$870K and counting: Break-in, vandalism delay Oppenheimer Park reopening plans

Click to play video: 'Oppenheimer Park restoration costs estimated at $450,000'
Oppenheimer Park restoration costs estimated at $450,000
After spending 18 months as a homeless encampment entrenched with drugs and crime, Vancouver's Oppenheimer Park is almost ready to reopen after a nearly half million dollar restoration - and as Kristen Robinson reports, there are concerns inaction on the city's current tent city will cost taxpayers even more – Sep 27, 2020

Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park will remain closed indefinitely after a break-in at its fieldhouse two weeks ago.

The Vancouver Park Board said that the “unfortunate act of vandalism” damaged the building which houses four bathrooms, a kitchen, programming area, office, mechanical room and several storage rooms, and has further delayed reopening plans for the park.

“There is no current revised timeline for when the park can safely reopen,” the board told Global News in an emailed statement.

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Staff are assessing the damage and planning for the necessary repairs.

Oppenheimer Park was set to undergo a “phased reopening” this fall after an extensive and costly cleanup to erase any trace of its 18-month stint as a homeless camp.

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Click to play video: 'Tent city encampment at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park finally cleared'
Tent city encampment at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park finally cleared

The Downtown Eastside park has been fenced off since May, after the province took control and moved campers to housing as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By the end of September, the City of Vancouver estimated it had spent $450,000 on restoration at the site, including temporary fencing, grading and fixing grass areas, arboricultural work, playground repairs and rehabilitating historical and cultural elements.

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At the same time, the Vancouver Park Board predicted it would cost $420,000 to repair and restore the fieldhouse after the water damage, sewage overflow, rodent infestation, and vandalism it was subject to during its time in the tent city.

The estimated $870,000 price tag for Oppenheimer Park restoration and repairs does not include the costs incurred by the city to service the encampment between October 2018 and May 2020.

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Read more: Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park faces long remediation before returning to public use

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That final bill, which includes the costs of policing and firefighting resources, is expected to be in the millions of dollars.

Meantime, Strathcona residents including Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry, have told Global News they expect taxpayers will be on the hook for a similar if not larger bill to restore Strathcona Park, which has been home to a nearly 400-tent encampment since mid-June.

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