Outspoken former park board commissioner Jim Harvey passed away Sunday, July 29 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Comox, B.C., after a lengthy illness. He was 81.
Harvey served on the park board from 1982 to 1984, but was ousted by the NPA near the end of his term for being frank and fearless in his questions. During one of our phone conversations that took place in the past decade, Harvey told me he was asked to leave the party because he asked too many questions.
"And they didn't want to hear it," Harvey said in 2005.
But still passionate about this city's parks, Harvey founded the now-defunct, non-profit Friends of Stanley Park through which he and other park board watchdogs fought to preserve green space.
I always enjoyed my phone conversations with Harvey.
By the time I started covering the park board for the Courier, Harvey and his wife Barbara were already living on Denman Island, so I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. But he was always my go-to guy when it came to issues concerning parks in Vancouver, particularly Stanley Park.
Harvey's son-in-law Stephen Hawkins told me Wednesday morning that the 81-year-old remained committed to saving green space as an urban environmentalist.
Hawkins says prior to becoming a park board commissioner, his father-in-law was a member of the Denman Street Merchants Association, through which he worked to clean up the streets and alleys of the West End. Harvey also spent more than 10 years as head coach of a Kerrisdalebased boys soccer team.
One of Harvey's missions in life was to see the Stanley Park Zoo and Vancouver Aquarium close because he believed there should be no commercial enterprises in parks. And while the zoo finally closed in 1997, the aquarium remains in place. Harvey also fought-unsuccessfully-against 2005 expansion plans for the aquarium. Harvey was joined in that fight by retired landscape architect and fellow urban environmentalist Clive Justice, who turns 86 next week.
Justice told me Tuesday he doesn't believe Harvey was ever properly recognized for his contributions to keeping Vancouver green. "He was the main force behind Friends of Stanley Park," says Justice, a former member of the group.
The night before he heard about Harvey's passing, Justice watched a documentary about the efforts to save the famous Hollow Tree in Stanley Park. "It made me think of Jim because I know he would have fought to save that tree because it's part of the heritage of Stanley Park," says Justice, who remained friends with the Harveys even after their move to Denman Island. "He fought hard for that park."
In recent years, Harvey was involved with the Denman Island Marine Conservancy and efforts to preserve Chickadee Lake. "Jim knew the importance of community," says Hawkins. "And he was very proud of the work he did with the park board."
Harvey is survived by his wife Barbara, daughter Renata Elias and grandsons Michael and Byron, daughter Bettina Harvey (who is married to Hawkins), son Mark Harvey and wife Tanja, and granddaughters Aiyana and Nevaya, and brother Robert Harvey and wife Betsy.
A private celebration of life takes place on Denman Island Aug. 10. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the St. Joseph's General Hospital Foundation in Comox at sjhcomox.ca.
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