Vancouver is home to some of the most extraordinary parks and recreation facilities in the world. With the Olympics came the creation of the Hillcrest and Creekside community centres and new parks such as Hinge Park in Southeast False Creek. There is no doubt that these new facilities will be well used by Vancouverites.
However, we cannot forget the several parks and community centres overdue for renewal that cannot wait decades to be renovated, as is dictated by the capital plan. My passion for parks and recreation has inspired me to look at how we can fund the revitalization of these facilities without waiting for dollars from the capital plan.
New developments are popping up in most Vancouver neighbourhoods and many are met with controversy. Often neighbourhoods are reluctant to accept the change rezoning brings and are hesitant to support increased density.
The current Vision park board has not properly communicated to the general public the benefits of new development and what it can bring to the community overall. At public meetings hosted by the City of Vancouver, there is often no mention or consultation with neighbourhoods as to what amenities would be advantageous for residents in the area.
When a developer builds a mixed use or residential building, they also agree to pay the city a community amenity contribution. CACs benefit the area overall and can be a huge boost to neighbourhoods, creating new parks, community centres, and playing fields. CACs also help to provide new seniors’ centres, facilities for youth, and much needed daycare facilities. A good example of this is Arbutus Village, where the redevelopment of this area will create over $40 million in CACs. This development could indirectly help to build a new seniors’ centre and also help to fund and revitalize community centres such as Dunbar and Kerrisdale.
If elected as a park board commissioner, I will work closely with the community and city planning, along with park board planning staff, to see that CAC dollars are maximized for the community, while also being mindful that any new development meets the needs of the neighbourhood.
Over the past three years, the park board has lost much of its independence. The park board capital plan no longer stands alone and has been lumped into a general capital plan, not specific to parks and recreation, potentially allowing money that has been reserved for these facilities and services to be allocated to other city projects.
There is urgency for the renovation of several parks and recreation facilities. The Vancouver park board needs strong new leadership and to include Vancouver citizens in conversations about creative ways to fund and revitalize our aging infrastructure including community centres, playing fields, and heritage structures.
Melissa De Genova is a Non-Partisan Association candidate for the Vancouver park board.