Park commissioner Aaron Jasper called it “odd” that West End community organizers in his old organization didn’t “pick up the phone” prior to launching a petition to get a long-awaited washroom in Nelson Park.
“A petition suggests that the board is not taking this seriously,” Jasper, Vision park-board vice-chair and former director with the West End Residents Association, told the Straight by phone. “We are absolutely taking this seriously.”
Jasper said he can’t “give any guarantees” that the self-cleaning washroom will be operational in the fall, but added: “Staff have relayed to me that they seem to be making headway with the plumbing, they’re making some progress, but there’s still some way to go, but that fall is a realistic target.”
Over the weekend, WERA president Christine Ackermann tweeted about the need for a washroom at the downtown park, which was redesigned in 2007, located close to St. Paul’s Hospital. To raise awareness, WERA rented a porta-potty for the weekend, which covered the West End Farmers Market that happens every Saturday, adjacent to the park on Comox Street.
“We ordered it [the porta-potty] on Tuesday, and it was delivered on Friday, and it sat there until Monday [August 20],” Ackermann said. “And it was used by everyone. The vendors in particular, at the farmer’s market were very pleased they had a washroom to use. We’ve got about 500 signatures on it [the petition] in total, but I just spent an hour walking around the farmers market and in the park, talking to residents, and got 100 signatures in one hour. People want it.”
Park commissioner Sarah Blyth told the Straight, “People want the bathroom as soon as possible, and that’s all of us. It’s just a matter of making it so it works and it works for a long time.”
Jasper said he knows the issue well. In 2007, in his WERA days, he “pleaded” with the Non-Partisan Association–dominated board not to remove the field house, because it had a washroom already. He added that the new, wheelchair-accessible washroom will comply with new city engineering regulations requiring a separation of sewer from storm drainage.
The commissioner said the cost of the new facility is around $200,000, but is part of an existing street-furniture contract the City of Vancouver has with private company JCDecaux. Jasper said park board staff told him the cost of a stand-alone, small-scale washroom built from scratch would be between $400,000 and $600,000.
“Here, we’re just paying for the installation.”