Community associations ask B.C. to reconsider eliminating the Vancouver Park Board

Community members in Vancouver ask the province to not terminate the Vancouver Park Board.

The Association Presidents Group (APG) representing 17 community centre associations across the City of Vancouver, is urging Premier David Eby to “reconsider his commitment to proceeding with the elimination of the Vancouver Park Board” following his decision earlier this week.

The B.C. government said it was committed to “advancing the dissolution of the Vancouver Park Board” in the next legislative session following the Vancouver Mayor’s plan to remove the board last December, saying it was inefficient and costly. The plan has also gained the support of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

However, the APG says Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim’s decision is “undemocratic.”

“We do not believe 8 City Councillors can decide to abolish the Park Board elected by thousands of Vancouver citizens in October 2022,” it said, in a release.

“We believe the Park Board can only be removed after a civic election in October 2026, and only if Vancouver citizens have made that choice. Neither the City nor the Province have a mandate to remove the Park Board.”

The organization says Sim’s motion was announced and passed in a week without any engagement with it and other key stakeholders.

“There was no transition plan to demonstrate the alleged benefits of such a decision. The reasons announced have been questioned by many stakeholders including dozens of former Park Board Commissioners and Community Centre Associations,” said the APG.

The elected board has served Vancouver for over 130 years. Vancouver is the only city in Canada with an elected park board and is the only city in North America other than Minneapolis to have one.

The APG says voters the issues dealt with by the park board are a high priority for voters.

“Commissioners run for office because they are passionate about protecting and expanding our parks and recreation programs. It is their priority concern and responsibility,” it said.

The organization says if City Councillors replace the board, there would be a “less responsive and effective working relationship” for the community, because of the many responsibilities it already has.

“City parks and recreation will not be the first priority for City Councillors,” said the APG.

Last December, the Mayor said that park boards just don’t work.

“Now, the system is broken and no amount of tweaking will fix it in our pursuit of progress and value. For the people of Vancouver, we’re aligning the management structure for parks and recreation services with how it’s done in literally every single city across North America with the exception of Minneapolis and I’m assuming the reason for that is every other city in North America has figured out that this just doesn’t work,” he said.

However, the APG thinks this is false.

“The APG rejects the Mayor’s claim that the Park Board is broken. We believe it has been critically underfunded by City Council for several decades,” it said.

“Many of the examples cited by the Mayor for the elimination of the Park Board are in fact already the City of Vancouver’s responsibility.”

The APG says they will continue to advocate against the removal of the Vancouver Park Board.

“A decision to eliminate the elected Park Board must be determined democratically in the next municipal election if it remains part of the ABC platform. Let the voters of Vancouver make such an important decision.”

Multiple current Park Board commissioners who are opposed to Sim’s plan are seeking a judicial review of the move. There’s no word on when the legal challenge may be filed, but commissioners told CityNews previously they are in active talks with lawyers to explore their options.

With files from Cole Schisler, Hana Mae Nassar, and Charlie Carey.

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