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Petition to 'preserve the Vancouver Park Board' circulates as mayor moves to abolish

"We stand on the precipice of losing not only our cherished parks but also community consultation"
Brennan Bastyovanszky and Tom Digby are two of the Vancouver park commissioners against the dissolution of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

A former Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation commissioner is trying to rally public support for the elected body.

After Mayor Ken Sim announced the intention to dismantle the park board last week there's been opposition from within and outside the board; notably, three members of the board who were part of Sim's ABC party are now sitting as independents.

Former board member Sarah Blyth, who last served from 2008 to 2014 (including a stint as chair), has launched an online petition to save the unique elected body.

In her write-up for the petition, she argues the board serves as an independent body protecting public spaces from development and private interests.

"We stand on the precipice of losing not only our cherished parks but also community consultation which has always been instrumental in bringing forward innovative ideas that make our parks world-class," states Blyth.

As of midday on Tuesday, Dec. 12, the petition had just under 1,500 signatories.

Sim has a motion on the agenda for a committee meeting on Wednesday to begin the process of getting rid of the parks board.

"In recent years it has become abundantly clear, given the poor state of Vancouver’s parks, recreation services, and infrastructure, that a fundamental change in governance structure is not only needed, it is the only viable path forward," states a portion of the motion.

Park commissioners vote against proposed abolition

The park commissioners themselves voted Monday night against the plan to abolish the board on which they sit. The 4-3 vote saw the three former ABC commissioners and Green Party member Tom Digby join for the majority.

“The mayor's office has no jurisdiction in the park board, they have no authority to recommend the abolition of it,” said Commissioner Brennan Bastyovanszky, who introduced the motion.

He, board chair Scott Jensen, and Laura Christensen sat as independents at the Monday evening meeting. Many former commissioners also attended, in the public seating, to support the board's continued existence. Many former commissioners have signed a statement in favour of keeping the board.

“The mayor of Vancouver has no legal nor political right to unilaterally eliminate an independently and democratically elected board,” reads the statement.

With files from Mike Howell