Proposal to Change Vanier Park Draws Fire from Kits Residents

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Kits residents galvanize to action when there’s a proposed change to their parks and the new plan for Vanier Park, pushed forward by Bard on the Beach (BOTB), is no different.

BOTB wants to remove part of Vanier Park’s lawn and replace it with a hard surface such as pavement or gravel. They have good reasons. But still. The response from Kits seems appropriate. Folks want to know: exactly how much of an impact should commercial enterprises be allowed to have on public parks?

Here’s the scoop, as reported by Business in Vancouver. We’ve also included how to impact the outcome on Vanier by filling out the survey

“BOTB is very popular and has made a wonderful contribution to Vancouver culture, tourism and the economy but we have an issue about the deeper implications of restricting public parkland for special user groups,” CityHallWatch director Randy Helten told Business in Vancouver September 16.

BOTB, as a registered charity, aims to break even on its $5.5 million annual budget. It pays the Vancouver Park Board $10,000 annually for an event permit to operate the Shakespeare festival, which runs between May and mid-September. Installing and dismantling the site costs about $650,000 each year.

The festival is on track to attract nearly 100,000 people during this year’s season, which ended September 20. Ticket, concession and merchandise sales generate about $4.2 million. The rest of the budget is largely generated from corporate sponsorships and contributions from benefactors such as the Vancouver International Wine Festival, which last year donated $170,000.

“Less than 2% of our budget comes from government sources such as the city, the B.C. Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts,” BOTB managing director Claire Sakaki told BIV.

BOTB held an open house September 14 to outline potential Vanier Park changes and to seek public input. It has no plans to hold more open houses although BOTB executives are meeting with what Sakaki called “stakeholders and interested parties.”

She explained that each fall, when her Shakespeare festival stops operating, it packs up its tents and leaves part of Vanier Park a muddy mess.

“We’ve spent an incredible amount of money adding topsoil and reseeding the area and doing various things to try to get the area back to a grassy surface,” she said. “But, because it’s after the growing season, it’s actually been impossible to bring it back.”

BOTB has worked with landscape architects to determine options for a all-season surface several thousand square feet in size. They include different shaped footprints and different materials that would both be harder surfaces and have drainage. Most of the park would remain grass under BOTB’s proposal.

Sakaki said that in addition to creating the year-round surface, BOTB also wants to create some tree-lined pathways at the festival site next to the Vancouver Archives building.

Here is BOTB’s full proposal.

BOTB is also urging people to fill out a survey  by September 30. BOTB plans to forward to the park board the surveys and suggestions gleaned from informal consultation and meetings by the end of October. That would give the current park board the opportunity to potentially vote on a change before the November 15.

Last modified: September 22, 2014

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