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Vancouver parks board approves four year, half billion capital plan

The plan is led by $140 million to renew the Vancouver Aquatic Centre
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The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has submitted a four-year, $539 million capital plan.

With an eye to the next four years, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has approved a capital plan of $539 million which will cover new and renewed facilities across the city.

"The proposed plan is the largest combined Capital Plan for the three service areas delivered by the Board of Parks and Recreation," note parks staff in their report to the board.

While the parks board is an elected body that makes decisions to do with Vancouver's parks, it doesn't have its own separate budget, instead requesting allocations from the city council. For capital costs, like purchasing park land, significant renovations for community centres or things like large amounts of new trees, they submit a capital plan every four years.

In the most recent iteration, the parks board approved a couple of large projects, causing their plan to crack the half-billion mark.

Major projects proposed in the capital plan include $140 million to renew the Vancouver Aquatic Centre and $49 million to renew RayCam Community Centre in the Downtown Eastside.

The two projects equal 35 per cent of the plan.

The aquatic centre was recently in the news after a piece fell off. Eight years ago upgrade and renovation costs of $40 million were discussed.

"The final Park Board Capital Plan includes an increased investment to $140 million to account for facility expansion, and updated cost estimates," state staff.

To help cover those costs, the scope of three other West End facilities is being decreased.

RayCam, which has been open for nearly 40 years, is due for an expansion, according to staff, as it helps support many vulnerable populations. The project will be funded by BC Housing as well, with new residential units above the renewed and expanded centre.

Another aquatic facility, the Mount Pleasant pool, was discussed, but not included in the initial plan from staff. However, parks board members added a recommendation to the motion requesting staff explore the idea of $11.5 million being reallocated to the planning and building of the pool.

All other portions of the motion passed unanimously in the end, except the Mount Pleasant pool amendment, which commissioners Dave Demers and Camil Dumont opposed.

Other big-budget items included $22.5 million to acquire new parkland, $13.4 million for urban forests and natural areas (including planting thousands of new trees and daylighting creeks) and $15.5 million for work on the seawall and waterfront areas.

They also requested $107 million for the broad category of park amenities, which includes a broad variety of things like the renewal of older parks, replacement of aging spray park equipment and updating playgrounds.

While the plan offers a general plan and budget for the parks department, staff note that increasing costs outside their control could hamper those targets.

"Cost escalation and intensifying park use will continue to challenge service and project delivery goals," they note in the report's summary.