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Problem-plagued park focus of Grandview meeting

Neighbours, police meet to solve problems at Victoria Park
Steve Anderson
Steve Anderson lives near Victoria Park. photo Dan Toulgoet

Grandview Woodland residents are hoping for positive solutions to an East Side park that has been the source of hundreds of calls to police.

A meeting at the Britannia Community Centre Monday night focusing on troublesome Victoria Park resulted in much helpful feedback, says a resident of the area.

Steve Anderson said almost 60 people attended the meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council Monday night to voice their concerns or offer feedback about the park.

“There was a lot of talk about conflicting values,” said Anderson, a member of the council. “But the key message was the need for respect and consideration on all sides.”

In November, as the result of a Freedom of Information report released by the Vancouver Police Department, the Courier reported police responded to about 900 calls to the park between October 2008 and October 2013.

The description of the calls included: drugs, check well-being [of person], weapons, fights, assault in progress, liquor act violations, indecent acts, robbery in progress, intelligence information, suspicious circumstances, theft, man down, breach of the peace, domestic in progress, suspicious vehicles and threats. In June, a man was attacked and stabbed with two knives while playing bocce at the park’s popular pit.

Dozens of residents attended the meeting, as did Bill Harding, director of parks for the park board, Damian Murphy, the homeless outreach worker with the Kettle Friendship Society, several park rangers, Adrian Archambault, program coordinator of the Grandview Woodland Community Policing Centre and Sgt. Mike Lemon, also from the policing centre.

Many residents said they were upset by public urination, defecation, intoxicated people passed out in the park and the number of dogs running loose. The park was redeveloped in 2008 to include new lighting, picnic tables and playground.

“But what was also made clear is that there’s a sense of community among those same people who frequent the park to drink,” said Anderson.

“There are just varying degrees of what’s considered acceptable public behaviour.”

He added some of the solutions suggested at the meeting included introducing more scheduled activities in the park, better maintenance by the park board and improved lighting, which is expensive and could affect neighbouring residents.

“The meeting was a positive step,” said Anderson.

Archambault said he had not known the park had become such a trouble spot until contacted by the Courier in November.

“But it was certainly useful in engaging people in conversation,” said Archambault of the Courier article. “There are less problems in the winter so it’s not as obvious at this time.”

Archambault said many of the more serious incidents have taken place in and around the bocce pit, but acknowledged removing it would be an unpopular decision.

“But two weeks after that stabbing, the victim became the aggressor and came back,” said Archambault. “There are a lot of problems between people at the bocce pit.”

He added many long term homeless people hang out at the park during the day.

“It’s really like their living room because they have nowhere else to go,” said Archambault. “But we’ve heard that a couple of them are moving into housing.”

Archambault said the close proximity of a nearby liquor store adds to the problem. He noted staff at the store are working with the policing centre in finding solutions.

“They won’t sell to anyone who’s drunk, but they get around that by sending the most sober guy in to buy,” said Archambault. “What’s important is we want this park to be for everybody so we need to come up with some solutions.”

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