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Should Vancouver's Stanley Park reopen to vehicles? Emergency park board meeting to decide
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Park Board is holding an emergency meeting Thursday to decide the future of Stanley Park.
The city's crown jewel has been closed off to vehicles since the start of the pandemic and some advocates are pushing to keep it that way.
Commissioners are considering whether to reopen the park to vehicle traffic and will also debate reducing Stanley Park Drive to one-way, single lane vehicle traffic permanently.
Owners of nearby businesses say the potential reduction of vehicle traffic would be devastating to their livelihoods.
The Tea House, Stanley Park Brewing and Ocean Wise are some of the groups that have spoken out against the change.
"We have always been open to working with the park board, but we just haven't been consulted," says Jenny Ryan with The Tea House.
The frustration has led several Stanley Park businesses to consult a lawyer.
"We live in a democracy," says lawyer Wally Oppal. "Boards like the park board can't flagrantly disobey the rules and to not allow people to be heard – that's the real problem here."
The debate started back in April, when cyclists were banned from the seawall due to overcrowding concerns.
The bikes were subsequently moved onto the roadway, shutting non-essential vehicles out.
Commissioners tasked park staff with looking into the feasibility of permanent traffic calming measures earlier this month.
Those findings are expected to be presented at Thursday night's meeting. Advocates for the lane closures argue it will make the park safer, greener and more appealing.
"To simply go back to 'pre-COVID two-lane automobile access' right now is denying the pandemic situation," says Commissioner John Irwin.
Those against the permanent closure are raising concerns about parking and accessibility for seniors, young families, and people with disabilities.
The Tea House is urging Vancouverites to write the park board and sign an online petition, which has gained more than 12,000 signatures so far.
The park board is expected to begin at 6:30 p.m.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Allison Hurst