Proposed Port of Vancouver expansion sparks rally to save Downtown Eastside's CRAB Park

Protest will feature Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president Phillip Stewart, MP Jenny Kwan

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      A multimillion-dollar port expansion will be the subject of a rally in CRAB Park at Portside on Saturday (June 11).

      The proposed expansion of the nearby Centerm terminal by the Port of Vancouver threatens to obscure the view that park visitors now enjoy.

      The neighbourhood isn’t taking the proposal lightly.

      “The residents here have been struggling for 30 years to create and preserve this park,” said Barb Daniels, president of the Four Sister's Housing Co-Operative, in a phone call to the Straight. “Now they are planning on blocking off the only [view] direction without heavy industry.”

      Daniels is referring to the five railway lines at the south end of the park, along with a helicopter pad and cruiseship terminal to the west, plus the dock on the east. Currently, the park enjoys a northern view across the Burrard Inlet, but that would be gone if the proposed expansion—which would require approximately three hectares of landfill—takes place.

      The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is a Crown corporation, over which neither the city nor the province wield any power. The only way the project could potentially be halted is if the Port agrees to honour the wishes of local residents or if the federal government steps in.

      The proposed Centerm expansion

      Jenny Kwan, NDP MP for Vancouver East, has spoken against the development and is slated to raise the issue in the House of Commons before speaking at the rally on Saturday. Joining Kwan in speaking will be the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs grand chief, Stewart Phillip, his wife, Joan Phillip, and Don Larson, president of the Crab-Water for Life Society.

      Larson, a Marpole resident, has been fighting for the preservation of Crab Park since agitating for its creation on July 29, 1987. After leaving UBC, Larson was “looking for a community” when he got on the board at the Carnegie Community Centre. He saw a cause he thought was worth fighting for.

      “The park is valuable to local residents because they don’t go to Stanley Park or Whistler or Hawaii. This is their spot.” said Larson said over the phone to the Straight about the project that he estimates will block 90 percent of the park's harbour and mountain views.

      Larson also notes the environmental concerns that may come with the terminal expansion. “There are going to be a lot more trucks and containers; I think it’ll become a 24-hour operation,” he said. “They should be removing hazardous goods from the waterfront. There’s no way of evacuating the Downtown Eastside if there was a serious incident with dangerous cargo.”

      “All the projects the Port seems to be doing are anti-environment,” Larson continued, noting the Port’s decision to allow tankers in the Fraser River. “One spill would be a wipeout of salmon, definitely for a few years, maybe forever. They do reclamation projects, but I’ve talked to people about them and people are disgusted.”

      A petition to save the park from the obstruction garnered more than 1,400 signatures in a short amount of time, but both Larson and Daniels, although hopeful, have their doubts that the park can be saved.

      “My concern is they’re just going to throw money at the community and buy them out,” Larson said.

      “It’s David and Goliath, but who won that one?” Daniels said with a laugh. “I’m hoping they realize how important it is to the people here.”

      The rally takes place at 1 p.m. on Saturday.