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Vancouver Park Board to discuss ‘deteriorating conditions at Oppenheimer Park’

A special meeting is scheduled for Thursday
oppenheimer park
Vancouver Park Board will hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss the ongoing encampment at Oppenheimer Park. File photo Dan Toulgoet

Vancouver Park Board will hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss the ongoing encampment at Oppenheimer Park.

The meeting, which will take place at the Beach Avenue office starting at 6:45 p.m., was scheduled at the request of NPA commissioners John Coupar and Tricia Barker to address “deteriorating conditions at Oppenheimer Park.”

Earlier this month, the board voted not to seek an injunction to remove campers from the park, despite a request from general manager Malcolm Bromley.

“We do not believe that seeking an injunction through the courts with the goal of clearing people from Oppenheimer Park will bring us any closer to a true solution,” Mackinnon told reporters outside the park board’s offices in Stanley Park Sept. 6.

“Simply removing people from Oppenheimer Park, which may force them onto the streets, back lanes and into other parks is not the solution.”

Coupar cast the lone vote in favour of seeking an injunction.

“This is a dangerous precedent,” Coupar said. “I think our parks will soon be occupied across the city and I don’t think that’s what residents expect from their elected representatives in the park board.”

Earlier this month, the park board also rebuffed a request from Mayor Kennedy Stewart to cede temporary jurisdiction of Oppenheimer to the city.

Thursday’s meeting comes as an alliance of NPA and Green Party councillors plan to introduce a motion at next week’s council meeting with the aim of clearing campers out of Oppenheimer Park and getting people into housing.

NPA Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said the move is meant to “bridge the impasse” between Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the park board.

“We’re asking the park board to revisit their injunction decision,” Kirby-Yung told the Courier Tuesday during a break at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

All this comes just days after the Downtown Eastside saw three targeted shootings in a matter of 15 hours.

The first two shootings happened on Sunday within two hours of one another — one just before 4 p.m., near East Hastings Street and Dunlevy Avenue and the second around 6 p.m. in the area of East Pender and Abbott streets. The third shooting took place at around 6:30 a.m. Monday at the Grand Union Hotel on West Hastings Street.

A total of four people were injured, two seriously, and police announced Tuesday the arrest of two suspects in Monday’s incident.

Following the shootings, Vancouver police Deputy Chief Howard Chow told reporters that a gang turf war is taking root in the Downtown Eastside.

“The intelligence that we’re getting is that there is a gang conflict that’s taking place,” Chow said. “And it’s that drug turf war that’s going on where everybody is vying for that piece of the action. That’s what Oppenheimer has created. It has destabilized that park, which never had those issues.”

Chow added that new gangs are showing up in Vancouver specifically looking to capitalize on those camped out at Oppenheimer Park and other vulnerable residents in the DTES. In years past, individual blocks within the Downtown Eastside were split between rivalling factions.

- With files from Mike Howell and John Kurucz

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com