Riverfront Ruckus: River District residents want action on park. Open House May 4.

(Updated June 10, 2016) This story was received from concerned citizen Rob Howatson, who says that an open house on May 4 (Wednesday) at the River District Centre may be the last chance residents have to protect their only large grass field and force the City to honour its River District promises. New article in Vancouver Courier provides further detail: “Fraserlands residents concerned about possible loss of popular field,” by Naoibh O’Connor (April 25, 2016). CBC coverage of open house (see report at 13 minute mark of 11 pm May 5 news broadcast (http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2688150038). See also Vancouver Sun “When is a park not a park? City of Vancouver and residents face off” (Matt Robinson, 13-May-2016). Listen to the interview on Roundhouse Radio 10-May-2016.

Deadline for public comments to kirsten.robinson@vancouver.ca was May 11. This decision has been sent to a Public Hearing to be held on June 21 (Tuesday).

The local group has created a website with petition and links: www.saveourpark.ca.

 

River District daycare poster, April 2016West Fraserlands residents were baffled when red metal posts suddenly appeared in the middle of their playing field a couple months ago.

Gradually an explanation from the city began to circulate through the neighbourhood via word of mouth.

The city is conducting soil testing because they want to put a daycare at one end of the area’s only large grass field.

Residents are angry, because they have patiently endured years of construction in the nearby River District (East Fraserlands) with the understanding that much needed amenities, including four daycares, are going to be built there.

Locals were also shocked to learn that the eastern portion of their field is not zoned for a park, but rather for a school that was supposed to have been built back in 1989 but never materialized and never will be built now that the River District has also promised one of those.

(See Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon’s excellent blog postWhen is a Park Not a Park? [CityHallWatch adds a few excerpts from his post, further below])

In the fall, the city held an open house regarding changes to the River District’s Official Development Plan. The invites mentioned a proposal to change a daycare site, but no mention was made of locating it in the West Fraserlands.

As a result, few, if any, West Fraserlanders attended the event.

The most disturbing part of this farce, aside from the fact that the City wants to remove a chunk of greenspace from the neighbourhood on the eve of inviting 16,000 new residents into the area, is that city planners are truly struggling to find a daycare site on the River District’s 130-acre parcel, which they have been master-planning for years.

River District slender pocket park, steep incline, asphalt bike path, compressed

Slender pocket park with steep incline, asphalt bike path, in River District

The site’s developer, Wesgroup, maintains that it is not hindering the City, and its executives cannot yet tell their condo buyers that a daycare is imminent in their new, award-winning, model community. Updated: Phase one of the development is almost complete, yet the only permanent amenities provided so far are a slender pocket park on a steep incline and an asphalt bike path.

[See bottom for comment from Wesgroup about current status/future plans.]

City project planner Kirsten Robinson explained in an informal meeting with a few residents that one of the potential River District daycare sites they were considering is adjacent to busy Marine Drive and there are concerns about the kids inhaling exhaust fumes. Also, that site was on a hillside where it is more expensive to build.

One has to wonder, if the City cannot find a place to put a daycare in the sprawling River District, how are they going to manage when it comes time to address child care in the “smaller” densification projects that are looming in Vancouver? (Oakridge, Pearson-Dogwood, Jericho lands, etc.)

On May 4, the City will host a second open house to address the daycare-along-the-river issue.

This time they worded the invitations correctly.

The meeting, to be held from 5 pm to 8 pm at the River District Centre, may be the last chance residents have to protect their only large grass field and force the City to honour its River District promises.

**************
Excerpts from Park Board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon’s blog post (April 7, 2016), When is a park…not a park?
http://betterparks.blogspot.ca/2016/04/when-is-parknot-park.html.

There is a lot of concern in the Fraserlands neighbourhood [an area of Killarney that runs along the Fraser river from the foot of Victoria drive to Boundary road] about a casual playing field attached to Riverfront Park. … Some would call it the heart of the neighbourhood.

… But this might just come to an end because this field…is not a park.

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has exclusive jurisdiction over parkland in Vancouver. But because this field is not parkland, but city owned land, the Park Board has no control over what happens here. Many would think this strange, as the Park Board maintains this field, programs this field, and in every way looks after it. Strange that a field that appears to be part of Riverfront Park is not. And stranger that the city seems to have plans for this field and has not consulted with the community. At all.

…. It is hard to believe that in the huge new development of the River District, the city cannot find space for a day care facility. It is mind blowing that city planners did not think of this in all the years that this area was under consideration. The official development plan from 2006 envisioned a daycare facility in the new ‘town centre’ which is currently under construction, but the planner spoken to said it was too close to a main arterial road: Marine Drive.

It would seem that there is plenty of space in the new development that could be used for this necessary amenity without taking another valuable amenity in another neighbourhood away.

So far none of this information has been readily available. Residents have had to investigate for themselves. The whole process seems to be shrouded in secrecy. Why has the city not told residents about the proposed changes?  Day care is vitally important, but so is recreation. So is consultation. There must be a way of resolving this conflict.

But first there needs to be dialogue with the community.

***************

Input from Wesgroup Properties (Brad Jones, MCIP, RPP, Director of Development), 25-April-2016:

Phase 1 is not complete. There are still parcels yet to be built on, including affordable housing sites (to be completed by the City).

The CityHallWatch article also notes that the ODP envisions a daycare in the new town centre but that daycare is being moved as it is too close to Marine Way. The ODP actually identifies 5 childcare locations. The one being relocated was envisioned to be within Area 2 (the west portion of the site), along Pierview Cres.

Image from River District ODP

 

One thought on “Riverfront Ruckus: River District residents want action on park. Open House May 4.

  1. This is the last waterfront in Vancouver with a NATURAL green space of approximately 4 acres. This open natural green space with the River is the last in Vancouver, has served & continues to serve the community as a park for 20 years and MUST be preserved. Wildlife continues to be displaced and their habitats demolished with no place for them to go so they end up dead. This is a tragedy what the City of Vancouver is allowing and doing. This park is a side bench garden for too many people living in concrete jungles. When will this insanity stop. It makes no sense to build on natural green space and then create a man-made green space which in no way compensates or fundamentally functions to preserve wildlife & protect environment factors that natural green space does.

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