The current configuration of the temporary bike path through Stanley Park makes it impossible to hold major events in the park, a Vancouver event organizer said.
Paul Runnals is co-owner of Brandlive, a company that organizes major events including the Honda Celebration of Light and Canada Day at Place du Canada. Runnals is also the founder of the Skookum Music Festival which took place in Stanley Park in 2018 and 2019.
“(Stanley Park) turned out to be a really good site,” Runnals said. “It’s convenient and there are very few places left near downtown Vancouver where you can hold these larger events without having big impacts on residential areas.”
But Runnals said the temporary bike path “eliminates any potential for major events” in the park because some sections use concrete barriers instead of moving cones.
Trucks carrying staging and sound equipment generally enter the park from Pipeline Road, as they are too large to pass under the Park Drive bridge at the Coal Harbor entrance. The trucks would normally take a police escort the wrong way along Park Drive to the event site in Brockton Fields.
“It’s worked many times on these big events,” Runnals said. “(But) the concrete barriers are going to have to come out if there’s another event in the park.”
The configuration of the temporary bike path is expected to remain in place until the Stanley Park Mobility Study is completed, scheduled for early 2023. CTV News has learned that the study’s total budget is $259 $474 and so far $99,738 has been spent.
Runnals said there had been “no consultation” with the events industry about the bike lane. He also raised these concerns at the last Vancouver Park Board meeting when commissioners voted 5-2 to continue the Stanley Park Mobility Study, despite a heated debate.
Vancouver Park Board senior planner Emily Dunlop said staff consulted with Destination BC and Tourism Vancouver as industry spokespersons regarding access needs in the park.
“Our engagement process is very thorough,” Dunlop said. “There are many, many different events happening in the park, so we are slowly working on this group.”
Asked about Skookum’s potential inability to return, Dunlop said the staff “wanted to work closely with Skookum” to look into any access issues.
“That potentially includes tweaking things, shifting barriers, that’s definitely a possibility,” Dunlop said, adding that potential changes won’t be made until after the study is complete.
Runnals said pushing a decision that far into the future could jeopardize planning for the next few years, given how long it takes to hold big events.
“The delay to October or November or the length of this process will most likely impact the ability of any of these larger events to commit for next summer,” he said. “Certainly 2024 is at hand if we can figure that out this year.”
The pandemic has resulted in a loss of parking revenue for the Vancouver Park Board, but business manager Steve Jackson said things are looking up.
According to Jackson, total parking revenue fell by about $2 million in 2020. This is the result of a complete closure of the park to cars for three months, pandemic restrictions and an almost complete drop in tourism. .
Looking at the park’s layout now, Jackson said only about 4% of parking spaces have disappeared due to the bike lane and parking revenue for the first six months of this year is down about 15% compared to the first six months. of 2019.
“We think (the bike path) plays a role, of course, with repercussions on the ability to host events, but we think tourism and the decline there was the biggest component,” said Jackson.
Asked about missed revenue from large events that don’t take place in the park, Jackson said, “A really big event like Skookum would bring in a decent amount of revenue for the Park Board in that short time, (but) we don’t. not. We do not rely on events of this size as a significant source of revenue to run our budgets. »
The objective of the study is to assess the feasibility of reducing vehicle traffic in the park. Commissioner John Irwin said because of the climate crisis: “We need to seriously look at how we engage people.” Vancouver Park Board staff said there was strong community support for the venture, as public polls show. The report states that 70% of survey respondents said that “they believe there are opportunities to reduce vehicle traffic.”
But there were also strong negative reactions, especially from Commissioner Tricia Barker.
The cycle path is also subject to human rights complaint which will go before the Human Rights Tribunal in August.