Losing the plot of land - The Orca
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Losing the plot of land

Jody w Glasses 1
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Vancouver’s Park Board has lost sight of its purpose, focus, and the people it serves.

With last week’s news that Kitsilano Pool was “unlikely” to reopen this summer, it’s worth diving back into the laundry list of parks in disrepair in Vancouver.

A barge on Sunset Beach. Broken water features in Queen Elizabeth Park. A now-toxic lagoon in Stanley Park. Parks that were occupied like Strathcona and Oppenheimer. Unkept gardens and grass where the public might play, left to “meadow” rather than mowed.

We’ve lost the plot (of land). So let’s get back to basics:

 park
/pärk/

a large public green area in a town, used for recreation.

pub·lic
/ˈpəblik/

  1. of or concerning the people as a whole. “public concern.” Ordinary people in general; the community. “the library is open to the public”

One might assume a Park Board, if you can imagine such a thing, would be a governing body devoted to ensuring public parks are available, to the community as a whole, as green space to recreate and relax.

Right now, this is not happening in the City of Vancouver.

I have been transparent in my ongoing disappointment in how our beautiful Vancouver parks have been mismanaged by the current board, so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when staff and officials from neighbouring municipalities started blowing up my phone to voice their frustration and/or offer words of encouragement.

As we head towards warm spring and summer days, the sad reality is that citizens have to double check if parks are usable: room at the pool, lifeguards on duty, grass maintained, fountains running. And yes, safe.

With Vancouver parks on life support, the lack of accountability and transparency is cause for concern. We should be able to count on healthy spaces to safely gather outdoors.

This Middle asks for layers of government to step in, be the adult in the room, and  demand a full accounting of how this happened. How are our dollars being spent, exactly?

One of the calls I received was a rather breathless “they work for us” reminder. It’s a reminder of how much we’ve learned in recent years about how some officials say one thing to get elected, then abruptly pivot to personal agendas over actual public service.

Insiders tell me there are only two priorities of this current Park Board:

  • Climate Emergency
  • Reconciliation

No question these are urgent files – but I’d argue not necessarily those of a Park Board.

There should be a lever to bring common sense into how our parks are managed. It could start with hiring board members who actually actively care for our parks. The “roll up the sleeves and take pride in things” people. The community builders who welcome citizen input and involvement, and hands-on enough to personally ensure the basics are always covered.

People to mow, trim, plant, rake, empty trash bins, and clean what gets soiled. We need caretakers in our parks not politicians.

This is not a case for abolishing the Park Board, but modernizing it.

The board should reflect the wants of all the citizens who employ them. There should be strict parameters, guardrails if you will, as to what can be changed by any one or group of commissioners who bring their personal agendas to the table.

Accessibility and upkeep of park buildings, grounds, water features, and washroom facilities should be the top priorities, without exception, before anything else is tabled. This absolute madness of “leaving to nature” our city’s green spaces doesn’t serve the citizens who pay for the space.

Vancouver is surrounded by nature. Mountains, ocean, untouched forest. Lost Lagoon remaining accessible and enjoyable for park goers isn’t an affront to the climate change emergency, it just isn’t.

Inner-city greenspaces are the lungs of our city, and we need to tend to them with a loving approach. As frustrated as many of us are, hopefully someday soon we might once again celebrate our beautiful parks.

SWIM ON