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Changes to Stanley Park bike lane, booze on beaches: ABC park board lays out priorities

Click to play video: 'ABC Vancouver outlines priorities for Vancouver Park Board'
ABC Vancouver outlines priorities for Vancouver Park Board
WATCH: Six of the seven Vancouver Park Board seats are now held by members of ABC Vancouver. The party vowed to abolish the Park Board, but backtracked on that promise in the summer. Christa Dao looks at ABC Vancouver's park priorities, starting with a polarizing issue in the city's crown jewel – Oct 17, 2022

Vancouver’s incoming park commissioners are laying out priorities for the next four years, after a contentious election that saw Ken Sim’s ABC party virtually sweep the city’s park board with a dominant majority.

After initially promising to eliminate the Vancouver Park Board, Sim reversed course this summer and nominated a slate of candidates that won six of seven seats on the board. Green Tom Digby now stands as the sole opposition commissioner on the elected body.

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One of ABC Vancouver’s first orders of business will be a major change to the controversial Stanley Park bike lane, commissioners told Global News, Monday.

Click to play video: 'Making access to Stanley Park a civic election issue'
Making access to Stanley Park a civic election issue

“At the end of the fall we’re going to remove the temporary bike lane and restore full car access to the park. But then we’re going to spend the winter to come up with an engineered solution to maintain access to both bikes and cars,” Commissioner-Elect Laura Christensen said.

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“We have people with mobility challenges that need access to the park, but we know that people and cyclists want that bike lane as well … Ideally as soon as we’re in power and we can get staff mobilized to remove those.”

Speaking on CKNW’s The Jill Bennett Show, Commissioner-Elect Scott Jensen said the lane removal will coincide with the arrival of winter weather, expected to result in fewer cyclists.

The plan would involve reopening vehicle access to Beach Avenue and a return to a “pre-pandemic Stanley Park configuration” over the winter.

Going forward, the board will look at “areas where we can provide a protected permanent bike lane so that cyclists who choose to use the interior bike route will be able to have areas where they will have that protection,” he said.

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“We talked a lot to cyclists, and the ongoing message that we heard was that cycling up the hill from the bottom portion of the the roadway up to Prospect Point was an area of concern where they felt that was necessary to have a divided protected lane,” he said.

He said whatever solution the board delivers will prioritize access to parking lots and the needs of businesses in the park.

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Christensen said the new plan would be developed using the Stanley Park Mobility Study conducted by the last board.

Click to play video: 'B.C. municipal election: Vancouver mayor-elect Ken Sim gives victory speech 4 years after defeat'
B.C. municipal election: Vancouver mayor-elect Ken Sim gives victory speech 4 years after defeat

The ABC board will also move quickly to initiate an audit of Vancouver’s park facilities, to identify those that need renewal and maintenance.

Christensen said the review would likely take a few months, but that the board would move to begin urgent maintenance work at facilities that need attention. Funding, she said, would come through consultation with the new ABC majority on city council.

The new park board will also move to make the city’s pilot project allowing alcohol in some parks permanent, and launch a new pilot looking at the city’s beaches.

“When the pilot project was introduced for the parks it was very focused as to its scope and that will be the same as we approach making this pilot project for our beaches,” Jensen said.

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“We want to make sure that we’re choosing the right locations where we can ensure that this pilot project can be successful — so we’re going to be working with our partners to find those those areas that this makes sense to have as a pilot project for safe, responsible consumption on our beaches.”

Christensen said she hoped the beach pilot program could be in place by summer 2023.

As for perhaps the most difficult issue to confront the city’s park board in recent years — homeless encampments in the city’s parks — Christensen said the new majority would take a measured approach.

“The B.C. Supreme Court has been very clear that people have the right to camp in parks when there is no housing available, and we have no plans to evict them at this time,” she said.

“However, in the meantime we’d like to increase maintenance and safety in the park, increasing cleanup, garbage pickup, things like that.

“And we’ll be working with our ABC majority on council to provide housing options in the future, so that’s housing options with wraparound services and support.”

Vancouver’s new park commissioners will be officially sworn in on Nov. 7.

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