Vancouver community activist Don Larson decries loss of washrooms in CRAB Park

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      The City of Vancouver’s website says that there are washrooms at CRAB Park at Portside, which also has playgrounds and an off-leash area for dogs.

      The park also has a memorial boulder to commemorate missing and murdered women from the Downtown Eastside.

      But if anyone in the area needs to go to the bathroom, they’ll be in for a shock. That’s because the washroom facilities are behind fencing in the DTES park overlooking Burrard Inlet.

      This upsets Don Larson, president of the CRAB-Water for Life Society, whose community activism played a pivotal role in the creation of the 3.31-hectare green space in 1987.

      Larson told the Straight by phone that the washrooms have been out of service for more than a month as a result of the park fieldhouse being boarded up. It used to be home to a caretaker.

      “There are no nearby places to go to the washroom when you go down to CRAB Park,” Larson said. “The nearest would be Main and Hastings—or if you dare to go to Oppenheimer Park, and I don’t.”

      He called this situation “unacceptable” and questioned whether the Vancouver park board is in compliance with health regulations.

      CRAB Park has a memorial to missing and murdered women.
      Stephen Hui

      The park board’s media relations department told the Straight that staff are “exploring options around a washroom facility in CRAB Park”. No timeline was offered for when this situation would be addressed.

      Coalition of Progressive Electors park commissioner John Irwin has demonstrated a keen interest in CRAB Park since being elected last year.

      “Even though it’s winter, if you’re over there walking your dog and you have to go to the bathroom, you literally have to go all the way back to Carnegie or somewhere in Gastown or the Downtown Eastside to relieve yourself,” Irwin told the Straight in an interview near his home in Fairview. “Of course, some people aren’t going to do that. That also is not ideal.”

      Irwin said that he asked staff during recent discussions about the budget whether there was any money available to repair the fieldhouse. Irwin also said that he’s raised this issue with the board’s director of planning and park development, Dave Hutch. In the meantime, the board hasn’t put temporary toilets in the park.

      “Apparently, we’re having trouble getting contractors to service porta-potties in the Downtown Eastside,” Irwin said. “I share Don’s concerns in the sense that the park is a long way away from many things.”

      In the past, CRAB Park has been the site of the Ce Soir Noir picnic, which was created in response to the upscale, invitation-only Dîner en Blanc event.
      Amanda Siebert

      Larson said the fieldhouse is in such a state of disrepair that it makes the park less appealing to visitors. He claimed that the support beams and gutters are “literally falling”, which is why the fencing was installed.

      “The building is filthy, you know,” Larson stated. “It’s not even been powerwashed, so there’s negligence on the part of the park board. The point is: can the building be saved?”

      If not, he suggested, it’s time for a new building to be constructed.

      “Somebody has to go in with some knowledge and properly evaluate the building from the inside,” Larson said.

      That’s not his only concern. Larson also claimed that the park board is not taking proper care of a marsh that’s the only source of freshwater for birds in the area.

      He’s also frustrated that the park board has not replaced a decommissioned sculpture in the park with a totem pole to honour the area’s Indigenous history. “The answer from the park board is ‘We don’t do memorials; we don’t pay for memorials,’ ” Larson claimed. “Meanwhile, they put up all these totem poles for tourists in Stanley Park.”

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