Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

Top 3 priorities – City of Vancouver candidate form

  1. Innovative Park Design
  2. Sustainable Funding
  3. Community Engagement

Platform –┬áCity of Vancouver candidate form

“I’ve been attending Park Board meetings and community engagement sessions for the past 22 months. Park Board is a complex and demanding position, requiring knowledge of the issues, open dialogue with residents and stakeholders, and an understanding of how the City functions. I’ve made that investment.

Together with my recreation, volunteer and tourism experience, I have the needed skills.

ProVancouver understands that parks become increasingly important as housing densification means fewer people have a backyard.”

1. What is your favourite park or park board facility in Vancouver, and why?

That’s like asking, whose your favourite child? I live in Renfrew Heights, a neighbourhood with a dearth of park space. However, the natural beauty and quiet of Renfrew Ravine would have to be my favourite parks nearest to where I live. I’m also a part of the LGBTQ2+ community, which means that Sunset Beach Park, which hosts the annual Pride Festival, has real personal meaning.

2. We’ll be sharing the top three priorities that you provided the City of Vancouver, but we want to know: which one of your three priorities are you most passionate about, and why?

Sustainable Funding. It’s little known that Park Board gets less than 50% of its operating budget from City Council. This means Park Board has to generate something like $60M annually from fees and permits. Which is why there is fee parking in our most popular parks. We need a more fair relationship with Council, one that recognizes that the tax payer believes they’re supporting our parks, but that this is actually not the truth.

3. Vancouver is a growing city! What are your ideas for ensuring that the city’s parks and recreation facilities can respond to the needs of an increasing and diversifying population?

Increasing population has everything to do with capacity, which includes both green space and amenities. This all comes down to funding, which again goes back to Council for adequate financial support. Diversity is all about programming, and we rely on the neighbourhood Community Recreation Associations to respond to the needs of their users. Park Board can support this through diversity training, multilingual messaging, and fostering new events which reflect this diversity.

4. Given the high cost of land in the city, what suggestions do you have for how the Park Board should approach the creation of new park spaces?

As a culture and society, we have thankfully moved past expropriation. Which means the acquisition and cost of land is driven by market forces. This means adopting creative ways of getting double and triple use out of existing parks. Or, as with the Oakridge Mall redevelopment, doing something completely new. I was recently in Toronto and toured both The Meadoway, which is adding natural vegetation AND recreation to an existing hydro right-of-way, and The Bentway, which is adding public space under the Gardiner Expressway. Vancouver can’t afford to lose any more industrial land for fear of eroding the tax base and losing jobs. But there’s nothing to keep us from adding green space atop a warehouse or car dealership which occupies an entire city block.

5. What, if any, role do you see the Park Board playing in responding to critical social issues such as homelessness, the opioid epidemic, and social isolation?

We need to expand the number of and better train our Park Board Rangers. They often become first responders in the face of addiction and mental illness. At the very least, they should be able to refer someone to community services or take a moment to listen. Homelessness won’t be solved by allowing people to camp in our parks; however, Park Board can play a role in monitoring what occurs within the parks, and use this data to inform City Council and intervention organizations as to remediation options.

6. In the past few years, the Park Board has taken steps to acknowledge First Nations cultures and the impacts of colonization on local Indigenous communities. Would you continue this work? If yes, how?

Yes, but it’s not my place to say how. It’s because Europeans thought they knew best that so much tragedy has occurred. Although my journey is different, as a gay man I understand what it means to be disenfranchised, and that nobody from outside my community has the right to decide how I should behave, what I should believe, or to cast a moral judgement on me. With First Nations, I will listen and act in a manner which respect both them and the larger society in which we now reside.

7. How can Vancouver’s parks and recreation facilities best respond to the challenges posed by climate change?

It may already be too late to implement, but as we develop and restore the Seawall, it can both act as a levy, but if we set it back somewhat from the high time line, we can also re-establish natural shoreline ecologies which help mitigate both pollution and rising sea level. Each year, every swimming pool in the system is emptied into the sewage system before receiving maintenance; I’d like to see this water retained for either non-potable uses, like toilet flushing, or allowed to off-gay to the point where it could water lawns. These are just a couple of examples of how our existing assets can be made more environmentally responsible and responsive.

8. What, if any, role do you think privately owned companies should play in the management, operation, or naming/branding of Park board facilities?

As previously mentioned, Park Board is significantly underfunded by City Council. It seems were on the cusp of needed to hold a bake sale in order to repaint a community centre. The funding shortfall means Park Board has increasingly turned to commercial operations to raise revenue. I would entertain naming/branding rights, so long as it didn’t constitute a billboard in a park. Both Bloedel and VanDusen are named for benefactors. But in the current situation, Park Board has become more landlord than steward, which is troubling. Each successive Board has adopted new commercial enterprise, as at the time it seemed reasonable, but without any consideration of the long-term implications. We need a governing policy by which any existing or future commercial enterprise can be measured, with a defined cap as to what and how much is acceptable.

9. What, if any, role do you feel that neighbourhoods or community groups should play in the stewardship of park spaces and facilities?

We have the same challenge as any government, of balancing the needs of residents against the obligations to organized labour. Not only are citizens passionate about our parks, and want to preserve and enhance them; as the city densifies, as fewer residents have backyards, the need will be ever greater to given people the opportunity to interact with nature and get their hands in the dirt. I believe in the grassroots right to contribute to community by becoming involved, not to be passive consumers of what Park Board decides to deliver. There can be a balance between labour and volunteering, so long as we all enter into discussions respecting one another.

10. Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or your platform?

Just to give some background on myself: I hold a BA in Recreation Administration from the University of Alberta. My career, unexpectedly, diverted into travel and tourism. I’ve become increasingly concerned about ‘overtourism’ whereby places are being loved to death, and that tourists are impacting cities to the point of being unlivable. In addition to a host of business and volunteer board experiences, I’ve spent most of the past two years sitting in on Park Board meetings and community engagement open houses to learn what’s happening in the city. I don’t want to go into this job cold, and I owe it to the electorate to be ready to get to work on day one.

 

More Information

City of Vancouver – Park Board candidate webpage