planted by 2020: 150,000.
  • New street trees planted each year: 1,500 to 2,500.
  • New park trees planted each year: 7,000.
Normann says, trees planted in the past four years are most susceptible to drought.
"[Newly planted trees] drink a lot of water. At least for the first three years, so those are the ones we're on top of right now," said Normann.
Still, he said if Vancouver faces consecutive dry summers, mature trees could soon be suffering too.
"At this point we've been very fortunate that trees tend to be doing OK, the big ones, but if this is an ongoing thing for several years it could be more problematic for us."
Vancouver has had zero rain in August so far. In July, only 1.8 millimetres fell according to Environment Canada.
(c) 2017 cbcnews

12 July 2017

Summertime dos and don’ts at Vancouver parks and beaches

$500 fines can be issued for not butting out properly

/ Vancouver Courier
June 27, 2017 04:12 PM

Barbecues are a go, but smoking and campfires are a definite no.

In light of the extended daylight and impending dog days of summer, the Courier reached out to the Vancouver Park Board and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services to get a sense of the dos and don’ts as they relate to beaches, parks and other gathering places in Vancouver.
The first rule is simple: butt out properly, thoroughly and appropriately no matter where you are. Vancouver Fire Services Capt. Jonathan Gormick said smoking-related fires have been one of the primary concerns for fire crews during summer months year after year.

The most recent stats from smoking-related fires from between 2011 and 2014 point to losses of $5.2 million in 2013 and $1.4 million in 2011. By comparison, damage caused by barbecue fires reached its highest in 2014, costing $1.3 million.

“If you’re in a vehicle, put them in the ashtray. If you’re out in public, I know the city has hundreds, if not thousands, of cigarette receptacles for appropriate disposal,” Gormick said. “There’s absolutely no reason to be tossing them in any kind of vegetation. The potential for damage is so large.”

The ongoing problem prompted fire officials to successfully lobby council in mid-May to have $500 penalties issued to anyone who chucks a butt inappropriately: near a boulevard, planter or on to dry grass or vegetation, for example. No such fine existed previously, outside of penalties for littering. The park board fine for smoking at beaches or in parks is $250.

Like those with the park board, Gormick said compliance via a warning is always the preferred method. But with three sizeable greenspaces — Stanley, Queen Elizabeth and Everett Crowley parks — adjacent to residential areas, the need for fines was magnified.

“It’s certainly not the road we thought we would have to go down,” he said. “2015 was a huge problem. We thought all the educational messages and campaigns would stop it, but it just continued and continued.”

Campfires in parks and at beaches are also a full-fledged, full stop. They’re not allowed in any case and anyone found to be burning in those spaces can be fined between $50 and $2,000, depending on the location and severity of the fire.

Park board superintendent of citywide services Chad Cowles said the fine amount, or if one is even issued to begin with, is at the discretion of the park ranger or bylaw officer in instances of campfires or smoking.

If the guilty party claims to not know the bylaw and is compliant, a verbal warning is issued. Egregious examples Cowles cited that would trigger a fine included smoking marijuana near an elementary school or tossing a butt onto dry vegetation.

“If the person is compliant… they butt out, they put the cigarette in an appropriate location to discard it, we’ve gained compliance and that’s what we’re looking for,” he said.

Regulations around barbecuing are fairly lenient, provided that extreme fire alerts are not in place. In those instances, charcoal barbecues aren’t permitted.

Firing up the grill is best done in a designated picnic area, on a raised picnic table that has concrete underneath it to soak up any residual fuel. Picnic tables aren’t a hard and fast requirement though.

“Generally [barbecues] aren’t welcome on the beach, but open meadow spaces, open green areas, as long as they’re not tinder dry and the fire hazard is below extreme, then a person could have a self-contained barbecue anywhere in the park, essentially,” Cowles said.

As a point of precaution, Gormick recommends having a fire extinguisher nearby at all times regardless of the barbecue setting. If the grilling gets out of hand, and it’s safe to do so, the cook should close the lid and turn to the fuel supply.

“If not, just get to a safe spot and call 911,” Gormick said.


© 2017 Vancouver Courier

07 July 2017

Park Acquisition Strategy & 3030 Victoria Drive

July 7 2017
Vancouver's John Hendry Park 
The Vancouver Park Board and City of Vancouver have mutual goals of a healthy city, active living, and ensuring all residents have access to green space a short walk from home. This is particularly important in dense, urban areas with multi-family housing where many residents rely on parks as their “yards”.

Many of our neighborhoods are park-deficient. Increasing population and densification increases the vulnerability of these park-deficient neighborhoods. To ensure that all residents have equitable access to green space, the Vancouver Park Board works with the City on a long-range property-acquisition strategy to acquire sites for future park development and expansion.

Green spaces are result of careful property acquisition


Many of our much loved parks and green spaces – English Bay, Emery Barnes, Point Grey Road – have been developed by thoughtful assembly of private and commercial property over many decades.

We have had recent success with this strategy in the opening of several well used neighborhood parks, as a result of foresight and planning and careful property acquisition for green space. Lillian To Park at 17th and Yukon and the park at 6th and Fir are two such recent examples.

On occasion the assembly of necessary parcels takes many years, and in these cases the City makes the property available for rental. We currently have people living in properties designated as future parks in the Renfrew Ravine and China Creek neighborhoods.

City and Park Board working on future expansion of John Hendry Park


Recently there have been reports surrounding a property at 3030 Victoria Drive purchased by the City in 2016 for the future expansion of John Hendry Park, commonly known as Trout Lake. The property backs onto the park. The property purchase and demolition was approved by City Council at an in-camera meeting last year, as is standard and prudent for real estate transactions involving public funds. If City interest is disclosed, prices could become inflated, thus the requirement for confidentiality.

At the time the property at 3030 Victoria Drive was purchased, it was believed adjacent properties may become available in the near future. This has not materialized. It was never our intention to see this property remain empty for 18 months, pending a “green” demolition.

The Park Board Property Acquisition Strategy has identified Grandview Woodlands/Cedar Cottage as a park-deficient neighborhood. The community was consulted about the future expansion of the park in the John Hendry Master Planning Process.

We are in the process of assessing our options for 3030 Victoria Drive, which include working with housing agencies for short-term rental of this property.

Media contact:
Park Board Communications 

30 June 2017

Canada Day Pot Protest to Take Place in Downtown Park Despite Lack of Permit

Vancouver Park Board
Information Bulletin
June 30, 2017

Organizers of the annual July 1 Cannabis Day protest are going ahead with a rally at Thornton Park this Saturday despite objections from the Vancouver Park Board. The Park Board repeatedly urged organizers to seek a more suitable site than a park which is heavily used and adjacent to Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station.    
As with any unpermitted event or protest, the priority of the Park Board and the City is the health and safety of all protest participants and the general public. On the day of the event,  Park rangers will monitor Thornton Park along with the many other events taking place in our parks on Canada Day. Vancouver Police officers will be on-site to manage traffic and keep the peace.
The Cannabis Day protest is being organized by Cannabis Culture who also host the annual 4/20 marijuana protest which has attracted more than 30,000 participants in recent years. Saturday’s event is expected to attract a few thousand people.
Cannabis Culture says the protest will take place on the south side of Thornton Park between noon and 8 pm.
Vancouver Park Board

23 June 2017

Wilderness Committee mourns the passing of Gwen Barlee

For Immediate Release - June 23 2017 

VANCOUVER – The Wilderness Committee is deeply saddened by the passing of Gwen Barlee, one of Canada’s leading environmental advocates. Barlee worked as the Wilderness Committee National Policy Director since 2001. She was an invaluable member of the organization’s executive leadership from early on, guiding the organization through many hard-fought environmental campaigns.

Gwen was a strong leader, and a tireless activist for social change. Over the past 16 years, Gwen distinguished herself as an extraordinarily talented and determined defender of Canadian wild nature – especially in her home province of BC. She showed a passion beyond compare for the defence of the land and the species that call it home. She was a YWCA Women of Distinction nominee in 2016.

“Gwen was a hero and a mentor. She was one of the most compassionate people you’ll ever meet – when it came to wildlife, animals, creatures of all kind,” said Joe Foy, Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee.

She was a fierce defender of species at risk. Gwen laboured for years to push the case for standalone endangered species legislation for British Columbia. She was instrumental in convincing the BC government to set aside tens of thousands of hectares of land for the protection of the northern spotted owl – one of Canada’s most endangered species. She continued to call for an even greater amount of protected forest habitat, not just for the spotted owl but for other species at risk including BC’s southern mountain caribou, marbled murrelet and goshawk.

“Gwen was a fearless defender of the public good and that was reflected in the environmental policies she advocated for,” said Foy.

Gwen fought for the establishment and protection of provincial and national parks. She helped stop government plans to put large private resorts in provincial parks. She was a ferocious defender of wild rivers since the mid-2000s against the government's policy of giving them away for private power projects. She helped mobilize thousands of BC residents to protect the Upper Pitt Watershed, Bute Inlet rivers and Glacier and Howser Creeks from industrial power projects.

What distinguished Gwen as an environmental advocate was her research ability and her commitment to enhancing government accountability, upholding the right for British Columbians to scrutinize government activities and promoting transparent, fair and inclusive decision-making through filing freedom of information (FOI) requests.

She worked hard to create unique alliances of people and facilitate a common vision for coming together on an environmental issues – whether working with union leaders, park rangers, First Nations communities, beekeepers or kayakers, she was committed to working with people who loved BC’s spectacular wilderness and wildlife.

“Gwen shaped the place that we live in today. She was born and raised here, surrounded by nature in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, her father was an NDP MLA so she was raised around politics,” said Foy. “She believed we as British Columbians had the right – and the responsibility – to stand up for this place and say what was needed. And she did just that.”

The Wilderness Committee will announce a celebration of Gwen’s life and achievements soon.

Joe Foy | National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee
604-880-2580, joe@wildernesscommittee.org

18 June 2017

Opinion: VSB trustees accountable for toxic work environment

by Janet Fraser
Published on: June 15, 2017 Vancouver Sun

With the recent resignation of the Vancouver school board (VSB) superintendent I’ve been asked, “What was really going on at the VSB? I don’t know what to believe.”

Looking back at the trustees’ behaviour I witnessed and reading the two investigation reports, I believe VSB staff were bullied and harassed. As a newly elected trustee, I stepped into a pre-existing board dynamic that I found overly partisan and very challenging to work in, and didn’t fully realize the impact of trustees’ behaviour on staff.

Trustees have the right to ask hard questions, and should do so to better serve the district’s students, but along with that right is the responsibility to ensure that all employees have a safe and respectful work environment.

The WorkSafe B.C. report gives four specific examples of inappropriate conduct or comments that a trustee reasonably ought to have known would cause staff to be humiliated or intimidated, and were seen as bullying and harassment. The Goldner report accepts that relentless and aggressive questioning created a culture of fear in which staff dreaded their attendance at meetings, where they would be expected to report to the board, particularly if they knew that their recommendations wouldn’t be well-received.

Some former trustees have minimized the reports’ findings. However, I see that the actions of the board and trustees that I observed were accurately reported (with one exception, the WorkSafe B.C. report says a motion requesting revisions to the school-closure reports was passed when it was referred), I have no reason to doubt that investigators accurately reported witness statements, and the conclusions that VSB staff were bullied and harassed are clearly laid out.

Trustees are elected by the public and should be held publicly accountable for their actions. For both investigation reports I asked that any reference to me be made public and I’m mentioned once in each report as part of the sequence of events. I’m never named as a trustee with inappropriate behaviour.
However, as one of the board’s nine trustees I do accept a degree of responsibility for the overall VSB work environment and with hindsight I regret that I didn’t try to curb other trustees’ disrespectful behaviour, especially in public meetings. I continue to suggest that all former trustees agree to have their information made public in both investigation reports, so we can all be held accountable for our actions.

The probes found that the school-closure process was a key issue. In May 2016, trustees voted unanimously to direct staff to prepare a list of schools for possible closure. I voted to consider school closures not because I wanted to close schools, but because our district was facing a financial crisis; $22 million in cuts to balance the next year’s budget and an anticipated $15 million in cuts the year after. In September, trustees voted unanimously for 11 of the 12 listed schools to move forward to the closure-consultation process before the process was suspended in October.
The school-closure process was carried out at the direction of the board. There is no justification for a trustee to say to staff at the well-attended September board meeting, “See what you guys have created here. Look at this, you guys created all of this.”

Since the school-closure process was suspended, implementation of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling has required additional funding, as well as more classrooms in many schools, but the financial crisis remains — this year’s balanced budget has $2 million in cuts, and, over the next four years, a deficit of $27.5 million is anticipated.

It’s clear that a respectful relationship between an elected board and VSB staff must be established and this should be top of mind for anyone thinking of becoming a candidate in the next election. There are many difficult decisions ahead for our district, including balancing budgets, use of space in schools and achieving seismic upgrades, and Vancouver’s students need to have effective trustee leadership to best support their learning.

Janet Fraser was elected as a Green trustee in the 2014 Vancouver school board election and ran for MLA as the B.C. Green candidate in Vancouver-Langara.