Park board moves to reclaim part of Strathcona Park from homeless campers
VANCOUVER -- Under the watchful eyes of Vancouver police and park rangers, a work crew bisected Strathcona Park Thursday morning by setting up a two-metre-high fence right down the middle.
On the east side of the fence, the park's main encampment is home to about 200 people — who can stay where they are for now.
Only about a dozen tents and structures dot the west side of the fence, and the people who inhabit them have been told they must be gone by next Wednesday as the Vancouver Park Board moves to restore some of the park to its intended community use.
“We are going to be working with them and with our partners from other areas to either find housing or to relocate them to the east side,” said Donie Rosa, general manager of Vancouver's Board of Parks and Recreation. “Or the south side, or in the encampment if that’s what they wish.”
Last spring, the park board, city and province cleared an encampment that had taken over Oppenheimer Park for two years.
In June, another camp that sprung up near Crab Park on Port of Vancouver property was quickly shut down through a court injunction, and that’s when people started moving into Strathcona Park.
“I understand the pressure from the community," said park board commissioner John Irwin. "I really do. I know it’s there. And they want their park to be a park. And as park board commissioners that’s what we want to."
The province has said it wants the park cleared by the end of April and hopes to offer some form of more-permanent shelter to all of the 200 residents by then.
It’s a solution people living near the park have been demanding for months.
“This community’s been very frustrated and exasperated by the lack of progress and the lack of compassion and care the government has shown to the campers, first and foremost, but also to the housed residents of Strathcona,” said Jamie Maclaren, who lives near the park.
The park board said staff members have spoken with all of the people living in tents and temporary structures on the west side of the park and don’t anticipate any problems with the move, although Rosa did acknowledge that Feb. 17 might be a soft deadline.