City of Vancouver looks to revitalize West End beaches, but council and park board are in the dark

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City of Vancouver planning facelift for West End beaches
WATCH: The City of Vancouver is looking at a long term plan to revitalize West End beaches and parks. But as Tanya Beja reports, at least one Park Board commissioner says the redesign decisions are not the city's to make – May 12, 2019

A crisis of communication is unfolding within Vancouver’s government over the future of the West End’s beaches and parks.

The city released a request for expressions of interest (RFEOI) last week calling for vendors to sign on to a plan to revitalize the stretch of waterfront from Stanley Park to the Burrard Bridge, which includes English Bay and Sunset Beach.

The only problem is city councillors and park board commissioners say they hadn’t seen it until this weekend.

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“This looks like a big, big project with a lot of moving parts from what I read, and we were not aware of anything like this,” Vancouver Park Board commissioner John Coupar said. “It shouldn’t have come to us this way.”

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Coun. Pete Fry said he was also taken aback by the news and suspects the RFEOI is based on internal discussions that date back to 2016 before the new council was elected.

“We haven’t had the conversation as a new council at all so, certainly, there is a conversation to be had here,” Fry said.

The bid says up to five teams of contractors will be drawn from the expressions of interest to deliver proposals for a “master plan” that will identify key improvements to the waterfront, which also includes Morton Park and Alexandra Park.

A look at the area for which the city’s RFEOI is looking to develop a master plan.
A look at the area for which the city’s RFEOI is looking to develop a master plan. City of Vancouver

The report cites the 2013 West End Community Plan that estimates 18,000 residents will move into the West End neighbourhood by 2040.

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Add on a projected increase to the already booming crowds of tourists that flock the beaches every summer, and the bid makes clear more space and infrastructure is needed.

“A master plan is needed to rethink park uses, transportation functions and infrastructure of the West End waterfront,” the document says.

“From this, creativity in park and streetscape design can be employed to improve park features, infrastructure, vegetation, furnishing, lighting and hard and soft surfacing materials and any other park elements.”

Other improvements considered include improving pedestrian crossings and signage in the Denman and Davie villages and on cycling paths.

Coupar said the park board has discussed smaller projects, including revitalizing the Vancouver Aquatic Centre on Beach Avenue.

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But he said revitalizing the entire waterfront stretch has not been considered by the board, which has jurisdiction over the area.

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“It’s definitely a shift,” he said. “On a lot of levels, it’s concerning, and I hope my fellow commissioners feel the same way and join me in hitting pause.”

There’s nothing on the agendas for any upcoming park board meetings that looks at revitalizing the West End beaches.

Coupar said the change signalled by the elections in October should have brought proposals approved behind the scenes by city staff back to square one.

“We need to make sure projects are reflective of the priorities of the new park board and the new council,” he said.

Fry said the confusion over the RFEOI puts the new council at a disadvantage and hopes it’s brought forward for discussion in the near future.

“It puts us in an awkward position where we can’t defend it or talk about it,” he said. “We’re finding out about it like everyone else.”

Those future discussions could also include public consultation, the councillor said.

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“This is something that needs to be done,” Fry admitted. “But the right way to do it is to talk about it and engage the public. That’s how we do things.”

Global News has asked for comment from the City of Vancouver.

—With files from Tanya Beja

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