The City of Vancouver is gearing up for the controversial annual 4/20 smoke up, which it says is going ahead “against the wishes of the elected Park Board commissioners.”
The event, billed as a protest by organizers but criticized by others as an unlicensed festival, will be returning to the city’s Sunset Beach for the third consecutive year.
The Park Board has once again refused to grant a permit to the event, which it says is an inappropriate use of park space because it violates no-smoking bylaws and “has negative consequences for park users and infrastructure.”
In particular, it says it is concerned about protecting the soggy turf in the park’s grass field, which the board says was “trashed” after last year’s 4/20.
This year 4/20 organizers have pledged to place protective coverings on the grass around the event’s main stage at their own expense.
“We’re going to be spending about $20,000 on a special turf protector to cover that section of the park and turf and hopefully that will keep it from being damaged in that way,” organizer Dana Larsen said.
“We’re also keeping our fingers crossed that it will be drier weather this year.”
The board says park rangers have also gone door-to-door in the neighbourhood to hand-deliver leaflets with information about 4/20 and to notify residents of the anticipated crowds, traffic issues and potential health concerns for people sensitive to smoke.
It says the Vancouver Aquatic Centre will also be closed on Friday.
WATCH: Vancouver taxpayers pay for cleanup of 4/20 protest
The fate and location of the 4/20 event has been a long-running concern in Vancouver, even before the event moved from the Vancouver Art Gallery to its current location at Sunset Beach.
The City of Vancouver and Park Board maintain that the event has no place at the beach, and that they want to find it an alternative location.
Park Board Commissioner Brian Wiebe said problems arise when large events take place without a city permit.
“Sometimes the number of washrooms aren’t enough, sometimes some of the services aren’t there, and so that’s the component that the City of Vancouver is looking to mitigate as much as we can because safety is our concern, and obviously protecting our beach is the mandate of the park board,” Wiebe said.
LISTEN: Anticipating Vancouver’s 4/20
The city has also outlined trash and cost concerns around the event; it estimated the bill for police, first responders, city crews and cleanup for last year’s 4/20 at $245,000.
But pot activists have vowed not to budge from the scenic seaside park.
Organizers maintain that the event is a protest, and has been breaking the city’s rules since its inception.
They have also questioned why events like 4/20 are handed a large bill for policing, while concerts, Canucks games and weekends on the Granville Strip are covered by general police budgets.
-With files from Janet Brown and Erin Ubels
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