Thanks to a little "pruning" tourists have one of Vancouver's best views back
On a radiant Monday morning this week I decided to start my workday a bit late and jumped on my bike. On my slow ride through the Riley Park neighbourhood I visited the Hillcrest Olympic Curling facility/pool/community centre which is looking very near completion. The landscaping is done and the pool has been filled up to test it out.
Continuing on I decided to pedal up to the top of Little Mountain. The fountain and plaza had a smattering of tourists snapping photos, and the morning Tai Chi crowd had melted away. A small group of grade three kids from a nearby elementary got a break from the classroom, and ooh'd and ahh'd over the dancing waters of the fountain. A park worker warned the kids away from the Henry Moore sculpture because she'd just planted grass seeds.
It was all absolutely beautiful.
For the last several years the top of Queen Elizabeth has been torn up with reservoir restoration, the re-built plaza, and of course Canada Line construction made visits even harder. Now that the work is finally all done, those of us who love this park can return. And one of the great attributes we almost forgot was the amazing view.
Some of you may remember the controversy stirred up last year about the Park Board decision to cut up to 70 trees in Queen Elizabeth Park. The then NPA-dominated Park Board got a helluva lot of pressure from the public and the media about it. Local activists, most notably Ned Jacobs, made it their sword to fall on, others felt betrayed and that it would ruin their park. Stuart Mackinnon, the parks agitator who became the sole Green Park Commissioner elected last year, slammed the NPA for their decision to sacrifice the trees and save the view.
Others saw through the political hysteria, and not folks who would normally support the Park Board, nor the NPA on this kind of decision. "Queen E" Park, as locals call it, was built on an old quarry. The gaping hole in the middle of it where couples get their wedding pictures taken was once an industrial site. Almost every major tree on that land today was put there by someone.
I'm glad that there was a loud public debate about this, but I'm also glad that the right decision was made. Was there enough public consultation? Your view on this depends on whether you were being yelled at or doing the yelling, I suppose. I wonder what would happen if this vote were held today, with Vision calling the shots at Park Board. Would the vote have been any different?
Well, first of all Ned Jacobs has attacked Vision for their perceived lack of public consultation. But Ned aside, I would bet the farm that Vision, who are in many ways more right wing than the NPA ever were in some of their policies, would pass the decision to cut the trees in a heartbeat. Vision are determined to show they are a centrist and pragmatic coalition, and symbolic votes would help that perception.
Vision also knows that most of the people who complained on this issue are unlikely to switch their allegiance to another party on a matter like a few trees. And given that most of the loud voices in opposition to the "pruning" that took place at QE Park are closely aligned to Vision or COPE, it's extremely unlikely it would ever become the dust-up it was in the summer of '08.
It was incredibly refreshing to me that I was able to see the panoramic view of Vancouver and the North Shore mountains again from the top of Queen Elizabeth Park. The cynical politicking over the trees issue is only a feint echo today. And the view is amazing.