Grey skies over Bloedel Conservatory didn't discourage hundreds of visitors from around the world from touring on Sunday
With the Christmas and New Year holidays now all but wrapped up, our family decided we would head into Vancouver and try out something old and something new. During the first part of the day, we packed up the ice skates and headed down to the new GE Plaza at Robson Square. I'll have more to report on this facility later this week, but I am pleased to report it appears to be a smashing success.
Later in the day, we decided to pay a visit to the Bloedel Conservatory before Vision finally gives it the axe in a few months. To my amazement, there was a line-up to get in and the place was packed with visitors from around the world. If you believed everything Mayor Gregor Robertson was spinning out there, you would assume the place was a virtual ghost town. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are posters, memos and other "Save the Bloedel" materials pasted throughout the facility which is helping to galvanize support for the conservatory. I just happened to walk by one of the front counter staff who was in the midst of a phone conversation with what appeared to be her supervisor. She was telling him/her that she was being bombarded with questions from patrons regarding how much money had already been raised to save the Bloedel. She said that dozens of patrons wanted to take away "Save the Bloedel" posters to put up in their work place, but she had run out of materials to hand out.
On the way out of the building, I checked out the guest registry which was signed by people from around the world. On the last page there were several visitors who indicated their place of origin was from as far away as Singapore, India and Israel. Every departing guest patiently stood in line to write a comment, and some of them had an overtly political tone to them. One Vancouver resident wrote:
I can't believe I voted Vision...
That comment was squeezed in between three others that read:
Don't close. It's a treasure.
I love it!
Please keep it open.
We can also report that a concerned Park Board employee contacted CityCaucus.com over the weekend to indicate they were shocked that Vision planned to "shut down the Bloedel after they just invested over $1 million dollars to put in a new boiler system".
According to our source, the City of Vancouver spent the better part of last fall installing the new infrastructure at the conservatory to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our research indicates a report did come before council in 2007 requesting $392,236 in funding be provided to a company known as Ameresco Canada Inc. to install a new boiler system.
The 2007 staff report indicates the installation of the new boiler would pay for itself over the long-term through reduced energy costs. However, now that Vision is about to shut the building down, this is basically money thrown down the drain. I guess you could argue the city will recover their energy costs since they plan on shutting off the heat permanently in April.
NPA Park Board Commissioner Ian Robertson was on CKNW radio today indicating that the attendance for the Bloedel in December 2009 was triple what it was the same time last year. Based on how many people were there this afternoon, I have no doubt those numbers are accurate.
Vision is clearly hoping this issue fades away like the Mayor's Mexican suntan, but I for one think it won't. This is on a slow burner and I suspect the heat is about to be turned up big time over the coming months. As they say in politics, this could become a "sleeper issue".
Our family really enjoyed the Bloedel and we plan to visit again, assuming they can find the private sector sponsors they need to survive. In case that doesn't happen, we took one last family photo in front of the exotic Indian fig tree as a memento.