Residents protesting parked cars on Garibaldi field have learned that Notre Dame Regional Secondary is also looking to use the former elementary school field as a parking lot.
Former “School with a Big Heart” Now a Training/Conference Centre
When Garibaldi Annex was unofficially “closed” in June 2018, parents were told the field, playground and community garden would remain open for community use.
However last fall, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) began using Garibaldi as a conference/training centre. The field became an overflow parking lot.
Residents expressing concern to the VSB about the loss of recreation space were assured it was only temporary. However, the field is being used for parking most weekdays. It’s often packed end to end with cars.
Where Do the Children Play?
This is a problem because, for many kids in the neighbourhood, Garibaldi is the only place close to home for off street play. The cars not only blocked access, but also left deep ruts, filled with water. The school board fixed the field several times, but the repairs only lasted a few days.
Community Soccer Game
Things came to a head in mid-July. After months of having their concerns ignored by the VSB, a group of parents tried to organize a soccer game for their children. On July 18th, they went to the school and asked people driving onto the playground to park somewhere else.
Some of the parkers were happy to comply, but others were not. School staff made some calls and, at around 9:00 am, a school liaison officer and city police arrived. They told the parents that, while they understood their concerns, the field was school property and the VSB was free to choose how it was used. The protesters were asked by the police to no longer interfere.
One parent told us that the presence of the police was a shock, given that all they wanted to do was organize a kid’s soccer game on a playing field they’d freely used for decades.
While the parents were explaining their concerns to staff and police, Geoffrey Permain, the VSB’s Grounds Supervisor arrived. He told them the cars would continue to use the field and that it would be resurfaced to make it more suitable for parking. He also hoped this would make it better for recreation and that, in the future cars would be asked to park away from the playground.
Mr. Permain also mentioned that other parties, including Notre Dame Regional Secondary, were looking at leasing the field for parking.
The work on the field is happening this week. It’s not clear at this point how much of it will be given over to parking.
Green Space Disappearing
It does look like this will be a permanent loss of recreation “green” space in our community.
We don’t know when Notre Dame might start using the field or how often. McCarthy Stadium construction could start at any time, leaving the school without its own parking. When the stadium is finished, its new parking lot will be much smaller than what is there now — and it will be only for teachers and staff, not students.
When Notre Dame rents the stadium weekdays and weekends to sports groups for practices and “special events” that will increase demand for parking in our neighbourhood.
It’s certain that more traffic is coming here. Between Garibaldi’s conference/training centre, Notre Dame’s McCarthy Stadium, new developments along Nanaimo and Renfrew and more infill housing (with second & third suites, laneway houses), our narrow streets will be busy.
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