Hastings Park may be one of the noisiest, most dilapidated pieces of parkland in Vancouver, and a city plan to develop and beautify the area isn’t passing the smell test from local residents either.
It is “all about commercialization,” said local resident and Hastings Park Conservancy member, Pat Miller.
The park boasts less than 20 acres of public green space, which is squeezed between a seasonal theme park, Hastings and Renfrew streets and a livestock barn.
The City of Vancouver is finalizing its plan to redevelop the 162-acre park. Critics like Miller claim the plan appears to uphold a tradition of sacrificing green space to business interests at Hastings.
Supporters like City project manager Dave Hutch say it’s an appropriate balance of competing interests.
The plan delivers significant additional park space as well as necessary enhancements to facilities, said Hutch.
The $200 million, 20-year plan would:
- Expand Playland to 24 acres from 14, a 70-per-cent increase in size.
- Develop a 700-2,000 car parkade.
- Upgrade key buildings.
- Construct a new community centre and a multi-purpose building.
- Uncover Renfrew Creek, which is currently diverted under the park through an underground culvert.
- Develop 25 to 35 new acres of green space.
Residents hit the pavement
Two-dozen community residents lined Hastings Street at a recent protest Oct. 23, waving signs and banners. A group of four held a series of signs that collectively read, “We need a park plan not a business plan.” Cars and trucks honked their horns in support as they drove past.
Georgina Nicholson belongs to a group called Friends of Hastings Park. The organization has been rallying for months, hoping to influence the city’s final plans.
“What we want in here are things that are for the community,” she said.
Nicholson said Stanley and Queen Elizabeth parks are examples of multi-use recreation areas that appropriately balance natural and commercial interests.
The Friends of Hastings Park hope a public meeting on Nov. 17 will help influence last minute changes to the plan. The city expects to finalize the plan by December.
Concerts, sporting events, an annual fair and other events draw millions of paying guests to Hastings Park every year.
The city-owned Pacific National Exhibition manages the park and its revenue. In 2009, the PNE registered $153,267 in revenue, roughly half of what it took in 2008.
Hutch said city council has determined financial investment must be made to ensure Hastings Park has an economically sustainable future.
“The nature of these kinds of facilities is that they do need… reinvestment and renewal over time to maintain levels of attendance and attraction,” he said.
The largest public green space in Hastings Park is the Sanctuary, a 10-acre refuge of water, trees and trails.
The Sanctuary was reclaimed from blacktop pavement in 1999. Avian enthusiasts have since spotted more than 120 species of birds around the pond.
Miller said it is important for people to have the ability to come to a beautiful place like the Sanctuary.
“I think it provides some solace and some sense of quiet and connection to place,” she said.
Miller remarked that plans to develop a plaza close to the Sanctuary threaten to interfere with bird habitat.
Hutch said the plan reflects a “high level of community input.” He said the city began talking to citizens as early as 2004 through open houses, questionnaires, and consultations.
The city also created an advisory group called the Key Stakeholders, who were encouraged to provide input. Not all participants believed the consultations were adequate.
“We really feel that the community had no meaningful input,” said Nicholson, who participated as a stakeholder.
“The whole consultation process has been very bad,” said Miller. “It’s kind of a sham.”