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Activities, special events at Vancouver parks down for 2020

But the pitch and putts were more popular than before!
Vancouver's parks saw a decline in events and activities in 2020 - which is probably not surprising, given the pandemic. VIA file photo

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affecting all aspects of life it's maybe not the most surprising news, but Vancouver parks saw decrease in a lot of activities in 2020.

From filming to farmers' markets, park activities were closed or restricted in some way for most of 2020. In reports to the parks board, staff shared stats that measured the impact.

"The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the Park Board’s special event and filming operations in 2020, with volumes decreasing 60% relative to 2019," notes one on special events.

While city parks normally host over 400 public special events annually, only 148 happened in 2020. Medium and major events were, unsurprisingly, impacted more.

Of the major events normally held in Vancouver parks only a handful went forward, and almost all were either farmers' markets or for Remembrance Day. The exceptions were a couple of events that happened before the pandemic took hold and a couple that received permits for some activities that were then shared online (like the McSpadden Park Country Fair zucchini races). That's more than 100 events.

One small category that saw an increase was private events, like boot camps and yoga classes, as permits increased from 16 to 23.

Picnic events were also impacted, with a drop from over 700 in 2019 to 223 in 2020. Staff note that sites stayed open longer last year and will reopen earlier this year due to public demand. They also note that picnic sites were used for more than just picnics, hosting a variety of activities including baby showers and outdoor school programs.

Both the Bloedel Conservatory and VanDusen Botanical Garden each saw a drop in attendance. At the conservatory the drop was steep, from over 200,000 visitors in 2019 to just more than 60,500 in 2020. While events aren't happening still, the conservatory is hosting micro weddings again. VanDusen's drop wasn't as bad, with fewer than 111,000 visitors in 2020 compared to more than 178,000 in 2019. 

One bright point, to a certain extent, are the park board's golf courses. Despite not opening when expected, the city's three public courses saw only a small drop, with 162,448 rounds in 2020 compared to 167,436 in 2019. And in the last quarter of the year people were out a lot, as rounds were 38 per cent above 2019, and the highest since 2013 for that quarter.

And the pitch and putts were even more popular. Despite reopening in June instead of March they saw nearly 86,000 rounds played in 2020, compared to 71,677 rounds in 2019.

And while the film industry in Vancouver essentially shut down on-location productions, it's making a comeback. Permits were down to about half of usual (236 in 2020 compared to 472 in 2019), but staff note there's a big rebound going on in that industry.