The area surrounding Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park will soon be known as Grace McCarthy Plaza in honour of the former park board commissioner who went on to become an icon of B.C. politics.
Vancouver Park Board commissioners voted Monday night to name the plaza in honour of McCarthy, who died in May 2017 at the age of 89.
Her daughter, Mary McCarthy Parsons, was on hand for the decision.
“I’m very, very pleased about this,” she told commissioners. “Our family is very pleased. My dad, Ray, who had his 95th birthday last week, is just delighted.”
McCarthy was first elected to Vancouver Park Board in 1960 serving as a commissioner until 1966. While on park board she served as the first woman vice chair, helped secure open spaces for park development and led an effort to coordinate recreational activities for people with disabilities. She also campaigned to turn part of the abandoned Shaughnessy Golf Course into a botanical garden, which is now known as VanDusen Botanical Garden.
“The legacies of Grace McCarthy can be seen across the city, and include the Stanley Park Christmas train and the lights on the Lion’s Gate Bridge,” park board staff said in a report. “In retirement, Ms. McCarthy started the CH.I.L.D. Foundation, which has raised millions in research funds for children suffering from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and liver disorders.”
After six years as a park board commissioner, McCarthy was elected MLA for Vancouver-Little Mountain in 1966 with the Social Credit party. She was re-elected four times between 1969 and 1986.
“Her storied political career saw many substantial achievements, including becoming the first female Deputy Premier in Canada, and successfully lobbying the federal government to introduce a law allowing unmarried women to apply for mortgages without a male guarantor” the staff report states.
In June 2017, less than a month after McCarthy’s death, park board commissioners voted to direct staff to work with her family to identify an outdoor space recognizing her contributions to the park board, the city and province.
Staff this week came back with a recommendation to name the plaza surrounding Bloedel Conservatory, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Grace McCarthy Plaza.
“This high profile and much-loved plaza is located in the heart of the park and at the highest peak in the city, making it a popular viewpoint and destination for Vancouver citizens and visitors alike,” the staff report states. “The location is strongly associated with Ms. McCarthy’s legacy as she was instrumental in seeing the Bloedel Conservatory built.”
Board chair commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said it is fitting to honour McCarthy’s legacy at Bloedel Conservatory.
“It’s not only the highest point in Vancouver, outside a botanical garden that Ms. McCarthy supported with all of her passion that she brought, but it also overlooks the constituency that Ms. McCarthy represented for so many years, and that’s, of course, Vancouver-Little Mountain.”
With the stamp of approval from park board commissioners Monday night, staff will now develop signage and landscaping, in consultation with McCarthy’s family, with a plan to hold a public event to celebrate the commemoration later this year.
CRAB park motion deferred to allow speakers
Commissioners voted Monday night to defer a motion that would see the park board lobby Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to invest in upgrading CRAB Park and expanding waterfront park access in the city to the next meeting to allow members of the community to speak to the board.
The motion brought forward by COPE commissioner John Irwin asks the port authority to work with the park board, City of Vancouver, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations
“on future planning processes and opportunities for the Centre Waterfront area, including CRAB Park” with a focus on exploring the feasibility of building a new healing centre or cultural centre, which was part of the original vision for the park when Crab Water for Life Society and the Aboriginal Front Door Society lobbied for its creation in the 1980s.
Eighteen people, including Coun. Jean Swanson, had requested to speak to the motion. Members of the public are only allowed to speak to item that are being considered at the committee meeting. Typically, motions from park board commissioners are discussed during the regular board meeting, which immediately follows the committee meeting.
The next park board meeting is on May 27.