Wet weather, poor conditions extend cleanup timeline at CRAB Park

Click to play video: 'Questions about CRAB Park cleanup'
Questions about CRAB Park cleanup
WATCH: With the cleanup of Vancouver's CRAB Park continuing, there are questions about exactly what crews took out of the encampment, and about its future. – Mar 29, 2024

Crews will be working through the Easter weekend to level and overhaul the ground at Vancouver’s only sanctioned homeless encampment, while the Park Board is refusing to release an inventory of the items the cleanup at CRAB Park has unearthed so far.

This week’s very wet weather has led to further deterioration of the already poor soil conditions at the site and repairs will extend into early April to remediate serious health and safety issues.

“Because the encampment was so entrenched, there was a massive network of rat tunnels under the ground,” city councillor Peter Meiszner with ABC Vancouver said in an interview Friday.

“People were using the site as a bathroom as well so I understand that there’s actually quite a bit of biohazard fecal matter in the soil.”

Despite a one-day delay that gave a handful of residents more time to move into the temporary sheltering area, the city said staff have made considerable progress in dismantling unsafe, non-compliant structures and removing large quantities of debris and materials.

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“It’s my understanding from the mayor, who toured the site last week, that there are hundreds of bicycles in the encampment, propane tanks and other items,” Meiszner told Global News.

The city has refused to itemize exactly what was found, saying it will provide those details to encampment residents first.

“We will share some summary information about the amount and type of material removed publicly once we have been able to share that information with people who were in the Designated Area,” read a statement attributed to the Park Board.

“People need and deserve to know what’s going on in there and what’s found in there,” Jeremy Omand, with the Gastown Residents Association, told Global News in an interview Friday.

Gastown, Crosstown, Chinatown and Downtown Eastside residents have been living with the impacts of the CRAB Park encampment for almost three years.

Omand said some people are afraid to visit the area’s main public green space due to criminal activity.

“Someone was murdered right here,” Omand said, pointing to the beach where a man was fatally stabbed in May 2022.

“We’ve had members of our community assaulted and threatened just for walking through the park; we had a 70-year-old man who was assaulted, and had rocks thrown on him.”

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Taxpayers who’ve been shouldering the costs of the CRAB Park encampment since May 2021 are now funding the cleanup.

Click to play video: 'Cleanup underway at Vancouver’s CRAB Park tent city'
Cleanup underway at Vancouver’s CRAB Park tent city

In February 2023, Global News asked the city of Vancouver for the total costs related to the CRAB Park encampment – including policing, fire, Park Board, bylaw enforcement, engineering, sanitation and garbage removal from May 2021 to date.

Even though the Park Board has previously provided those numbers for encampments at Oppenheimer and Strathcona parks, the city said a Freedom of Information request would need to be filed to obtain the same data for CRAB Park.

“I understand and agree that taxpayers have a right to know how much this costs and how much money is being spent on this necessary work and that information will be released as soon as possible,” said Meiszner.

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Meiszner said it’s his understanding that a list of items retrieved from the site during the clean-up will also be released.

Residents of the designated area who relocated within the park are expected to be able to move back to the “renewed” waterfront site, which will have a gravel surface, as early as April 4.

“We have empathy for the folks who are living here and we hope that the government can find them homes,” said Omand.

However, Omand said residents of surrounding neighbourhoods deserve to have a park to use for leisure.

“I’d like to see the park returned to the way it was,” he told Global News.

Meiszner said CRAB Park is a unique situation given the court order stipulating people are allowed to camp in the designated area, and the ABC-majority city council doesn’t see encampments as a viable solution to homelessness.

“We want to get people into shelter and permanent housing.”

Click to play video: 'Clean-up begins at Vancouver’s CRAB Park encampment'
Clean-up begins at Vancouver’s CRAB Park encampment

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