First and foremost, a top priority for the new Board will be to make peace with the Community Centre Associations (CCAs).
Making progress on the oft-promised Killarney Seniors Centre is another priority that the new Park Board should get on track soon (as $7.5 million of the funding is in place).
The renewal of the Marpole Community Centre might actually move forward. Mount Pleasant might see a new outdoor pool to replace the one that was demolished in 2010. Dog lovers will likely see the large off-leash area preserved in the Trout Lake Master Plan (a plan that was put in limbo until 2015). There are a number of substandard sporting fields in several parks that are in significant maintenance and upgrades (to bring the fields back into form). There’s also now a tender to install free public Wi-fi in many of the Community Centres (bids are due by January 30, 2015). From cleaner parks and streets to increasing street tree plantings, Park Board will have a lot of work ahead.
Commissioner John Coupar promised to speed up progress on webcasting Park Board meetings; this should substantially help with public access. The first regular meeting of Park Board is set for Monday, January 19, 2015, as the first of 20 meetings scheduled for 2015. While the first meeting is set to take place at Park Board Headquarters (at 1099 Beach Avenue), Commissioner John Coupar has committed to hold at least a quarter of all of the meetings in communities across Vancouver (perhaps may include Killarney, Marpole, Mt. Pleasant, Renfrew, Britannia, Dunbar).
The first phase of the renewal of the Britannia Community Centre is in the new 4-year Capital Plan. There’s also the intention to create a new large park on the Fraser River around Cambie Street. The previous Park Board left the issue of a cetacean breeding ban unresolved, although City Hall did approved the expansion plan for the Vancouver Aquarium. Plans for a third skateboard park in Mount Pleasant were started but not finished. Progress need to be made with the design of Sunset Park (at 51st and Prince Edward) and with completing the small park at Yukon and 17th.
There’s also a fair chance for the Park Board to hold more respectful meetings (that is without animosity between Commissioners and with some members of the public; we do have recorded, but unpublished video footage). The Green Party representatives have indicated that they will second Catherine Evans’ motions (Evans is the lone Vision Vancouver Commissioner), and hence all Park Board members will be able bring forward new items of business. An open question is whether City Hall will try to undermine the independence of the Park Board (and possible cut the budget). On December 17, 2014, City Hall announced: Vancouver to host the first-ever Americas Masters Games in 2016, in what appears to be a deliberate snub of Park Board.
There is finally the issue of how Park Board spends the taxes that are allocated to it by City Hall. The 2015-2018 Capital Budget included improvements to buildings at the PNE which would be allocated from the Park Board budget. It’s worth noting that City Council has essentially said that Hastings Park is not under Park Board jurisdiction. Some of the money that would be allocated to items such as the Marpole Community Centre would come out of an “emerging priorities” pool in the Capital Budget. There of course is the possibility that Park Board ends up with very little of the “emerging priorities” budget; it’s not defined.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Park Board will be to deal with City Hall. If the City provides the Park Board with same share of the budget as it currently does, and it respects the autonomy of the Board, then perhaps the relationship between the two bodies can be made to work. The first big test might be with the resolution of updated operating agreements with the Community Centre Associations. Stay tuned!