A coalition of concerned activists is planning a rally ahead of Monday’s Vancouver Park Board meeting, where a proposed new bike path through Kitsilano Beach Park will be debated.
The protest, which is being organized by Wake Up Vancouver, will take place outside the Park Board office before the meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
Several community groups — including the Kitsilano Beach Coalition, the Kits Points Residents Association, and various local sports clubs — are also taking part in the protest before attending the meeting itself.
The proposed bike route being recommended by city staff and HUB Cycling would cut through the green space in two major sections of the park — replacing more than 900 square metres of parkland with a paved path.
“It’s a slippery slope,” Fiona Brodie with Wake Up Vancouver said. “When they start replacing park space with asphalt, where does it end?
“Every inch of Kitsilano deserves protection, and that park is no different.”
The proposal has been in the works for five years and went through three separate consultation phases before arriving in its final form for Monday’s meeting.
At issue is the point where the route, which starts off running parallel along Cornwall Avenue, hits Yew Street from the west. The proposal calls for the path to cut through the green space surrounding the south parking lot and the tennis courts, before continuing its parallel path north along Arbutus Street.
Once the route hits McNicoll Avenue, the route also cuts through the northern green space, including a popular chestnut grove, before connecting to Ogden Avenue.
If approved, the route would force the intersection at Yew and Cornwall to be reconfigured to reduce conflicts with pedestrians. At least 10 parking spots would also be lost in the south parking lot, which would also be modified to have just one entranceway.
WATCH BELOW: A version of the proposed route was being hotly debated five years ago. Jill Bennett had the story in 2013.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest laying asphalt through these areas,” Brodie said, “not to mention how the route would impact high-traffic areas like the Boathouse Restaurant, the tennis courts. We’re fighting the idea of park encroachment because once it starts, there’s no going back.”
A spokesperson with the Park Board wouldn’t comment on the issue ahead of the meeting.
In their report, city staff proposes a special study of how best to reduce conflicts with pedestrians and workers around the Boathouse Restaurant, and suggests further public consultation.
Howard Kelsey, co-chair of the Kitsilano Beach Coalition, says his group and the others committed to fighting the route aren’t waging war on cyclists.
“We’re not opposed to a bike path,” Kelsey said. “We just don’t want it through the park.”
When asked whether he would support further bike lanes on the streets themselves, as opposed to cutting through the green space, Kelsey said he “absolutely” would.