I remember when people left their house to have an opinon

Grandview Park, the beloved East Vancouver park and playground, is currently surrounded by a large metal fence, in much the same way as any demolition site. It is a sight most unpleasant, to see a park once vibrant to be torn up and blocked off.

The renovations of Commercial Drive’s Grandview Park have been planned since 2008, and since then have been protested by community members in fear of gentrification. The construction also means that the park will be closed for little under a year (it is scheduled to reopen in March 2011), which has fuelled the ire of locals. One of the major reasons for this is because the Park Board, acting “undemocratically,” according to some residents, changed the former plan of the sections of the park being closed for three months to the entire park being closed off for a year.

Points have been made for and against the developments on Grandview, mostly as a presence on Facebook. Two distinct groups have formed, one called “Stop The Closure of Grandview Park” (page entitled “Defend Grandview Park on ‘The Drive’”), which is opposed to the new developments, and “The People’s Front of Grandview”, which supports it.

Both groups generally support renovations to the park. The common consensus found within the plethora of Internet debates shows that people want renovations to Grandview to occur. On their page, “The People’s Front of Grandview” states that the group supports the city’s plan for the park with the caveat that “the city must ensure that Grandview Park's unique culture of tolerance and diversity is respected, and that a greater effort is made to support the park as a space for performance and respectful dissent. We also want the park to be a work in progress, something we can change or improve as we see fit.”

The group entitled “Stop The Closure of Grandview Park” is also in support of  “a park upgrade, in phases, that does not require the closure of anything more than 10 per cent or at the very outside, 25 per cent, at any one time ... At most the cost should not exceed $500,000.” But as of January, the cost has totalled $1.5 million in government money. This is where the issue of gentrification arises.
Residents of Commercial Drive – a predominantly working-class, artist community – who are against the plans, fear gentrification, and often accuse the renovation of being a tactic to increase property values (as well as costs) within the area.

Another group opposing the park renewal, “Defend Grandview”, express on their website, DefendGrandview.wordpress.com, what could be seen as the collective feeling of the opposition: “We want East Vancouver to be a community where you don’t have to be rich to exist, and where we don’t criminalize our neighbours.” Regardless, the park is under construction, and remains closed off until March.

The renovations themselves address the park’s current drainage problems that caused large sections of the field to be re-seeded, thus allowing for more usable green space. It also includes much-needed new washrooms, moved to the northwest side of the park, as well as a new playground, a water park, tennis courts and a central stage.

//Sam MacDonald
Features Editor

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com