Posts Tagged "Park"

10Jul

Vancouver park board staff drafts rules for overnight homeless camping in city parks | CBC News

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Vancouver Park Board staff have drafted proposed bylaw changes that would allow homeless people to camp overnight in city parks. 

According to a staff report, a rising number of people have been seeking temporary shelter in parks and public spaces due to the ongoing homelessness crisis in Vancouver, impacting public access to park space and amenities.

In July 2019, staff say they were directed to report back on options to manage camping and encampments in parks.

Staff is now recommending several amendments to sections of the Parks Control Bylaw, which restrict temporary shelter in parks.

Ban on shelters unconstitutional

The report cites a 2009 B.C. Supreme Court ruling which established that preventing a homeless person from putting up a tent for overnight shelter breaches their constitutional rights. As such, staff say several park board bylaws are unconstitutional, including: 

  • Remaining in a park after posted hours (Section 3b).
  • Taking up temporary abode overnight (Section 10).
  • Erecting any tent or shelter without permission (Section 11).

Park staff are proposing the Parks Control Bylaw be amended to allow people to erect temporary overnight shelters in parks “when they have no other housing or shelter options.” 

The relevant sections would be modified to allow for temporary shelters, with guidance on where they can be erected, what restrictions apply and how the space can be used. 

The report recommends that shelters only be permitted overnight and be removed each morning, that is dusk to 7 a.m., with an extra hour for cleanup, unless the park board general manager designates an area for temporary daytime shelter.

Shelter restrictions

Staff say they have identified several areas where shelters would not be allowed:

  • On or within a beach, pond, lake or dock, trail, bridge, seawall, roadway or park entrance.
  • Natural area.
  • Flowerbed or horticultural display area.
  • Pool or water park.
  • Sports field, sports court or golf course.
  • Community centre or fieldhouse.
  • Bleacher, stage, gazebo, public monument, picnic area, picnic shelter or washroom. 
  • Designated off-leash dog area.
  • Designated special event area.
  • Within  25 metres of playgrounds and schools. 

Other restrictions include:

  • A footprint no greater than nine square metres.
  • No campfires, lighted candles, propane lanterns or stoves or similar devices.
  • Shelters cannot be left unattended.
  • Shelters can’t be used to sell goods or conduct business without the permission of the park board. 

The amendments were supposed to be reviewed at a special board meeting in March 2020, but the meeting was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The special meeting will now take place July 13, 2020.

10Jul

Overnight homeless camping recommended to Vancouver Park Board

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VANCOUVER —
One of the most controversial and persistent issues in Vancouver has entered a new phase after the Vancouver Park Board announced a special meeting to receive a new staff report suggesting bylaw changes to allow campers to put down stakes in parks overnight.

A report, authored by the board’s general manager, recommends “the Parks Control Bylaw be amended to allow people to erect temporary overnight shelter in a park when they have no other housing or shelter options.”

Under the proposed changes, campers would be expected to pack up their tents by 8 a.m. and, if approved, washroom facilities and storage options would then be arranged by the board.

The report also recommends the designation of authorized parks for overnight camping, which would have to be 25 metres from schools and playgrounds, avoid sensitive environmental features, protect green spaces and support public use of fields, pools, and other amenities.

Dozens of homeless campers have set up tents in East Vancouver’s Strathcona Park in recent weeks after dozens were arrested under judicial authorization for refusing to leave an encampment parking lot owned by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority next to CRAB Park. Before that, they’d been forced from a long-term tent city at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside under a ministerial order driven in large part by concerns the COVID-19 pandemic could spread like wildfire.

Read more: Police arrest dozens of people for refusing to leave camp near CRAB Park

It notes that the Vancouver Board of Parks and recreation has a duty to all park users, including those who are experiencing homelessness, which is describes as a crisis.

It also includes a chart showing there’s been a 625 per cent increase in ranger calls since 2015, a rate that’s surged in lockstep with the growth in the number of temporary structures in parks.

“When temporary structures erected as shelters remain in parks for extended periods of time, particularly if in concentrated numbers, the resulting encampments can impede community use of much needed public green spaces; result in the accumulation of debris and human waste; and create opportunities for increased violence and health risks,” says the report.

While the park board was reluctant to remove campers from Oppenheimer Park, the province announced that the need to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission was of vital importance, so government bought hotels to house 261 people. Others were offered housing at social housing facilities. Not everyone has accepted the accommodations offered.

The report to park board commissioners also emphasizes that “Although the Parks Control By-law does not permit people to remain in parks overnight, or to erect temporary structures, these bylaws have not been enforced as the BC Supreme Court ruled that any bylaws prohibiting homeless people from erecting temporary shelters and sleeping in city parks would be a Charter right violation given the lack of adequate shelter capacity for individuals experiencing homelessness.“

Commissioners will hear a staff presentation and debate the report at a special meeting on July 13 at 6 p.m.

19Jun

Vancouver park board votes to ease traffic restrictions in Stanley Park

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Article content continued

“We are joining Stanley Park businesses’ calls to remove uncertainty and restore broader accessibility to the park so customers can return and businesses can begin to recover. Moving forward, there should be a consultative and collaborative approach to working with the business community to improve environmentally friendly and low-carbon options to access the park.”

The Teahouse restaurant, which has been operating in Stanley Park for more than 40 years, has argued against a proposal to eliminate one of the two lanes of roadway and reduce available parking in Stanley Park.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest crisis we’ve faced in 100 years, and we need normalcy rather than uncertainty,” said The Teahouse owner Brent Davies.

“The changes to Stanley Park are being made during an unprecedented time without consideration of the additional impact they will have. Reduced vehicle access and parking will be detrimental to employees and park goers.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry has backed the five members of the park board who don’t necessarily want to go back to the way it was pre-pandemic, saying she would be in favour of encouraging active transportation.

ticrawford@postmedia.com

-with files from Gord McIntyre

19Jun

Stanley Park will reopen to vehicles again after board vote, but for one lane only | CBC News

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The Vancouver Park Board has voted to ease traffic restrictions in Stanley Park, meaning cars will soon be allowed to return — but not with the same level of access as before.

Board commissioners voted in the early hours of Friday for a plan to reopen just one lane of park traffic for cars. The other lane will be a separated bike lane.

The 5-2 decision came after an hours-long emergency meeting Thursday that stretched well past midnight.

More than 100 people were registered to speak at the meeting, which was called by NPA commissioners Tricia Barker and John Coupar, who asked that the park be opened the way it was before the COVID-19 pandemic — without a separated bike lane.

The seawall was closed to cyclists in early April to prevent crowding and encourage physical distancing. Cyclists were diverted to Stanley Park Drive — which circles the park — and the road was, in turn, closed to all vehicle traffic. Park board staff and some people accessing local facilities and businesses were granted exceptions.

Those calling for cars to return Thursday said accessibility and parking were major concerns. Some members of the public who spoke in favour of a total reopening said they worried a single car lane would create a traffic “log jam,” while others questioned whether a split-lane system would hinder access for emergency vehicles.

Businesses have also raised concerns about a drop in customers if vehicle access was not restored in full.

Cyclists ride through Stanley Park on April 8. The roads through the park were closed to vehicles and bikes diverted to them to encourage people to practise physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

18Jun

Should Vancouver’s Stanley Park reopen to vehicles? Emergency park board meeting to decide

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VANCOUVER —
The Vancouver Park Board is holding an emergency meeting Thursday to decide the future of Stanley Park.

The city’s crown jewel has been closed off to vehicles since the start of the pandemic and some advocates are pushing to keep it that way.

Commissioners are considering reducing Stanley Park Drive to one-way, single lane vehicle traffic.

The debate started back in April, when cyclists were banned from the seawall due to overcrowding concerns.

The bikes were subsequently moved onto the roadway, shutting non-essential vehicles out.

Commissioners tasked park staff with looking into the feasibility of permanent traffic calming measures earlier this month.

Those findings are expected to be presented at Thursday night’s meeting. Advocates for the lane closures argue it will make the park safer, greener and more appealing.

Those against the permanent closure are raising concerns about parking and accessibility for seniors, young families, and people with disabilities.

Owners of nearby businesses say the potential reduction of vehicle traffic would be devastating to their livelihoods.

The Tea House, Stanley Park Brewing and Ocean Wise are some of the groups that have spoken out against the change.

They’re urging Vancouverites to write the park board and sign an online petition, which has gained more than 12,000 signature so far.  

17Jun

Businesses call for traffic resumption in Stanley Park, park board set to vote | CBC News

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A coalition of businesses is urging the Vancouver Park Board to fully restore vehicle traffic to Stanley Park so struggling restaurants, shops and attractions can start taking in more customers.

Stanley Park Stakeholders — a group of 14 businesses and societies — signed a letter directed at the park board calling for the immediate opening of roadways and the removal of traffic calming concrete blocks. Members say they rely on vehicle traffic for their survival.

Among the signatories are representatives from the Teahouse, Ocean Wise, Stanley Park Brewing, and several tour companies.

“They’re all out of business,” said Nigel Malkin, a spokesperson for the coalition. “We need to stand up.”

The call comes ahead of an emergency meeting on Thursday where the park board will decide whether to open several traffic lanes that have been shut down since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. If approved, traffic would be restored as early as June 21.

The special motion was introduced by park commissioners Tricia Barker and John Coupar earlier this week.

Commissioner John Irwin says completely reopening the road flies in the face of a bigger threat to public health — a second wave of COVID-19.

“Everybody understandably wants to go back to one form of normal or quasi-normal, but are we really there yet?” he told CBC News.

Irwin is one of two commissioners who introduced a motion calling on staff to look at permanent traffic calming measures in Stanley Park, which the board voted in favour of earlier this month. Irwin says cycling traffic has risen substantially since roads were closed.

The coalition opposed to keeping the road partly closed to vehicles says the proposed changes would hamper accessibility for a number of groups, including seniors and people with disabilities. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Temporary changes

In early April, as the pandemic continued to ramp up in British Columbia and officials feared overcrowding issues around Stanley Park, the picturesque seawall was closed to cyclists. 

Cyclists were diverted to Stanley Park Drive, which circles the park. That was in turn closed to all vehicle traffic, with exceptions for park board staff and some people accessing facilities like the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. 

Commissioners Irwin and Stuart Mackinnon subsequently introduced a motion to direct staff to look at permanent traffic calming measures that would reduce vehicle traffic on Stanley Park Drive to a single lane while adding a separated bike path.

The coalition claims stakeholders haven’t been consulted on the proposed changes, which they say would hamper accessibility for a number of groups, including seniors and people with disabilities.

“It’s going to go and put in a bicycle lane that’s a velodrome for beyond seasoned cyclists,” said Malkin. “It’s not being inclusive, this is not something where families and children are going to be able to ride around.”

The group also fears a reduction in parking would have a negative impact on businesses.

Cars have been banned in Stanley Park since April 8. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

A permanent change?

Staff will brief the park board Thursday on the proposal to permanently reduce traffic in Stanley Park. Irwin emphasized that the park would still be accessible, noting that one-way vehicle traffic will still be permitted, and only a small portion of parking stalls would be lost.

The proposal would also consider introducing green bus service to the park. Irwin says the changes would dovetail with Vancouver’s climate targets.

“We have to start figuring out how to do behaviour changes to deal with [climate change], and one of those changes is to change the way we transport ourselves,” he said.

Advocates with HUB Cycling say the motion to immediately restore traffic in Stanley Park will throw a major wrench in long-term plans for a shared roadway.

“The motion appears to ignore that plan and push all the people on bikes to the seawall, where people are walking,” said Jeff Leigh, a HUB committee chair.

“The plan should be to create room for all groups in the park,” he added. “I think there’s lots of room for everybody.”

9Jun

Stanley Park will soon reopen to cars, but lanes will be limited | CBC News

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Vehicles will soon be allowed back in Stanley Park, but in a reduced capacity as the Vancouver Park Board and city staff study ways of reducing traffic in Vancouver’s most famous park over the long term.

A finalized summer traffic management plan will be revealed soon, according to the director of planning and park development.

“I want to assure the park board that we are talking weeks in terms of the timeline to get vehicle access back into the park, but there are a number of challenges to overcome in terms of ensuring a safe and planned approach,” said Dave Hutch.

Disability advocates held a small protest at the park board offices in advance of Monday’s meeting.

“Because of this [vehicle] restriction, I’m not able to access [the park],” said wheelchair user Robert Best. “People don’t see it through my lens.”

Cars were banned from most Stanley Park roads in April to make way for bicycles, while the bike lane on the seawall was closed to cyclists to make more room for pedestrians.

The changes were made to allow park users more room for physical distancing due to COVID-19 concerns. 

9Jun

Traffic in Stanley Park could be permanently reduced as park board considers options

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VANCOUVER —
Options to reduce traffic permanently in Vancouver’s Stanley Park are being considered by the city’s park board.

On Monday, the Vancouver Park Board voted to explore the feasibility of reducing vehicle traffic, including reducing roadways to single lanes while increasing accessibility for those with disabilities.

The park was closed to vehicle traffic in April to reduce the number of visitors during the novel coronavirus pandemic and provide those who do use the park more room to physically distance. Two park board commissioners put forward a motion to consider reducing traffic in the park permanently. 

But not everyone was happy with the suggestion, and a small group of protesters gathered to demand that Stanley Park Drive be entirely reopened.

Critics of the proposal say they’re worried switching to a single lane would cut off access to families with young children and people with mobility issues. 

The issue was discussed at length during Monday’s virtual park board meeting and while the motion was passed, it came with several amendments. Staff will now review the feasibility of several options, including adding more bus stops along the causeway. 

In the meantime, the park board says it plans to reopen the road to cars in the coming weeks.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Regan Hasegawa 

23May

Should pandemic-induced changes to Stanley Park become permanent?

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VANCOUVER —
There have been hundreds of thousands of bike rides through Vancouver’s Stanley park since the city decided to close the park to vehicle traffic.

The move aimed to create more space for cyclists to exercise safely and practice physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve never seen it used so much in the whole three years we’ve been here,” said one area resident in an interview with CTV News Vancouver.

According to the City of Vancouver, there have been 201,000 bikes in Stanley Park since the vehicle and parking closures were implemented on April 8.

The pandemic has inspired a “test ride” for many cycling advocates who have been calling for Stanley Park to become car-free on a permanent basis.

“What we have learned through the pandemic is we can do so much more with Stanley Park,” said Jeff Leigh, of the cycling advocacy group Hub Cycling. “It would be such a shame to go back to the old way … We’ve got to figure out what the new normal is.”

While the Vancouver Park Board reopened parking lots at several popular locations around the city this weekend, it has yet to reopen parking lots at Stanley Park and English Bay.

Leigh wants the board to reconsider what the park could look like post-pandemic.

His preference is to still allow room for vehicles for people who can’t cycle or walk, and also for those who need to access workplaces within the park.

“That all makes sense,” he said. “What doesn’t make sense is providing so much space for vehicles while those roads are basically empty most of the time. Then push everyone else who is walking or cycling into a narrow seawall path.”

Leigh would like to see those in charge have a conversation around splitting traffic in the park to one lane for cars and one lane as a protected bike lane.

Sam Reeve, of Car-Free Vancouver, is also suggesting increased transit options for those trying to access the park.

“Transit is more accessible to more people than cars because when you think about it through an economic accessibility standpoint, cars are only accessible to people who have the money for a car,” Reeve said.

She said she’s hearing a lot from those who are using all the extra space in Stanley Park to ride with children or elderly people who may have not felt safe on normal streets. 

26Jan

Vancouver park board expected to announce Oppenheimer Park ‘decampment’ partner soon

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Tent city at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver.


Jason Payne / PNG

Vancouver’s park board chair says he can’t yet talk about details of the next steps to help the people at Oppenheimer Park for fear it could upset a delicate situation, but insists work to find homes for the people sleeping there hasn’t slowed or stalled.

The elected board said last week it was in the final stages of working with B.C. Housing and the City of Vancouver to hire a third-party organization to help with housing outreach and “peer mentorship” for homeless people in the park. The agencies are working to find more temporary and permanent shelter space for them and others in the Downtown Eastside.

The encampment at the park began in October 2018 with a few tents and grew to 200 tents in early August 2019. On Dec. 9, the park board directed staff to engage a third-party organization to assess the situation and make recommendations for a “decampment plan” to safely house the roughly 40 people living there.

Park board chair Camil Dumont said that while he can’t yet reveal details about the third party, the board is working non-stop with the city and B.C. Housing on solutions for the troubling situation at the park.

“I just feel like they’re holding (that information) back for fear of compromising the process, but I know that it’s all happening,” Dumont said.

Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said Friday that the third party could be announced this week. It will be “working on the ground with the people, building relationships, making sure they’re hooked into the correct services, and finding appropriate housing for them as it becomes available,” he said.

Dumont said the third party will serve as a kind of liaison between the people in the park and the services available to them.

“There are human beings here who are really struggling and those folks need to be helped,” Dumont said. “That’s different than the bigger, more systemic issues that we’re working on and we need to do both.”


Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, pictured in 2019.

Jason Payne /

PNG files

The effort to find the people in the park adequate and affordable housing has been made more difficult by the housing crisis in the region and homelessness crisis across the country, Dumont said.

The park board also authorized its general manager, Malcolm Bromley, to seek a court injunction to clear the park, after certain conditions were met, including the engagement of that third party.

In September, the board had rejected Bromley’s earlier recommendation to clear the park with an injunction.

In previous years, the park board has authorized the use of court injunctions to clear encampments in Oppenheimer, including most recently in 2014.

The board is now working to update a bylaw so that the people sleeping in the park aren’t considered breaking the law. The amended bylaw would be in line with other municipalities which allow overnight sheltering in parks when no other shelter is available, the board said in a news release.

Dumont said he wants all of this work done “yesterday,” but it has been slowed by bureaucracy.

“There’s protocol, there’s expenses and it all has to fit together,” he said.

“When there’s a bunch of folks trying to collaborate on a situation that, honestly, is really uncomfortable for everyone. There’s no easy path to a solution. It demands creativity from bureaucracies and, honestly, that’s not what bureaucracies are known for.”

Dumont said accusations that the park board is dragging its feet being made in politics and media are unfair.

Dumont said he’s spent time at the park over the past few months, learning about the people living there and what they need to fare better.

“What they really want is housing,” he said. “They want to be able to afford to have a roof over their head and a warm bed and a clean washroom, and they want to be in a context where they are connected to their community and they’re not ‘othered’ by the system at hand.

“That’s an entirely reasonable ask and it’s entirely outside of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a culture in regard to people experiencing homelessness.”

— With files from Dan Fumano

neagland@postmedia.com

twitter.com/nickeagland

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