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

TIYALTELUT KRISTEN RIVERS (#226) – Candidate Profile

Top 3 priorities (from City of Vancouver Election webpage)

  1. Equity and Accessibility
  2. Climate Action
  3. Indigenous Rights

Platform (from City of Vancouver Election webpage)

As Park Board Commissioner, I will be a strong voice for working class and middle class families and individuals. I will prioritize policies and programs that enhance access, and lift up and improve relations between Vancouver and Indigenous peoples. I will work with Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments to advance shared goals for Vancouver parks; advocate for activating our parks as fun, interesting, and beautiful places; and seek to increase land and water infrastructure for recreation.

2022 Park Board Candidate Questions

Note: Serena Jackson, Tiyaltelut Kristen Rivers and Caitlin Stockwell provided a joint response to the Survey Questions

1. You’re speaking to a friend from out of town, and they ask for a quick overview of “where things are at” with Vancouver’s parks and recreation facilities. What do you say?

Vancouver is a beautiful city. We are fortunate to have 250 parks, public beaches, and several community centres, ice rinks, pools, sports fields, and playgrounds. However, these public goods are not equitably distributed across the city. Neighbourhoods on the West Side have greater access to green space and significantly more street trees than those in East and South Vancouver. As a city, we also some great challenges when it comes to our parks and recreation system; much of our infrastructure is aging and must be upgraded or replaced in order to be seismically safe and resilient to a changing climate. As our city grows, we must invest in quality green spaces and recreation facilities for every community — parks are our shared backyards, community centres are our shared living rooms, and all of our neighbours are invited!

2. The topic of equity features heavily in both VanPlay (the Parks Board Masterplan) and the recently approved Vancouver Plan. What’s your take? Does Vancouver’s park system need to be more equitable and accessible? If yes, what changes would you propose and/or prioritize to make this happen?

Yes – there has already been good work that we want to continue. Greater equitability and accessibility are cornerstones of our platform. We will:

  • Provide free access to swimming pools and community centres for those who need it and prioritize equity and access in determining fees.
  • Require competitive sports events in parks to provide discounted fees to people who need them.
  • Support 2SLGBTQ+ programs like Trans Swim and deliver on recommendations from the Trans and Gender Variant Working Group for safe access to parks and community centres.
  • Ensure adaptive equipment such as ice sleds and water wheelchairs are available and in good condition.
  • Develop culturally relevant programming for community centres and libraries.
  • Expand facilities, programs, and services at Carnegie Community Centre in the Downtown Eastside based on local needs and priorities.

3. As a general principle, should parks aim to accommodate cycling paths within their boundaries? What are your thoughts on bikes and bike lanes in parks? (Please note: this is not specifically a question about Stanley Park).

Yes. Vancouver needs a connected and safe cycling network, and parks should accommodate them. Ideally cycling paths through parks should be distinct from pedestrian paths. Parks should also be cycling destinations and should be equipped with secure bike parking and end-of-trip facilities like washrooms and water fountains.

And while you didn’t ask specifically about it: We support building a permanent bike lane in Stanley Park.

4. What role, if any, do you see the Park Board playing in responding to the needs of people experiencing homelessness/houselessness and encampments?

We recognize that until there is appropriate housing for people who need it, some Vancouver residents will need to live in parks. Our platform includes the following points:

  • Acknowledge people live in parks and respect their right to shelter, day and night.
  • Work with community groups and leaders to identify areas suitable for tents that maintain the use of parks for everyone while people find housing that meets their needs.
  • Provide maps clearly showing areas where it’s safe to shelter and where campers can expect bylaw enforcement.
  • Use waterproof message boards to communicate with park residents.

5. Should Vancouver’s parks and recreation facilities play a part in supporting climate resilience or ecosystem restoration? If yes, how?

Yes, absolutely. We believe we need to:

  • Plant 10,000 trees per year starting with the next capital plan through 2040, focusing on neighbourhoods with less canopy and green space to protect these communities from heat waves. Give priority to a wide diversity of drought-tolerant species. (The Park Board is responsible for street trees).
  • Prepare parks and community centres to act as emergency response hubs for all kinds of crises, from earthquakes, deep freezes, heat waves, floods, fires, food shortages and civil unrest.
  • Use parks and green spaces to hold onto water during both droughts and floods, and work to limit water use across the entire parks and recreation system.
  • Redesign the seawall to use more natural, resilient features rather than rebuild every time a storm destroys it.

6. Is having a Board of Parks and Recreation the best way to govern and manage Vancouver’s park system? If yes, why? If not, what would you propose in its place?

Having an elected body with a mandate specifically focusing on protecting and acquiring public park space, and recreation amenities, is one of the reasons that Vancouver has the parks system it has today. The Park Board has been a strong voice in ensuring developers provide community amenity contributions that cover recreation and green space needs for growing communities – this is something that could be lost in the variety of different amenities developers can provide without advocacy from the Park Board. All this to say, OneCity is strongly in favour of co-management with Host Nations and we recognize that governance and management of the Park Board will evolve.

7. What, if anything, do you think the Park Board should do to support/facilitate community activation/events and stewardship of park spaces and facilities?

As Vancouver urbanizes, parks and recreation centres need to become community social spaces. This includes arts and culture and community events. In partnership with our colleagues on City Council, we plan to:

  • Allow informal, mobile social enterprises like food vendors, umbrella rentals, coffee carts and sports gear sharing in parks to promote entrepreneurship and create low-barrier jobs.
  • Activate busker-friendly spaces all over the city and adjust the rules so culture in public space is a priority — not a problem.
  • Appoint a music officer to connect musicians with supports, help navigate city processes, and encourage more musical events in public spaces.
  • Provide flexible performance and celebration spaces in parks, plazas and parklets with durable surfaces for gathering and dancing.

8. In the past few years, the Park Board has taken steps towards reconciliation, decolonization, and co-management with MST First Nations. Would you continue this work? If yes, how?

Yes, we would. OneCity has a major section of Parks platform focused on Indigenous justice. We will:

  • Support proposals from the Host Nations for Indigenous-led or co-governance of parks, including with capacity funding for their leadership.
  • Implement calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, UNDRIP Task Force, and next steps of the Parks Board’s colonial audit.
  • Work with the Host Nations, Vancouver’s UNDRIP Task Force and its Urban Indigenous People Advisory Committee around park planning and priorities.
  • Listen to how Host Nations want to see their history, ongoing connection, and title reflected in parks through signage, design, names, and management models.
  • Partner with the Host Nations to offer on-the-land learning opportunities that align with school curriculum.
  • Promote the sharing and visibility of Coast Salish stories in parks through cultural programs and public art.
  • Explore opportunities for Indigenous Guardians to steward and manage parks across Vancouver.
  • Create a culturally safe workplace for Indigenous employees by providing mandatory cultural safety training and culturally relevant human resources.

9. If you could make changes to one park in the city – which park is it, and what would you do?

There are parks all over the city that could use some extra love, but for this question we’ll focus on South East Vancouver and Everett Crowley Park. At 40 acres, Everett Crowley is Vancouver’s 5th largest park, and it contains forest, wetlands, trails, and beautiful views. Pretty impressive for a piece of land that used to be a garbage dump! Unfortunately, the park has major problems with invasive species that encroach on trails, threaten trees and other healthy plants, and can make fields and meadows difficult to use for picnicking and other activities due to overgrowth. Community groups have made significant efforts to rehabilitate the park, in partnership with the Park Board. This work is important and ongoing, but could be scaled up significantly to protect the park and to provide good green jobs. Everett Crowley would also be improved by additional amenities such as benches, a picnic area, public bathrooms, water fountains, and bike racks. Lastly, access to the park for residents of the growing River District nearby needs improvement as it currently means crossing a very busy road – Marine Drive – and then hiking up a steep hill to the closest entrance at 63rd.

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

Thank you for your advocacy, VPSN and VPSN supporters! You can learn more about the OneCity Park Board platform here:

Biography & Contact Information

Biography (City of Vancouver Election Webpage)

Tiyaltelut Kristen Rivers (she/her) is a proud Indigenous woman of Squamish descent with extensive governance experience and a lived commitment to advancing social justice. Rivers is an elected Councillor for the Squamish Nation. She serves on the board of Nch’ḵay̓ Corporation, the Nation’s economic development arm, and on Vancity’s board. Rivers is a member of Vancouver’s UNDRIP Task Force.