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Court halts Kits bike path construction

Court halts Kits bike path construction
Megan Carvell Davis addresses a crowd at Hadden Park Nov. 8. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

The ongoing dispute over a proposed bike path cutting through Kitsilano’s Hadden Park shifted into a new gear on Friday after the B.C. Supreme Court put the brakes on construction plans until a hearing can be held to determine its legality.

The announcement came after a lawsuit was filed Nov. 4 by historian Megan Carvell Davis against both the  City of Vancouver and the park board arguing that building a three-metre-wide paved bike lane through the Kits Point park would be a violation of the conditions under which the land was donated to the city 85 years ago by millionaire land speculator Harvey Hadden.

The land was given to Vancouver under the condition the city “shall keep the property as near as possible in its present state of nature.”

The suggested bike path would be parallel to an existing bike route a few metres south on Ogden Street, as well as another nearby paved pedestrian path closer to the ocean.

“The decision by the city and the park board to move the greenway bike lane from Ogden to the middle of the park, we felt, was a violation of that trust agreement,” said her lawyer, Rob Kasting, at a press conference held at the park Friday morning. “We want to hold the city to account to abide by their obligations to the trustee and the people of Vancouver with respect to the Hadden trust.”

A hearing had been scheduled for Nov. 12 to prevent construction by way of an injunction, but city lawyers agreed to abide by the terms of the injunction until a court could make a decision in the next few months.

Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Constance Barnes said there is no hurry to start work on the path and that the route has yet to be finalized.

“We will put the pause button on because it is the respectful thing to do until it goes through the courts and they decide,” said Barnes. “We will not be going forward with any advisory groups or won’t be looking at any plans, but let me be very clear that there is no already determined route. That seems to be the question for so many people – ‘oh, will it be the same route?” There is no route at this time; it was just a presentation that was brought to the board.”

The $2.2 million bike path was approved by the park board as part of the overall Seaside Greenway plan to connect Canada Place to Jericho Beach via Stanley Park and False Creek. Hundreds of residents and park users held a rally at Kits Beach Oct. 20 to protest the decision to create a new path through the park.

Davis said it’s a common misconception that tiny Hadden Park is simply city property rather than land donated by a deed with strict conditions.

“I’ve been going to the park board since 2004 with that deed letting them know that this two blocks was Hadden Park — because they thought it was part of Vanier Park — and trying to get them to read the deed. I’ve sat through meetings with COPE-dominated park boards, NPA-dominated park boards and now Vision-dominated park boards,” she said. “The first time that they actually stopped and were willing to listen was when I filed a lawsuit.”

Former Olympian and Kits Fest co-founder Howard Kelsey said the city forced residents’ hands when it pushed the plan through without adequate public consultation.

“This is just an example of when you make a bad decision,” he said. “Our stance is that lawsuits are bad karma etc. but they tend to pop up when our civic leaders do not do proper due diligence or try to ram ill-advised initiatives through without proper planning or proper consultation.”