Vancouver Park Board wants more money from city hall to help maintain the city’s more than 230 parks and gardens.
Commissioners Monday night unanimously approved a motion, brought forward by commissioner John Coupar, formally asking city council to authorize additional funding in next year’s budget “to enable increased care and maintenance in our cherished parks and gardens.”
Coupar said the park board currently has around 30 gardeners on staff and he has often compared that number to the city’s communications department, which has around 40 people on staff. Those 30 gardeners are responsible for maintaining more than one million square meters of annuals and perennials throughout the city.
“It’s clear to me through my own observations that the standards are not as high as they used to be,” Coupar told the Courier prior to Monday night’s meeting.
During debate of the motion, he said there was a lot of talk during the recent election about trying to improve the standard of care in the city’s parks.
“I heard a lot talk about trying to improve the standard of care of our parks,” he said. “What I’d like the legacy of this board, and it’s early it this board’s mandate, but this could be the board that puts the park back in park board.”
Newly elected commissioner John Irwin agreed.
“I think we did hear quite often during the election that things aren’t quite as well tended as they could be…,” he said. “I know it’s a lot of effort and having other gardeners to do it as soon as would probably help to get the standards up, because we did hear that quite a bit at the all candidates’ meetings and on the door steps.”
The motion did not specify exactly how much more money the board would be requesting, however Coupar said he would rely on park board staff to come back with a more detailed request to be included in the 2019 budget.
“I’d like to note that the city of Vancouver budget has expanded by about 45 per cent in the last 10 years,” he said. “Our contribution from the city has really not even kept up with inflation over that 10-year period so it’s no wonder that our staff are challenged and are falling behind.”
The request will have to be completed quickly. Commissioners have a special meeting scheduled for Dec. 10 to discuss and approve the 2019 budget, which is then sent to city council to be considered as part of the overall city budget. Council’s budget meeting is set for Dec. 11.