NPA's Ian Robertson says attendance tripled at Bloedel Conservatory

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      The only NPA member of the Vancouver park board says he's going to do what he can to try to save the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park.

      In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Ian Robertson said that attendance at the facility  more than tripled  in December 2009  compared  to the same month a year ago.

      Robertson said an "extremely reliable source" told him that 8,213 people visited the Conservatory last month.  There were  2,571 visitors in December 2008.

      "There has been a significant increase in requests for private bookings as well," Robertson said. "It has not been given a chance."

      The Vision Vancouver-controlled park board voted 4-3 in November to shut down the Conservatory, which is home to tropical plants and  more than 100 species of birds.

      The board later voted to issue a request-for-proposals to invite a private operator to take over the facility.

      Robertson said he thinks the Conservatory should continue to be managed as a public facility along the lines of the VanDusen Garden. It is owned by the park board and a  not-for-profit group, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association, recruits volunteers and raises funds for capital projects.

      "To be honest, the [park]  board is very inexperienced and it did not dig deep enough to find solutions," Robertson said.

      He noted that a Vision Vancouver park commissioner would have to introduce a motion to rescind the earlier decision to close the Conservatory if a private operator isn't found.

      Robertson  added that a community group, Friends of the Bloedel, has come forward with some good ideas to maintain the Conservatory in public hands.

      "They're not what I call extremists," Robertson said, noting that one of the directors, John Coupar, has a great deal of business expertise, and that it has the support of well-known Vancouverites, such as florist Thomas Hobbs.

      Robertson pointed out that development of the Canada Line and construction work on the nearby Little Mountain reservoir over the past six years have had an impact on the number of people visiting Queen Elizabeth Park.

      Now that this work has been completed, he  thinks that the Conservatory will attract enough visitors  to sustain itself.

      "I've had more e-mails and calls on this--easily--than I received during the Stanley Park windstorm," Robertson said. "People have called from all parts of the city. This has really touched a nerve."

      Robertson rejected any suggestion that it would be necessary to close another civic facility  to keep the Conservatory open. "Queen Elizabeth Park is a more inviting place to go [to visit]," he said.

      There have been media reports that it will cost $2 million to fix the roof of the Conservatory, but Robertson  called this a "red herring".

      He said that the $2-million figure would be the cost of repairing the entire roof, whereas there may only be a  need to replace just a few panels. He added that there has never been an engineer's report assessing the need for any repairs.

      The Conservatory opened in 1969 as a result of a gift to the city from Prentice Bloedel. "This decision [to close the Conservatory] does not sent a strong message to anybody who wants to bequeath anything to the city"," Robertson said.

      Related article: Friends rally against Bloedel Conservatory closure




      Jan 3, 2010 at 2:25pm

      One might think that Bloedel Incorporated would be paying for its conservatory.

      davey g

      Jan 3, 2010 at 5:37pm

      i hope council changes it's tune n watches how attendance is during the OLYMPIC CURLING .
      Maybe the administration can figure out how to MARKETT it BETTER OR HIRE AN AD TEAM


      Jan 3, 2010 at 6:04pm

      Of course attendance is up.. People want to see it before it closes forever. City Hall needs new blood intent on a scorched earth policy. Bust that union and stop the crackhead pandering and sending taxpayers money to the poverty pimps.


      Jan 3, 2010 at 10:34pm

      Of course attendance is up.. People are now able to get to businesses, restaurants, and to attractions at Queen Elizabeth park much more easily now that the Cambie Street disaster zone created by Canada Line "cut and cover" has now been repaired. City Hall does not need "new blood intent on a scorched earth policy", whatever that means, and especially not where one of the city's jewels is concerned. Oblivious, I think your real name is Aaron Jasper. Or perhaps Sarah Blyth or Constance Barnes or Raj Hundal ... the Parks Board members who voted to shut down the conservatory. Remember those names in a couple of years when they come asking for your vote. And tell them to take a hike.

      Bill McCreery

      Jan 3, 2010 at 11:06pm

      Thank you to Mr. Robertson, as well as the Green & COPE Commissioners, for taking a stand on this important issue. Former Parks Commissioners from all parties except Vision, are unanimous in asking the current Council & Park Board to reconsider their ill-conceived decision to close the Bloedel & the Children's Farmyard. The increased attendance is simply bringing Bloedel back to its historic levels. The facility can again be a self sustaining important, attractive & meaningful pillar in Vancouver's outstanding parks & recreation system if it is properly marketed & managed. The opportunity remains for Vision to turn their self inflicted disasters into even better, more exciting & relevant facilities for Vancouver &, while they're at it, to save their own political necks.

      John Coupar

      Jan 4, 2010 at 4:49pm

      Great Job Ian Robertson
      Aaron Jasper's "Clever" motion to ask for partners after he voted to kill it is just the type of political flim flam we don't need.The people have spoken attendance is way up.Lets work together to save this legacy gift,a horticultural,architectural jewel at the pinacle of our city.This is why we pay taxes and have a Park Board to provide citizens with Parks and spaces to enjoy,Since when do we elect them to close Conservatory's Wake up Vision before its to late..


      Jan 8, 2010 at 12:55pm

      Poor desperate to champion "anything" and always getting scooped by Anton on Park Board issues. Only when the cameras were rolling did he feign concern about Bloedel. The NPA has neglected this attraction for years. At no time when Ian was the Chair of the Board did he push for a marketing plan to contend with the RAV line construction or to have the roof replacement put on the 2009-2011 Capital Plan. Talk about a lack of leadership!


      Jan 8, 2010 at 5:00pm

      @Fay: Ignore it perhaps they did but at least the NPA didn't vote to close it down. Vision has actually decided to kill it for peanuts in annual "savings" (especially now that attendance is on the upswing!)

      Also, the conservatory did get a lot of mechanical upgrades in the last decade or so and was never seen as being in imminent danger of collapse, as Aaron Jasper and his Vision-less cohorts would now have us believe. The fact is that the whole roof replacement "issue" is largely fabricated and at any rate it is not urgent nor is the whole thing needing to be done. It is no grounds for closure!

      If Vision are so great, why are we facing the loss of the Conservatory on Vision's watch? Why is no fed infrastructure money being thrown at the Bloedel? Did they even ask? Now THAT shows a serious lack of leadership. All they seem to be good at is blaming others.

      Sheryl Hamilton

      Jan 17, 2010 at 7:08am

      We are the Friends of the Bloedel Association, a non-profit society formed in response to the threatened closure of the Bloedel Conservatory. To join us, check our website at

      Commissioner Ian Robertson has been working with us since early December to try to save the Conservatory. He has consistently and effectively expressed his support for this cause. It is a pleasure to see a politician and park board commissioner who is informed, active, and committed to good stewardship of city assets.

      Please remember this when it comes to our next civic election.

      davey g

      Jan 21, 2010 at 11:36pm

      Why not have a free shuttle up to the dome during the curling event
      zzzz oh gee, it's too late