Protect Our Parks

Protect Our Parks

The Provincial Government has been asked to approve the Vancouver ABC Party motion to abolish the Vancouver Park Board.  Unless there is massive opposition presented to the Provincial Government this is what they may do.  Once the Park Board is abolished parcels of park lands may be reallocated (sold) for other purposes, most likely starting with housing. The only thing that can stop this is a massive individual email campaign to provincial MLAs, cc’d to the Vancouver City Councillors and VPB Commissioners.

Every square foot of park and green space is a priceless and irreplaceable resource for our health and mental wellbeing as witnessed during the Covid lockdowns. It will become that much more important as the population of Vancouver and surrounding communities increases in future decades. If you want your voice to be heard in opposition to the abolition of the VPB, now is the time to email your MLA.

FOUR STEPS TO STOP THE ABOLITION

To start a landslide of emails is by three people at a time. The steps are:

1) Do NOT listen to rumours or friends or social media that writing an email is not necessary. Your email is absolutely critical.

2) First, you need to take 10 minutes, look at the talking points provided below if need be, and write you email and send it to all Vancouver MLA’s. Make it short and polite. Perfection does not matter – what matters is that you write and send it.

3) When you email your communication, please cc it to POPS@naturevancouver.ca so that:

         a) your communication is not just lost in the void of politics

         b) you make yourself accountable to be informed if more is needed

4) THE BIG ONE: Commit to getting TWO other people to commit to the above 4 steps. If each person fulfills this there will be an avalanche of support for keeping the Vancouver Park Board.

Who and How To Email:

The email should go your MLA, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and to all Vancouver MLAs.

It should be CC’d to the Vancouver Mayor and all Councillors plus the Vancouver Park Board Commissioners.

Copy & paste into To:

David.Eby.MLA@leg.bc.caAnne.Kang.MLA@leg.bc.caGeorge.Heyman.MLA@leg.bc.caBrenda.Bailey.MLA@leg.bc.caGeorge.Chow.MLA@leg.bc.caNiki.Sharma.MLA@leg.bc.caMable.Elmore.MLA@leg.bc.caAdrian.Dix.MLA@leg.bc.caMichael.Lee.MLA@leg.bc.caJoan.Phillip.mla@leg.bc.caKevin.Falcon.MLA@leg.bc.cas.chandraherbert.MLA@leg.bc.ca

Copy & paste into CC:

Ken.Sim@vancouver.ca; CLRBligh@vancouver.ca; CLRBoyle@vancouver.ca; CLRCarr@vancouver.ca; CLRDominato@vancouver.ca; CLRFry@vancouver.ca; CLRKirby-Yung@vancouver.ca; CLRKlassen@vancouver.ca; CLRMeiszner@vancouver.ca; CLRmontague@vancouver.ca; CLRZhou@vancouver.ca; Brennan.Bastyovanszky@vancouver.ca; Laura.Christensen@vancouver.ca; Tom.Digby@vancouver.ca; Angela.Haer@vancouver.ca; Marie-Claire.Howard@vancouver.ca; Scott.Jensen@vancouver.ca; Jas.Virdi@vancouver.ca; POPS@naturevancouver.ca; SaveOurParkBoard@gmail.com

Suggestions for a powerful communication:

  • the opening paragraph says who you are & what you are writing about. 
  • the closing paragraph is the outcome you want to see
  • just a couple of what I call “meat in the sandwich” paragraphs that speak to one or two points you want make about this issue 
  • keep it short. A long, detailed email may not get read in its entirety and can actually detract from what you’re trying to do. You can always provide more details via links and attachments 
  • keep it polite!

Suggested Talking Points

  • this issue was raised Dec 6 and went to council on Dec 13—no time for public consultation
  • there is no mandate to the city council for this move—it was not an election promise, and there has been no public process
  • there has been no consultation with First Nations 
  • there has been no consultation with Community Centre Associations
  • an overwhelming majority of the over 100 speakers at City Council on Dec 13 were opposed to the dissolution of the Park Board; many speakers due to timing and technical difficulties did not get to participate
  • many of the issues the Mayor raised are a result of chronic underfunding of parks and recreation      
  • many of the services such as Park Board HR and maintenance have already been centralized to the City
  • as Vancouver densifies and renters and owners are in smaller spaces with little yard, park space is going to be increasingly important for a healthy community
  • our council of 10 at-large members is quite a bit smaller than other cities–in the absence of wards or constituencies, Park commissioners attached to community centres are the closest and most accessible public officers in the city
  • if agreement or disagreement on past issues is a reason for eliminating an elected body, we would soon have no elections at all
  • for 130 years, the Vancouver Park Board has protected green space to make Vancouver the livable city it is—that shouldn’t be changed with so little input from residents

Possible Sample Email

Jane/John Doe

### ________ Street ________, BC   V#_ #_#

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to express my opposition to the Mayor Sim and ABC motion to amend the Vancouver Charter and abolish the elected Park Board. This intention which appeared suddenly December 6th was not part of the ABC’s election platform is a affront to democracy and to the protection of Vancouver’s parks and
community centres.

Vancouver has more than 250 parks, thanks in part to a City Plan in 1928 that decreed that there should be a park available to people within 1 mile of their homes. The physical and overall health of Vancouver’s residents have benefited from such foresight. When the pandemic arrived here, Dr. Bonny Henry encouraged us to go outside and to make use of our parks to walk or cycle. And as Vancouverites, we did – doubling the use of Vancouver parks! 

Vancouver Parks welcomed all of us in those years, even while dealing with decreased revenues due to Covid restrictions even though their budget has declined in relative terms during the past 12 years. The Parks budget is a very small portion of city budgeting. 

I support the retention of the VPB as an independent authority responsible for the protection of Vancouver’s parks and recreation facilities. There has not been public consultation regarding the dissolution proposal, nor has there been a cost-benefit analysis made available to demonstrate why it would be advantageous to Vancouver Park administration. 

I am suspicious that this is a crass land grab which will benefit developers and perhaps, through that, the mayor and speculators. Many with similar views and concerns as mine believe that our mayor doesn’t appreciate nature, or views, or parks. Natural areas such as those found in our city parks, linear parks and greenways, and golf courses are incredibly important, providing habitat for pollinating insects, birds and other animals. 

As a Vancouver MLA, you also have a democratic responsibility to all your constituents. The ABC motion is a backroom deal hatched behind closed doors and the antithesis of democracy. The decision to dissolve the Vancouver Park Board is not democracy. Please REFUSE the dissolution of the Vancouver Park Board.

And, if you do open the Charter up if should be to enact that a certain fixed percentage of annual City budgets automatically goes to the elected Park Board for their exclusive use with no city oversight.

Sincerely,

___________________

__________, BC

Golf is Great – and Green or Why an Elected Vancouver Park Board Matters

by Nigel Peck

First, I have never played a game of golf in my life and have no interest in doing so. Back to that later.

I have spent the last six eight weeks working on opposing the abolition of the Vancouver Park Board. In that time I have had many discussions, many with friends, some intense about the issue. After that time, I am more convinced that an elected, independent Vancouver Park Board is critical to the future of our parks in Vancouver. 

Just a few of the reasons include:

Conditions of Community Centres & Parks

People complain about the conditions of parks and cite that as a reason to get rid of the board. The sad condition of the community centre side of parks is because the City Manager, Penny Ballem, in a 2009 power grab, excised the 50 year relationship between the VPB and the Community Centres, tore up the operating relationships with the actual centres and then proceeded to drastically cut funding for the last 15 years. So any complaints about that should be put squarely at the foot of City Council not the Park Board.

Similarly people point out inadequacies of Park Board facilities, washrooms, etc. And similarly, it is long term inadequate funding provided by the Vancouver Council that has created those conditions. Compared to almost all other major cities in North America, Vancouver comes out at the bottom. So again, when you complain, direct your complaint to the culprit – Vancouver City Council.

For more information on Vancouver Council underfunding of Parks check out: https://naturevancouver.ca/the-long-green-line-shaking-hands-with-history/

Stupidity of devoting so much space for golf courses.

Whether or not you play golf, golf courses are important and priceless. They protect green space, most often have important bird habitat around them and prevent governments from removing the land for development, most likely framed as socially important for our desperate housing situation. Tying up that land is essential because once it is taken it will never be returned.

An Elected Park Board Gives Vancouverites a Voice

Vancouver Park Board Meetings allow people to speak on issues. I spent Monday and Tuesday night at the Park Board Office making a presentation on an issue. At those meetings I was able to speak for 5 minutes and a Commissionar asked me a question. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it?

At Vancouver City Council, under Ken Sim, the rules were changed so that speakers would be given a maximum of three minutes to speak. Even more egregiously the rule change also eliminated the right for a City Councillor to ask questions of the person speaking. The end result is presentations fly through Council Meeting and there is no real opportunity for public input. If you want an example, just look at Jericho Land Development hearings this week.

So, absolutely, the Vancouver Park Board is not perfect. And it’s hard to champion support for something that might administer dirty washrooms. But the VPB is the best thing we have to protect our parks. We either take up that fight and win, or you should count on recounting to your kids or grandkids how we kissed away one of the greatest heritages and treasures Vancouver has – its parks protected by the Vancouver Park Board.

January, 27th I attended a MetroParks Appreciation and Networking event yesterday. I had three conversations with volunteers from Burnaby Naturalists and Burke Mountain Naturalists. They could not understand or believe what is happening in Vancouver and that we would allow the loss of our park board.  

If you really care about the future of Vancouver Parks, WRITE YOUR EMAIL TO YOUR MLA!

NATURE VANCOUVER STATEMENT ON THE ABOLITION OF THE VANCOUVER PARK BOARD

The Nature Vancouver board oppose the unilateral December 13th Vancouver City Council motion to abolish the Vancouver Park Board.  At that meeting Ken Sim dismissed many examples of why an elected Park Board matters and how it has been a model for grass roots democracy, accountable to the community, for over 130 years. He ignored repeated examples that the on-going funding and infrastructure crisis at the Park Board is of the city’s own making.

We value the direct democratic accountability provided by the Park Board whose sole mandates are to preserve, protect and enhance our local parks and community spaces. If you agree with this, we ask you to write your MLA expressing your opposition to this process and the undemocratic way it has been handled. There is no mandate from the people of Vancouver to make this change, and no changes can be enacted before the next civic election. 

For more information or to comment on this initiative, please email  pops@naturevancouver.ca .

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