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May 16, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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Vancouver parks embrace accessibility, Canada’s 150th

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Challenger baseball field: design for people with mobility challenges, such as wheelchair-accessible artificial turf and raised obstacles removed. Photo: City of Vancouver

Challenger baseball field: design for people with mobility challenges, such as wheelchair-accessible artificial turf and raised obstacles removed. Photo: City of Vancouver

By Gary McKenna

There’s a lot going on in parks news this spring. At Hillcrest Park, the new Challenger sports field is making it easier for children with physical or cognitive disabilities to play baseball. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Park Board has approved a new joint operating agreement designed to add programs and improve facility access at 20 community centres across the city. Plus, and not least, the VanDusen Botanical Garden has received a 150 Garden Experience designation as part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.

Batter up at Hillcrest Park Challenger baseball field

The Challenger baseball field – the first of its kind in Western Canada – has the same elements of a typical little league diamond, but with several key design features to help kids with disabilities participate in the game.

The artificial turf is wheelchair-accessible, and the bases and pitching mounds are graphically imposed on the surface to remove any raised obstacles for mobility devices. Dugouts are also larger, and the base paths and pitching-mound distances are slightly shorter.

A second set of bases means that the field can also be used for regular little league play.

The $450,000 project was funded by Variety Children’s Charity, Jays Care Foundation, the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation, the parks board and the City of Vancouver. The facility is one of 10 sports fields that are currently being upgraded as part of the City’s Emerging Priorities Fund.

Community centres: Unified under new agreement

According to a staff report, the new joint operating agreement (JOA) will pave the way for benefits like having the OneCard and Flexipass instituted at all community centres. The JOA will also make low-income discounts available across the city and eliminate membership fees at individual facilities.

For a number of years, community centres across the city have operated under various agreements, some dating back as far as the 1970s. The park board has tried several times over the years to bring all of the community centre associations under one arrangement but has been unsuccessful until now.

The associations have until September 30, 2017 to sign the new agreement, which will take effect on January 1, 2018.


The VanDusen Botanical Garden has received an award as part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations. Photo: City of Vancouver

VanDusen recognized for Canada’s 150th

The 55-acre VanDusen, featuring 7,000 different plant species from around the world, is one of 150 jury-selected gardens highlighted across the country as part of the 150th celebrations. It features a hedge maze, some local wildlife and quiet green space surrounded by ponds and waterfalls.

The award was jointly presented to the park board by the Canadian Garden Council and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.

With spring well under way, now is a good time to visit the VanDusen.

For more information and a calendar of upcoming events, go to


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