The Vancouver Park Board has announced that Oppenheimer Park will begin reopening Monday (June 28) in phases, starting with the west side.
Fencing will remain around the full perimeter of the park, but the entrances on the western portion will be open and accessible to the public 24/7. The eastern side of the park, which includes the fieldhouse, playground and house posts, will remain closed as they undergo further repairs and restoration.
“We know this park is integral to the community, and we are pleased that people will now be able to socialise, play and attend City programming in the western section,” says Donnie Rosa, General Manager, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.
“Reopening takes much more than restoring grass, trees or structures. It’s important that our staff take the time to meet with community members and park users in a meaningful way to better understand their needs around programming, and other sacred cultural elements like the house posts, totem pole and baseball backstop.”
In April 2020, the B.C. government unveiled a plan to move close to 700 homeless people from camps in Vancouver and Victoria into hotels, motels and community centres. Oppenheimer park was closed in June 2020. However, it was originally scheduled to close by noon on May 1, 2020.
After it closed, downtown Eastside advocates gathered outside of the fenced-off park to speak about the city's eviction of the former encampment.
The Park Board says the park undergone significant remediation following the closure of the encampment. By taking a phased approach, "staff can continue to work on repairs in the park and seek community feedback, while providing public access to the finished areas."
Based on community input, staff are piloting various furnishings on the west side of the park including:
- Natural log seating for informal gatherings (placed in both sunny and shady spots)
- A shared garden area to be activated by partner organizations Watari and Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
- Heavy-duty wood tables for eating and socializing (including accessible options)
- The log seating and shared garden will be ready for the reopening, while the tables will arrive mid-July.
- Facilities and programming
While the fieldhouse is closed for repair, staff will temporarily install a washroom trailer and site office on Dunlevy Avenue.
The Carnegie Community Centre’s Oppenheimer Park team will deliver programs and services in the park such as arts and craft, physical wellness activities, music programming, hot drinks, and other forms of check-ins with people.
Throughout the phased reopening of the park, Park Board staff will continue to speak with community members, cultural groups and park users to gather feedback on topics ranging from park furnishings to programming, and how best to heal and reopen the remainder of the park.