Vancouver’s Park Board Debate

Untouched Land or Dismantling for Progress?

Samantha Craig (She/Her) // Contributor
Bells White (They/Them) // Illustrator

On Dec. 13 2023, Vancouver City Council passed a motion created by Mayor Ken Sim asking B.C. for the dissolution of the Park Board, and the delegation of those responsibilities to City Council. 

Compared to many other Canadian Cities, Vancouver has had a long-standing park board separate from the Mayor and Council. Formally opened in 1888, The Vancouver Park Board has been responsible for the upkeep and protection of parks, green spaces and recreational infrastructure that spans across the city. But some city government members and citizens are questioning if the board is as effective as it seems.

In a news conference on Nov. 29, 2023, Sim brought attention to the numerous different issues the park board has yet to address. “When you have Stanley Park, where one out of every four trees are dead…it’s a huge fire risk; we could lose that whole park,” Sim told conference spectators. He went on to state other examples, such as the side of the aquatic centre “falling off” and a water pipe issue on the Spanish banks. 

Reactions about this have been mixed, and according to a public opinion survey, 52 per cent of voters believe that the park board should be abolished and have their duties handled by the City Council. However, community members against the dismantling of the park board argued that this would be detrimental to park spaces across the city, some created a petition that has over 3,000 signatures.

As of now, 40 per cent of Vancouver public parks are not permanent and could be used for development or land sale. The Vancouver Mayor’s current focus appears to be on the underdevelopment of residential areas and the need to rapidly deliver more houses. Sim has stated he wants to densify the city, comparing Vancouver to Burnaby. “They’re doing a lot of great things and they’ve been able to successfully marry densification and homes,” he stated in a news conference in early October of 2023.

But it’s not only Vancouver citizens who may witness and experience the effects of the park board’s removal. Students may be exposed to aspects of this municipal change as well. The City of Vancouver home, property and development webpage shares a positive outlook on residential growth. “Development contributions help deliver new or upgraded facilities that our growing city needs to be liveable for all residents, such as…secured market rental housing…[and] transportation infrastructure,” reads the website. 

According to GEC Living, the average student’s monthly spending in Vancouver ranges from “$2,350 to $3,750 per month, and includes rent, groceries, bills, entertainment, and transportation.” This does not include the costs of school tuition. While the financial challenges faced by students underscore the pressing need for affordable housing, Mayor Sim has been vocal about the broader affordability crisis gripping the City of Vancouver. 

In further statements made by Sim, he said the priority is building more homes for the future. “There’s an affordability crisis going on in the City of Vancouver,” he said in the same news conference from this past October. “And there’s a lot of reasons why…If we do not build more housing, this will get worse.” However, his statements leave unanswered questions about how increasing housing options will directly impact the cost of living in Vancouver and where these new developments will be located.

Despite the approval of the motion, the B.C. government has not taken any public action on the proposal besides a statement released on Dec. 14, 2023, by the minister of municipal affairs, Anne Kang. “The Ministry of municipal affairs will begin work with the city to move forward on this significant change to governance in Vancouver.” Concerns about the abolishment of the Vancouver Park Board continue to rise as the Mayor pushes for more housing, and the availability of non-permanent public parks and green space remains.

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