A Hastings Park advocate is planning a breakaway grassroots governance structure for the East Vancouver park after he walked out of a February 8 stakeholder meeting about the future of the property.
“It will entail sitting down with all the community groups and coming up with a strategy for how we’re going to govern this park,” Hastings Park Conservancy president Randy Chatterjee explained to the Georgia Straight by phone.
Chatterjee said that at the meeting—between the city planning department and an association of about 15 community and business groups collectively known as the Key Stakeholders Group—the city would not talk about advocates’ most pressing priorities for the park and would not discuss governance of the park. “The City [of Vancouver] won’t let us talk about it. They refuse to let us talk about it. So we have to talk about it amongst ourselves. It’s public property; we own it. How do we get it back?” He said several other groups’ representatives walked out as well.
Chatterjee said that it was the first opportunity the conservancy has had to voice its many concerns in a meeting over the Hastings Park/PNE Master Plan approved by council last December.
“It’s a plan we never had any interest in,” Chatterjee said, adding that he believes the process has been a “sellout”. He said the plan has been in the works for years and community consultation was ignored. “It [the master plan] basically took council direction from 2004 and threw it all away. KSG had lots of input, but none of it was used.”
The Pacific Coliseum in Hastings Park is the site of Olympic figure skating and short-track speed skating.
Patricia Barnes, president of the Hastings North Business Improvement Association, said she sat through the same meeting at the Hastings Community Centre and will now canvass her membership before deciding whether or not to follow Chatterjee’s lead and withdraw from the key-stakeholder group process.
“We have not officially withdrawn,” Barnes told the Straight by phone. “We need to have a board meeting so I can discuss with the board what the board wants to do.”
Chatterjee said that the PNE, a charity registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, “has taken over the park, wholly and completely, with not even any control from the city itself. City staff are governing the park through the PNE, not city council.” He added that the PNE didn’t govern Hastings Park “legally, but de facto”.
Vision councillor Raymond Louie chairs the PNE board, whose overall structure his caucus created. He did not return a call by Straight deadline.
Lone NPA city councillor Suzanne Anton said her party “has always supported Hastings Park” but felt that the PNE has an “undefined role”.
“It used to be an agricultural fair, and you used to go out and you’d see people showing their big squashes and their raspberry jams, and the suckling pigs,” Anton said by phone. “Now you go out and you see people showing chamois for your car and the latest cutting devices for vegetables. It’s becoming more of a marketplace and a fun fair. What is the fundamental purpose of the organization?”
Chatterjee added that the Hastings Park Conservancy will try and meet this month sometime to discuss governance.