Capital Plan for Park Renewal
To: Park Board Commissioners
From: Jeanette Jones
Date: 30 September 2014
Although I attended the meeting last night, I was unable to speak. I will not be able to be present at tonight’s meeting. Below is my submission.
Submission to Vancouver Park Board: 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report
The 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report  states:
Neighbourhood parks are the backbone of the parks system, and are where city residents escape daily to recreate and recharge. With increasing density around many parks, intensifying use, changing demographics and standards, and emerging demands for new recreational and leisure pursuits, the on-going re-thinking and renewal of neighbourhood parks and playgrounds is a continued Park Board priority. (p. 4)
The Report admits “about 25% of the parks and open space portfolio is currently assessed as being in poor condition” (p. 10). Yet the 2015-18 Capital Plan allots only $2M to park renewal. This is about 1.3% of proposed total Park Board investment over the next four years, and less than 6% of the amount allotted for new parks and renewals. I find it difficult to reconcile this paltry funding with the Park Board’s stated priorities.
The $2M allotted for park renewal is expected to cover completion of the work at Hillcrest/Riley Park and a new playground at Andy Livingstone Park. Last night staff suggested that improvements to Sunset Park will come out of this line item as well. At best, only a few hundred thousand dollars will remain to be assigned to the hundreds of other neighbourhood parks in Vancouver.
I encourage you to increase the amount allotted for park renewal. To illustrate the need, I use my neighbourhood park, General Brock Park in Norquay, as an example. [See also Brock Park photos provided as appendix to earlier Eye on Norquay posting about 2015-2018 Capital Plan.]
When we first moved across the street from the park in 1980, it was fairly new and well used. Our three daughters spent many happy hours in the playground with their preschool friends. A cricket team played in the park every Sunday during the warm weather. Informal games of soccer, catch, and frisbee took place often. A post and chain fence separated the park from the lanes that surround it on three sides.
Since then, we have watched the park steadily deteriorate. The underground stream that lies beneath the park has created a field that is so uneven and full of holes that only dogs can run on it. The cricket team left years ago. No one who values their ankles is willing to play games of any kind on the grass, and the soccer goalposts have long since been removed. An asphalt path that was built about 20 years ago provides a place for people to walk for exercise, but the path is now cracked and sagging. The fence rotted and was taken down, enabling residents of some of the houses that border the park to use parkland as extra parking space. The brush area surrounding the stump of a cottonwood tree that was removed a couple of years ago has become a magnet for people to dump garbage. The only part of the park that is used regularly for recreation is the playground, and even this area contains less equipment than it did thirty years ago. There are still no washrooms.
Meanwhile, more and more people have been moving into the area around Brock Park since the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan was passed in 2010. A recently built development at 2300 Kingsway and the already approved Kensington Gardens at 2220 Kingsway, are bringing around 1000 new residents. This is 20% of the 5000 new residents that city staff projects will live in Norquay by 2040. In addition, a 4-storey apartment building containing 94 units has been built at 2239 Kingsway. Another nearby 28-unit apartment is in the pipeline. Three duplexes are under construction, and a duplex with an infill house backing directly onto the park has been approved. All of this development is within three short blocks of Brock Park, and this is only the beginning.
Increasing densification of the area does more than increase the number of residents. It also transfers many activities that have traditionally taken place in private backyards to city parks. Norquay’s new housing forms (duplex, rowhouse, stacked townhouse, small houses on shared lots) leave very little room for open space on the property. Neighbourhood parks are becoming the “shared backyard” where residents are looking to play, exercise, garden, and socialize. We are looking for picnic tables, exercise and play equipment for all ages, landscaping, and open space where we can run and play.
No adequate park renewal will be possible without adequate funding. One hundred thousand dollars will do little more than begin to address the drainage issues in a single park, and many of Vancouver’s neighbourhood parks have drainage issues.
The City of Vancouver has repeatedly assured Norquay residents that new development will bring new amenities. Recent development in Norquay has generated millions of dollars for the City in DCLs and CACs, but we have yet to see the promised amenities. The Norquay Public Benefits Policy (2013) identifies the renewal of General Brock Park as a high priority. Please help the City to keep its word by increasing the allotment for neighbourhood park renewal.
 2015-2018 Capital Plan Final Report