Metro Vancouver is determined to open a portion of the Belcarra Regional Park for public use.
To do this, the regional government has to remove residential tenants occupying six of seven cottages in the area known as Belcarra South.
According to staff, that may start as early as this summer.
Located south of the existing picnic area, the site is on the eastern shoreline of the Indian Arm.
With Belcarra South converted for park use, Metro Vancouver will be able to open the beach area to the public.
The cabins are tenanted through an arrangement between the regional government and the Belcarra South Preservation Society.
According to Steve Schaffrick, a division manager for regional parks with Metro Vancouver, the tenants are staying on a “holdover” basis.
“The actual lease with the society expired a number of years back,” Schaffrick told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview Wednesday (March 13).
On that same day, the district’s regional parks committee approved Schaffrick’s recommendation to convert one of the cottages into a landscape display.
The recommendation was in line with a November 2017 decision by the Metro Vancouver board to change the use of Belcarra South from residential to non-residential public use.
The 2017 resolution directed staff to examine options for Cabin 1, also known as the Mayo Point Lodge. Cabin 1 was the subject of Schaffrick’s report.
The same resolution called for the retention of Cabins 2 to 7 as well as the so-called Bole House as heritage properties. The Bole House is named after a judge whose family lived in the area.
Except for the Bole House and Cabin 4, the six other structures have tenants. A tree fell into Cabin 4 many years ago.
When sought by the Straight for comment, the Belcarra South Preservation Society declined to go on record at this time.
With Schaffrick on the line for the interview was Mike Redpath, director of regional parks with Metro Vancouver.
“Metro Vancouver decided to change the use for that area of the park from private use that it is now, from residential to public use, to turn it back into park land, open up the beaches and open up this section of the park,” Redpath told the Straight.
Redpath indicated that an arbitrator with the Residential Tenancy Branch has issued a ruling imposing certain requirements before Metro Vancouver can remove the tenants.
Redpath said that the regional government may seek a judicial review of the arbitrator’s ruling.
Asked about the regional government’s timeline for its plan for Belcarra South, Redpath said: “We’ve been working for many years trying to convert it back to public use. But it has been taking some time, so as soon as possible”
“We’d like for the summer of July 2019 to be able to commence this work,” Redpath added.
Redpath said that the regional parks committee’s approval of the recommendation to turn Cabin 1 into a static display will be forwarded to and taken up by the board of Metro Vancouver on March 29.
Denise Cook Design prepared in 2017 a heritage study for Metro Vancouver regarding the seven Belcarra South cabins.
According to the study, the seven structures represent a “cultural tradition of leisure common to urban middle-class families”.
“They line the Belcarra Regional Park waterfront and were constructed at different times, beginning in the early twentieth century and continuing through the late 1930s,” according to the report. “Today, they are an increasingly rare example of the numerous holiday cottages that once lined the shores of Burrard Inlet.”