A group of Hastings-Sunrise residents contend their concerns were left out of the planning process for Hastings Park from the start, and now they're taking their grievances to city hall.
Called the Friends of Hastings Park (FOHP), the group has long opposed any encroachment of the gated Playland or Pacific National Exhibition grounds into the location's public parkland area.
Now that a new plan for the area they're dissatisfied with is moving forward, they've launched a petition urging council to take control of the full 154-acre park away from the PNE board—of which seven of the 11 members are appointed by the city—and have it rest with the elected Vancouver park board instead. The group currently has more than 100 signatures, and hope to acquire "a couple thousand" before presenting the petition at the end of June.
The final open house for what's been termed the Hastings Park Master Plan is Saturday, June 16. After it concludes, the city will start implementing the changes, which are expected to cost between $200 and $300 million.
The master plan involves enlarging the Playland grounds by 57 per cent. The plan also includes more green space—most of which is gated and only accessible to ticket-holders during the annual PNE.
According to project manager Dave Hutch, the increased Playland footprint is needed so that revenues from the attraction can make up for the higher cost of maintaining more park space. "Expansion of revenue-generating opportunities is needed to manage these costs," wrote Hutch in an email.
But Gale Tyler of Friends of Hastings Park thinks that a model in which Playland is expected to pick up the losses from running a public park is misguided. "We need to have park board control over a much larger area of that site," said Tyler. "We need to get park board money."
Tyler lives just blocks from Hastings Park, and says she'd prefer more free amenities and bookable community space over the "visual clutter" of Playland and the Hastings Racecourse.
Saturday's open house will focus on plans for community sports fields at Empire Field, an idea the FOHP supports. But the group prefers the plans for "greenway" bicycle paths go through the park's green spaces instead of circling the park's perimeter, adjacent to roads.
Tyler and FOHP pushed for more community-focused amenities on the site during the consultation process that led up to the adoption of the Master Plan in 2010. According to Hutch, "[Public] input has been used extensively to shape the design concepts for the sports fields, park and play areas and the pedestrian and cyclist pathways in the park."
But Tyler says the consultations were conducted in bad faith. "It's not even consultation. It's presenting. It's what you did when you were in school, and you had show-and-tell," said Tyler.
The city says it plans to re-examine the governance of the park in the future. "Council will carefully consider options for the governance of Hastings Park in fall 2012. The model will consider the needs of area residents, as well as provide ample leeway in order to facilitate long-term public access to Hastings Park," wrote Hutch.
The group says it won't be satisfied until an elected body controls the land. "I think the PNE board could still function as a group that runs the 17-day fair, but it's no longer doing that," said Tyler. "They're a tenant, but they've become the governors."
The open house is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Hastings and Slocan next to the Laughing Bean.