Stanley Park to reopen to cars, park board decides after hours-long meeting
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Park Board has voted in favour of reopening Stanley Park to cars, but the road will be shared with cyclists as well.
"Park Drive is going to be separated-- one lane for bikes, and one lane for cars," said park board commissioner Tricia Barker.
The 5-2 vote came after an hours-long meeting went late into the night Thursday. But some business owners said even after waiting, they were never called on.
Gerry O’Neil, the owner of Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours, told CTV News it was "out of line" that they voted before hearing from everyone else.
"Are we just second or third class citizens?" he said.
For Nancy Stibbard, the owner of the Prospect Point Café, the decision came the night before the restaurant reopened.
"At least there’s going to be traffic into the park sooner than what I had been told," she told CTV News. "The worst part of it was for us is that they’re putting bikers through our parking lot at Prospect Point."
Stibbard has retained a lawyer, who is also consulting with other businesses in the park.
"We’re going to keep it open for a few weeks and just see what happens, but if we don’t make enough revenue, we really can’t pay our expenses, so we won’t be able to stay open," she said. "It’s very, very sad."
This move, she said, is forcing her to seek legal action.
"This process that they went through was really a farce because the park board had already made their minds up," lawyer Wally Oppal told CTV News. "They’re going to take up something like 70 parking spots from the business that owns the Prospect Point restaurant."
Park board chair Camil Dumont said it’s important to note this is a temporary move to get some vehicles back into the park, now.
"Any long-term, permanent change would come to the board properly and have all of the engagement and consultation and community outreach that we're used to," he said.
Oppal said consultation should have happened before changes were made, and as of May 19 when the province ordered parks could reopen, Stanley Park should have been part of it.
"The damage that’s being done is irreparable to our clients," he said. Oppal has also said first responders were not been consulted.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for VPD said they didn't anticipate it would impact its ability to respond to emergencies in the park.
"If there is an emergency, we will activate our lights and sirens. Road users always do a good job of moving to the side of the road for us," the statement said.
Vancouver Fire Rescue Services did not reply to CTV News Vancouver's request for comment.
The Vancouver Aquarium is also looking at reopening and a spokesperson said in an email the organization is "still facing bankruptcy despite amazing community support."
The operators of the not-for-profit would have liked both lanes reopened to "ensure our visitors get easy access to the Vancouver Aquarium, especially as our COVID-19 plan requires timed-ticketing.”
Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise Conservation Association, said they’re still waiting for the park board to give them a date to reopen.
"We’re ready to open," he told CTV News, adding they are implementing new safety measures for visitors. "The new way of experiencing the aquarium with social distancing, with all the new health measures to put in place, to make sure that they can experience the aquarium without worrying about COVID-19."
Vehicles may be able to enter the park's local roads as early as Monday, and these changes are temporary until a permanent change is voted on.
In April, the park was first closed to vehicle traffic, and cyclists were moved off the seawall, due to overcrowding concerns.
Commissioners tasked park staff with looking into the feasibility of permanent traffic calming measures earlier this month.
At Thursday's meeting, dozens of people spoke on both sides of the debate, with many also in favour of keeping the park closed to vehicles entirely.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Angela Jung and Regan Hasegawa