A study looking at reducing vehicle traffic through Stanley Park was back at the Vancouver Park Board Tuesday — a day after proceedings were derailed as commissioners heard from public speakers.
Tuesday’s meeting went smoothly, with the board hearing from all remaining speakers before voting 5-2 in favour of approving the initial findings of the study and staff’s recommendations on guidelines about how it should move forward.
The board was slated to receive a report on the Stanley Park Mobility Study on Monday, and vote on approving seven guiding principles for the next phase of the initiative. Staff would then come up with final recommendations for newly-elected park commissioners some time next year.
That didn’t happen.
Forty-four people had signed up to address the board amid tensions over the interim separated bike path on Stanley Park Drive, though speakers were advised repeatedly that Monday’s meeting was not about the merits of the lane, but about how to proceed with the mobility.
The meeting broke down when the third speaker accused board staff of being ideologically motivated in their report, and refused to relinquish the podium when board chair Camil Dumont cut him off.
After a break, the meeting was eventually adjourned when the speaker — saying he was being silenced — still wouldn’t give up the podium, while another person in the audience could be heard yelling, saying the board was a disgrace to the city.
In a statement Tuesday, Park Board general manager Donnie Rosa said that while passionate debate and dialogue are always welcome at committee meetings, maintaining a safe and welcoming environment was non-negotiable.
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“During the meeting, multiple members of the public yelled at the commissioners and staff in attendance, including swearing and pounding on the chamber doors. A speaker was heckled as they left the podium,” Rosa said.
“Commissioners and staff had to be escorted out of the building by park rangers, who stayed on until everyone had exited the building safely. Speakers ignored direction from the Chair, who had the duty and the authority to ensure the process was fair and safe for all involved. Much of this activity was not captured on the livestream.”
Rosa said anyone coming to the committee Tuesday should keep in mind it is a local government meeting, not a town hall or public rally, and that participants must follow the rules. Extra security and park rangers were slated to be on site Tuesday.
Non-Partisan Association Park Commissioner and mayoral candidate John Coupar posted to Twitter Tuesday that “to maintain order and ensure board business can be conducted respectfully and safely” only registered speakers would be allowed in the boardroom when it was their turn to speak.
Phillip Rankin, the speaker who locked horns with Dumont, told Global News he stands by his comments.
“They’d pre-determined the outcome. They want to cut cars before the study is done. They’ve closed the park to cars for the last two years,” he said.
“As soon as I said the staff is ideological, which is true, they had a freak out and said I had threatened them in some way. Well that isn’t a threat.”
The park is not, in fact, closed to cars, but has seen vehicle traffic on Stanley Park Drive cut from two lanes down to one to accommodate the separated bike path.
Opponents of the bike lane say it has led to congestion both inside the park and on Georgia Street, that it has reduced the ability of seniors and people with mobility issues to access the park, and that it has hurt the bottom line of businesses operating in the park.
Supporters of the lane say that it has increased accessibility to the park for families and less experienced cyclists and that is is an important step in tackling the city’s climate change goals.
Commissioners voted last fall to keep it in place until the results of the mobility study are considered next year by the new board, which will be elected on October 15.