Although Vancouver vehicles have been banned from one of the world's best parks for the past few months, they’ll be permitted to return once again—albeit in a modified arrangement.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vancouver park board (VPB) closed vehicle traffic access to Stanley Park on April 8 in order to reduce the number of visitors and to provide outdoor space for residents while ensuring physical distancing could be practised. Despite the closure of parking lots to reduce the number of visitors, continued visitation by vehicles and illegal parking prompted the restriction of vehicle traffic.
Although cyclists and pedestrians, as well as climate activists, have been enjoying the change, numerous businesses, attractions, and organizations—including Stanley Park Brewing, Ocean Wise, and Tourism Vancouver—raised concerns about the lack of access impacting attendance levels.
The park board announced today (June 19) that it has passed motion to temporarily allow partial vehicle access to Stanley Park to support individuals, park partners, and businesses in the area.
The decision was announced in the wake of a 5-2 vote after an emergency meeting was held on June 18 that continued past midnight.
Under the new plan, the left lane of Park Drive will reopen for vehicles while the right-hand lane will remain reserved for cyclists. Cones, traffic delineators, and signage will be used to demarcate the lanes.
The cycling lane will help to enable the continuation of physical distancing among people in the park. Cyclists will remain on the roadways rather than the seawall, which will be reserved for pedestrians.
The park board has directed staff to implement this plan as soon as possible, and the reopening is expected to take place early next week, as the province is anticipated to begin moving into Phase 3 of its reopening plan.
According to the VPB, the plan is expected to remain in place during the summer, although it may be adapted to any further changes in the pandemic.
“We need to return vehicle traffic to the park and I think this plan delivers an appropriate balance of the accessibility needs of businesses and individuals, while placing a priority on health and safety,” Vancouver park board chair Camil Dumont stated in a news release. “I want to remind people that this plan is flexible and will evolve based on feedback from our users and partners, as well as further consultation.”
However, not everyone is happy with the decision.
The Teahouse in Stanley Park owner Brent Davies had previously expressed his concerns about the economic impact of vehicle restriction upon his business in a news release issued on June 12. Today, he stated in a news release that the partial reopening is not enough for his restaurant, which will reopen on June 25.
"While we are looking forward to bringing back our staff welcoming guests to our dining room once again, we are very worried about the future of the restaurant," he explained. "The Teahouse employs 100 people and our team depends on park visitors for their livelihoods. After a devastating economic period so far this year, the restaurant won't be able to recover without sufficient roadway access and visitor parking for our guests."
The park board has been progressively reopening spaces that were closed during the onset of the pandemic, such as golf courses and pitch and putt, tennis courts, skate parks, basketball and volleyball courts, disc golf, playgrounds, and parking lots.
Meanwhile, in other park news in the Lower Mainland area, B.C. Parks announced on June 18 that Peace Arch Park, where people were holding reunions with loved ones from across the Canada-U.S. border, has been temporarily closed because of high visitation levels.