NPA Park Board Commissioner John Coupar calls on Vancouver City Council to support additional funds in the 2019 Budget for the care and maintenance of Vancouver Parks

Recommendations contained in a recent Park Board staff memo call for an additional $610,000 in funding from Vancouver City Council to enable service improvements to Vancouver parks, with a focus on horticulture, cleanliness and safety, to address increased public complaints around park cleanliness and safety and the significant impacts of “homelessness and public realm disorder.”

December 10, 2018, Vancouver, B.C. – Vancouver Park Board Commissioners have unanimously supported a budget amendment motion to seek an additional $610,000 from Vancouver City Council to enable service improvements to Vancouver parks, with a focus on horticulture, cleanliness and safety, as part of the Board’s 2019 Operating and Capital budgets. The amendment motion, which is supplementary to the 2019 Park Board Budget, was moved by 3-term NPA Park Board Commissioner John Coupar at tonight’s Special Park Board meeting based on staff recommendations (see Park Board staff memo dated December 7, 2018).

The Park Board staff memo responds directly to a unanimously-supported motion Commissioner Coupar brought forward at the December 3, 2018 Park Board meeting (“Horticultural Standards in Vancouver Parks”). Commissioner Coupar’s December 3, 2018 motion called on Vancouver City Council to authorize additional funding for the Park Board – on a priority basis for the 2019 Operating Budget – to enable “increased care and maintenance in our cherished parks and gardens at all Vancouver parks impacted by the significant challenges of 10 years of declining standards, as well as additional funding to maintain the cleanliness and safety of impacted Vancouver parks on an ongoing basis.”

“It’s time to put the ‘park’ back in Park Board,” said Commissioner Coupar, who is well-known for helping save the Bloedel Conservatory and for his passionate advocacy for horticultural excellence in Vancouver parks. “Park maintenance standards have slipped over the past decade due to insufficient funding from the City. I’m very happy to see how quickly staff have responded to my motion and the Board’s unanimous direction. The funding recommendation they’ve brought forward is very reasonable and will lead to immediate improvements in our parks if Council agrees.”

As noted in the memo, the recommendation for an additional funding investment of $610,000, on a permanent basis, is based on “an initial high-level review of existing operations” by Park Board staff to support the delivery of improved horticultural service standards in 2019. It would provide $340,000 for staffing costs and $270,000 for materials, fleet and equipment costs.

The staff memo states that Park Operations have only seen an annual average operating budget increase of 1.3% over the past five years; while over the same 5-year time period the Operations division has been “significantly impacted by the emerging issues of homelessness and public realm disorder” as well as increased public complaints over park cleanliness and safety. As a result, the Park Operations division has had to adjust its operations “to divert funding intended for horticulture to the provision of other more basic services such as paper picking.” The memo also states that “highly skilled labour” is being called upon to address these cleanliness and safety issues, resulting in “a noted decrease in acceptable horticultural service standards.”

Please see below for references to a previous park safety and cleanliness motion brought forward by Commissioner Coupar in 2017.

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Additional References:

  • In October 2017, Commissioner Coupar brought forward a motion calling on the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation to formally request additional funding from Vancouver City Council – on a priority basis for the 2018 Operating Budget – to enable 24-hour-a-day Park Ranger patrols at all Vancouver parks impacted by the significant challenges of drug use and litter, as well as additional funding to maintain the cleanliness and safety of impacted Vancouver parks on an ongoing basis; along with direction to staff to continue to liaise with their City of Vancouver staff counterparts to explore ways in which the Park Board can assist in efforts to locate appropriate housing and support for those struggling with mental health and addiction challenges.
  • In November 2017, Park Board staff reported back to Park Board Commissioners and noted that “the increase of discarded drug paraphernalia and encampments in parks has required both additional and redirected resources to maintain reasonable service levels.” Staff recommended a comprehensive review of the various temporary initiatives implemented the previous summer, in alignment with the overall Parks Security Plan, to determine the most effective and sustainable Park Ranger service model moving forward. This review would also seek to identify how best to address the related maintenance and cleanliness concerns, through collaboration with community partners and other city departments, to ensure that Vancouver parks are safe and accessible spaces for all.

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