The Vancouver Park Board is looking into increasing park ranger patrols in an effort to increase safety and cleanliness in the city’s parks.
NPA commissioner John Coupar brought forward a motion Wednesday night that would see the board request additional funds from city council to increase park ranger patrols to 24 hours a day, as well as additional funding for maintaining the cleanliness of parks.
In introducing his motion, Coupar shared some statistics from park maintenance staff — in July 367 discarded needles were found in Andy Livingstone Park near Chinatown. Another 1,000 new, unopened needles were found scattered at Strathcona Park. And in August 488 needles were found in Andy Livingstone Park alone.
“This is a big problem and I think we all need to do our part… I think we’re well past the point where we can have part-time rangers looking after what has become a very serious safety issue in our parks,” he said.
The park ranger program was introduced in May 2000 in response to an increase in competition for space in parks and increased intensity of activity in many public spaces, as well as an expectation on the part of park users that competing interests be moderated.
The job description of a park ranger includes providing a safe environment for people to visit parks, support special events, and make sure people camping or sleeping in a park are OK and ask them to move on.
The budget currently includes funding for an estimated 28,000 person-hours for park ranger services, which works out to 22 full-time rangers to patrol the city’s 240 parks, Coupar said.
“The existing park board budget for park rangers and park maintenance is inadequate to address the significant challenges related to drug use and garbage in various parks,” the motion reads.
Some commissioners expressed concerns over what park rangers would be expected to do during overnight hours.
“What is it that you expect park rangers to be doing at 4 a.m.?” asked commissioner Catherine Evans.
“The same thing that they do any time that they’re in the park,” Coupar said. “Often times they are the first line of response to help individuals perhaps in distress to make sure they’re getting the help that they need… but also, obviously, if somebody is doing something in the park that is against the law they would perhaps suggest that they stop doing that.”
Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said he had concerns that the motion did not include costing of the increase in park rangers since the board would be asking council for an increase in funds.
After much debate, commissioners voted to refer the issue to staff for more information.
Coun. George Affleck last week introduced a similar motion to council asking for additional funds for park ranger patrols in the upcoming budget. It was postponed until the park board makes a decision in the matter.
The city is currently working on the 2018 budget and five-year financial plan. The municipality is currently gathering public input before a draft budget is presented next month. A final version will be approved on Dec. 12.
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