Notre Dame Stadium “FAQ”

Many of the FAQ’s at the Notre Dame Open House were taken directly from questions posed on Notre Dame Neighbours’ flyers & posters. While we appreciate the effort to answer those questions, the information provided was, in almost every case, misleading and/or incorrect. A major problem is the failure to address, at any point, the “elephant in the room” — the fact that this stadium, once built, will be rented out as a revenue source for the school and used for larger events, creating far more traffic, parking, safety, environmental and quality of life problems than is acknowledged in this, and other, information provided by the school.
Here are a few examples from information displayed at the April 3 Notre Dame Open House . . .

NDS FAQ blog

 

To see the diagram below with live links to the documents underlined in blue, open the PDF version of the FAQ here.

City Admits McCarthy Stadium Was Never a Minor Amendment

A MISTAKE WAS MADE

The City of Vancouver now admits that they made a mistake in considering Notre Dame’s plan for McCarthy Stadium as simply a “minor amendment”.
The mistake was first acknowledged at the Notre Dame Open House on Wednesday evening by the City’s Project Facilitator, Andrew Wroblewski. It was then confirmed in an email from him to a Notre Dame neighbour on Friday which read in part:

“To clarify, a minor amendment is not the scope of this permit. Usually a minor amendment requires very little staff review and rarely any public consultation; we admit that staff originally handling the file did not realize the history of the project or concerns of the neighbourhood (emphasis added). We have not issued a permit for the proposal.”

This is an important admission and we thank Mr. Wroblewski for sharing it with us.

It confirms what Notre Dame Neighbours, and all who signed our petition, have been saying all along: McCarthy Stadium is a big change from the 2008 permit and needs proper review and consultation.

It’s unfortunate that its taken this long to acknowledge our legitimate concerns. We’ve been accused of spreading misinformation by none other than Mr. McCarthy himself:

“We in the Notre Dame community were somewhat surprised and disappointed that certain opponents of the project chose to misrepresent the size and scope of the project,” McCarthy told CBC in an email.

It’s now clear that we have, in fact, accurately assessed the “size and scope of the project” and that it was the City’s mistake to consider it a “minor amendment” in the first place.

These are very positive developments, but more is needed. The City Planner, Gil Kelley is the person who will be making this decision. He needs all the accurate information about the impact of the project available to him. This would include your views, reviews by other City staff and panels like the Urban Design Panel.

NEXT STEPS

An information Board at Notre Dame Open House on April 3rd

Notre Dame was given a big stage to present its vision for McCarthy Stadium at the Open House last Wednesday afternoon.

The City of Vancouver was prepared to give the project quick and easy approval. Now they acknowledge that was a mistake.

We know that building a 740 seat stadium is not going to improve our quality of life.

Please continue to make your voice heard. Even if you’ve signed our petition and attended the Open House, please take another opportunity to make your views known. In other words, “keep those cards and letters coming!”

It’s important that Andrew Wroblewski and the City know how we feel about McCarthy Stadium. Mr. Wroblewski can be reached by email at andrew.wroblewski@vancouver.ca You can also call (604) 673-8460.

If you would like some “talking points”, visit our website http://www.notredameneighbours.com and look for the post “Big Changes. Not A Minor Amendment”.

If you would like to sign our petition, please get in touch at notredameneighbours@gmail.com and we’ll arrange it.

Big Changes. Not A “Minor Amendment”

Why is the City of Vancouver considering the construction of a massive concrete structure in a residential neighbourhood to be a “Minor Amendment” to a previously approved development application? The original application did not include a large, sunken, concrete structure with the capacity for 700+ people and an artificial turf field. Shouldn’t the construction of such a large, private, sports facility (in a residential neighbourhood) require a completely new application, if this massive concrete structure was not part of the original application?

Effects on the Neighbourhood – Parking and Traffic

The private sports stadium that the City of Vancouver is being asked to approve is a large concrete and artificial turf sports venue that has a stated seating capacity of 700+. Has the city done an assessment on the impacts of traffic and parking in this residential neighbourhood based on the actual capacity of the private venue that is being proposed, or is it basing its decisions on the “estimated attendance” that has been provided in the traffic assessment submitted by the applicant? A private venue of this capacity should be subject to the same assessment standards as a theatre, concert hall or nightclub. Shouldn’t it be granted approval based on its actual capacity, as opposed to an estimate of potential attendance that has been supplied by the applicant? Why does the traffic assessment submitted by the applicant not include any reference to the potential impacts of the actual, stated capacity of the venue that they are seeking approval for?

Public Safety issues – First responders delayed

There is a Fire Station that will be directly affected by the increased flow and density of traffic brought to the neighbourhood by this private facility. It is a matter of public safety that these first responders have immediate and unobstructed access to Renfrew Street at all times. Any increase in traffic or potential obstruction puts members of the public at risk, and is completely unacceptable.

It would be both reckless and irresponsible of the City of Vancouver to approve the construction of this private facility if the ability of first responders to respond to matters of public safety is hindered in any way. With a stated venue capacity of 700+ people, this would seem to be an obvious problem in approving a project of this nature, and would put public safety at risk if this application were to be approved.

Potential flooding, Property values

We know that there are underground waterways that flow beneath the field where this development is being proposed. Has the city done any environmental impact studies to determine how this massive, sunken, concrete structure, the concrete retaining wall, and the removal of the established soil base will affect potential flooding and water flow patterns in the surrounding residential neighbourhood? If not, why has this not been investigated? Any change in groundwater distribution/flooding patterns has the potential to negatively affect property values for homeowners in the surrounding area. The change in the permit application – from a grass field to a concrete stadium – has significant financial ramifications to property owners and taxpayers in the surrounding area. Why is this not being addressed?

Potential Wildlife/Environmental Impacts

Has the City done any environmental impact studies on whether or not the artificial turf that is being proposed by the applicant contains any pollutants that will leak into the groundwater? Are there any health risks to members of the public? If there have been no impact studies to determine this, it would seem like a responsible course of action for the city to do study this before approving the application.

Has the city done any impact studies on how the construction of this facility will affect established botanical/wildlife/bird habitat in the neighbourhood? If not, why has this not been addressed as part the public consultation process before moving forward with such an enormous project?

Please come to the Open House at Notre Dame and ask City Staff if any of these issues have been addressed. Please share any other concerns you have as well, and send them to us. Our email address is: notredameneighbours@gmail.com

The Open House is tomorrow, 3 April 2019, from 4:00 am to 7:00 pm. It’s not a public meeting – there won’t be an open mic – but you’ll be able to speak to representatives from the City of Vancouver.

Biased Traffic Study Not Good Enough

Open Letter to the City of Vancouver

Thank-you for forwarding the new information regarding the updated traffic study and tree assessment.
Some comments on the traffic study:

The introductory sentence says it all – “As requested, Bunt & Associates (Bunt) has prepared this letter report to support the construction of a new playfield, spectator seating and parking lot at Notre Dame Regional Secondary School in the City of Vancouver.”

It is clear that the sole purpose of this incredibly weak and biased “study” is, as defined above, to support the school’s proposed plans.

The recording of traffic on a normal school day is completely irrelevant to the potential impact of the proposed McCarthy Stadium. The study also claims to have monitored an “event” when 200 people came to an AGM. No significant parking or traffic concerns were noted. A more representative event might have been the open house for prospective parents on Jan 17 when the Notre Dame parking lot was completely full and overflow cars were parked in fire hydrant zones, private driveways and sticking into intersections. City traffic enforcement staff had to ticket and tow several vehicles that night.

Future stadium events have the potential to be far more disruptive.

The study takes Notre Dame’s word that this multi-million dollar facility, with 740 stadium seats and capacity for over 1000 more (as per Notre Dame’s own press release) will be used only a few times a week for practice and a small number of games, with anticipated audiences of 40-80.

Traffic assessment needs to be done on the actual capacity of the venue being studied, not on the extremely low estimate given by the school on the projected attendance/traffic generated.

The school has always sought ways to bring in revenue by renting out its facilities to third parties —from bingo nights in the 90’s, to renting the parking lot out to school buses and PNE parking, to the current rental of the gymnasium for non-school events.

It is only a matter of common sense to predict that, having spent millions on this new stadium, Notre Dame will attempt to use it as a revenue source.

If the school insists that the stadium will not be rented out, they should sign a binding covenant to that effect. Perhaps the City could facilitate such a document.

Neighbourhood Density

The new traffic study makes this inaccurate statement (2.1.1, second bullet):
the immediate neighbourhood has not materially changed from what was present in 2007; “

Since 2007, like most Vancouver neighbourhoods, we have seen a big increase in densification as people seek to make city living affordable. Laneway houses and multi-suite houses are now replacing singly family dwellings.

Two examples of local changes since 2007:

On the SW corner of the Notre Dame campus there used to be a double lot with a bungalow and one occupant. The same lot now holds two multi-suite houses and two laneway homes, multiplying the density by x6 at a bare minimum.

Similarly, on the NE side of the campus another single family house on a double lot has been replaced by two sets of multi-suite and laneway homes.

These are only two examples of recent developments in the area. It is a neighbourhood- and city-wide trend that is only likely to increase in future.

New Parking Lot

It is ridiculous to project that the reduction in parking lot size from 98 spots to 68 will not cause problems, even on a regular school day, let alone during events.

Not only will the number of parking lot spaces be greatly reduced, there will also be no street parking at the SW corner of the campus where the entrance and exit to the new lot will be. This corner, you may remember, is where the two new multi-suite houses and laneways are located, and that stretch of Parker Street is heavily used by those residents for parking.

Field Lights

The traffic study mentions at least twice that no field lights are included in the current permit amendment and on the stadium drawing included with the traffic plan there are indeed no signs of light stands.

However, light stands are clearly visible on the official permit application drawing on the City Permit web site, so we assume that these are part of the official permit amendment request.

While the school may not be requesting field lights at this point, it seems that they are putting in infrastructure so it will be easy to flip that switch via another “minor permit amendment” — once the dust from this one has settled. Eventually, lights will bring even more traffic and parking issues to our neighbourhood.

Firehall No. 14


Cars parked in the No Stopping Zone in front of Firehall #14

From page 7-8, 2.2, Bunt & Associates

“There is a No Stopping zone in front of the fire hall and its driveways. In addition, traffic cones were noted to be deployed along the curb (see Figure 3). Nonetheless, motorists were observed to stop (and sometimes wait) in this No Stopping zone in order to drop-off and/or pick-up students. Additional signage (engineering), reminders to parents by the school (education) and the issuing of tickets for parking violations (enforcement) should further discourage people from stopping and/or parking in front of Fire Hall No. 14 and its driveway. In 2007-2008, Engine 14 responded to an average of 1482 calls per year or four calls per day.1 Engine 14 would most likely respond to a call by turning right on Venables Street towards Renfrew Street and driving past the school’s main entrance and primary pick-up/drop-off area. Should Engine 14 need to respond to a call when students are being dropped off or picked up and Venables Street was blocked by cars parking, the engine may need to turn left and circle the block counter clockwise to reach Renfrew Street. The peak school drop-off times are from 8–8:30 a.m. while peak pick-up times are from 2:45-3:15 p.m.”

So, from this part of the study we learn that Notre Dame parents will ignore (a) common sense and (b) parking cones, in order to persist in parking in a firehall “No Stopping” zone.

Signs, fines and school announcements may or may not solve that particular problem.

The firehall situation neatly sums up the “drive through” attitude displayed by school parents/visitors. Imagine this problem multiplied by sports crowds (school or otherwise) looking for parking and dropping off/picking up players on weekends/evenings/holidays.

The fact that the traffic study is quite sanguine about the fact that a fire engine on a life-saving mission may have to “turn left and circle back counter clockwise” to get to Renfrew is somewhat breathtaking, and indicative of a failure to see beyond school’s convenience.

We hope that these comments and observations will be taken into account and will encourage a far more extensive and realistic study into the impact of McCarthy Stadium before any permit amendment is granted.

A first step to doing this would be to acquire an accurate assessment of the potential use and volume of traffic to be generated by the stadium — one based on reality and not the unrealistic estimates currently being put forward by Notre Dame.

Yours truly, Notre Dame Neighbours

WHAT YOU CAN DO

To pass on any of these, or your own, comments about parking and traffic concerns surrounding the proposed McCarthy Stadium, write to andrew.wroblewski@vancouver.ca and/or gil.kelley@vancouver.ca
You can also write to Vancouver’s Mayor and City Council.

Notre Dame Open House

3 April 2019, 4 – 7 pm

Many of you will have received this notice in the mail from the City of Vancouver announcing the long awaited Open House at Notre Dame.

The postcard says this is a Notice of Development Application. To be clear, the school is asking for a “minor amendment” to the existing 2008 permit and NOT a new permit. We feel that Notre Dame’s McCarthy Stadium project is such a departure from the original development permit that it requires an entirely new one. We would much prefer that they keep to their original agreement and build their students a grass practice field. And while we’re pleased the City is requiring Notre Dame to hold this Open House, this is not real community consultation.

The limited Open House hours show how little Notre Dame is actually interested in community input. It may serve the school’s parents and staff to begin at 4:00pm. However, wrapping things up by 7:00pm means many residents will have to rush to get there after work and getting children fed. It will leave little time to talk to school and city representatives.

A development of this magnitude deserves more that a three hour Open House.

The school’s website (News and Announcements) says the Open House is an opportunity to “provide accurate and up to date information” about McCarthy Stadium.

That will be refreshing.

So far we’ve had a challenge getting information of any kind from Notre Dame. From the moment the orange tree protection fencing appeared on Parker Street it is only because residents did their own research that we know the actual scope of the school’s plans.

The City has slowly and reluctantly taken note of our concerns. Last fall, it was prepared to grant the school its minor amendment with no discussion. Now, with pressure from this neighbourhood, they are requiring Notre Dame hold the Open House “to reset the community consultation in order to gain official feedback from neighbourhood”. The City has also asked for an updated traffic study (although this is not mentioned in the mail-out).

Previously, Notre Dame claimed that the bleachers were always part of their plan. Now, according to the mail-out, the Notre Dame proposal is (as we’ve said from the beginning) not just for a new artificial turf playing surface, but for: “New bleachers and viewing platforms; new retaining walls and reconfiguration of the parking lot.”

The mail-out from the City is silent about the poplar trees along Kaslo. The 2008 permit notes clearly that the trees are to be retained. It’s hard to see how a full sized football field can be crammed into the small school site without damaging the poplar trees. The City and Notre Dame need to be up front about their fate.

The poplars should be saved.

The artificial turf is also problematic. More and more studies are showing that it’s not good for players, or for the environment. A creek flows underneath Notre Dame. The Archbishop signed a covenant to protect it. There should be an environmental study to assess the impact of a sunken artificial turf field on the creek, including investigation into what harm the particulates running off the artificial turf will have on the watershed.

Many other questions and concerns remain:

  • Will McCarthy Stadium eventually have field lights?
  • Will Notre Dame rent the multi-million dollar stadium to outside groups? (We assume the answer to this is yes, as they already rent out their gymnasium. The real question is what limits, if any, will be put on rentals?)
  • Where will students and visitors park?
  • How will our neighbourhood absorb all the new traffic?
  • What steps, if any, will be taken to mitigate noise from the stadium?
  • What washroom facilities will be available to visitors?

The original 2008 permit was good for the neighbourhood and good for the students.

The city should deny the “minor amendment” request. Notre Dame should build a grass practice field as promised. If it is determined to build a stadium that the neighbourhood does not want, the school should at least have to apply for a new building permit.

Please mark April 3rd on your calendars and go to the Open House.

In addition, mark April 19th on your calendars and make sure you also put your questions and concerns about McCarthy Stadium in writing to Andrew Wroblewski, Project Facilitator or call him at 604-673-8460

You can email us at notredameneighbours@gmail.com if you’d like to sign our petition.

Clinton Park Day

The old field house at Clinton Park is getting a new lease on life with the help of Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House. Come to the party! Notre Dame Neighbours will be there, along with the Clinton Neighbourhood Committee. Stop by our tents to say hello. We’ll have flyers, petitions and information boards.

Activities for Clinton Park Day include: 
Music: The Gram Partisans 11:30-12:00; Norine Braun 12:​30-​1:​00​, neighbourhood music jam ​1:30 (bring your instruments) 
Sharing your ideas for programming at the Clinton Park Field House with Co-design Artists [Noon to 2:00 in the Field House] 
Kid’s Games, Face Painting 
Learn about Mason Bees, Pruning and Garden Tips 
Refreshments

Clinton Park Day
Sunday, 10 March 2019
11:00 – 3:00 pm
Rain or Shine

For more information about the Clinton Neighbourhood Committee and their work to keep Clinton Park open for all, contact them at: clintonpark2018@gmail.com 
You can learn about Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House here
See you next Sunday!

Open House Postponed

New Traffic Study Announced!

We just received an “auto-response” email from the City of Vancouver’s Andrew Wroblewski. He’s the project facilitator for the Notre Dame Open House. We wrote to ask him when the Open House might happen.

It turns out it’s postponed until sometime in April. One reason for the delay is that the school is now required to do a traffic study.

It’s good to see that our concerns about McCarthy Stadium traffic and parking are having an impact. The updated traffic study is an important step in the right direction.

However, it’s not clear about the scope of the traffic study. After reading his email, you may want to ask Mr. Wroblewski a few questions.

To Whom It May Concern;

In the past few months, we have heard concerns from the community with respect to the Notre Dame sports field.  This email is to provide information and an update on this development that is currently under review.

The school will be hosting an open house to engage the community and ensure that their concerns are heard.  While we originally estimated that the open house would be held in late January or early February, it has come to our attention that Notre Dame will need more time to prepare for an open house based on the community feedback we have heard so far.  Some of this preliminary work will take time, including the preparation of an updated traffic study, therefore; we are now targeting a post-spring break open house in early April. Please be assured that no decision on the application will be made prior to our notification process, the opportunity for the community to provide feedback for staff review and the open house.

A postcard delivered to the neighbourhood will arrive by mail in early March, providing further details on the open house and details on how to provide feedback.

Yours truly,
Andrew Wroblewski | Project Facilitator andrew.wroblewski@vancouver.ca 604-673-8460

We should take a moment to digest what is happening here.

In mid-August, orange fences went up around trees on 2800 Parker Street. At any moment, the Lombardy poplars along Kalso Street could have been cut and Notre Dame free to begin work on McCarthy Stadium. All this might have happened with a simple yes from the City with no public discussion.

Notre Dame and the City seemed to think this was acceptable because in their view, McCarthy Stadium was simply a change from a grass field to an artificial turf field, needing only a minor amendment to the existing permit.

However, after strong pushback and evidence to the contrary from our neighbourhood, the City has been having second thoughts.

First, in December it required Notre Dame have an Open House to “reset the community consultation in order to gain official feedback”.

Now, in February, the City wants the school to do an “updated traffic study”.

None of this would have happened if you hadn’t spoken up.

We’re pleased the City is beginning to listen. However, it’s not good enough to find out about a major development like a traffic study as part of an automated response.

We should be at the table taking part in the decision making process, not outside looking in.

Notre Dame Stadium Timeline

notredamestadiumtimeline

Click here to see a larger PDF version of this diagram with links to related documents

How the Notre Dame sports field went from a grass practice field to the much more extensive McCarthy Stadium is complicated. The diagram above provides a simple way to understand what happened.

Several things become clear, including the fact that in March 2006 the school withdrew its plan for a stadium and told residents that, if they did eventually decide to revisit the idea, they would apply for a new permit. They have not done this. Instead they are asking for a minor amendment, a process that doesn’t allow for proper public consultation and input.

The City of Vancouver’s  Urban Design Panel did not discuss the field as it was removed from consideration (as promised by Notre Dame) in April 2006.

Another critical point is that the stadium and its potential impacts on traffic safety, parking and quality of life for the community have NEVER been studied. The existing Transport Management Plan was written over 12 years ago and assumes the installation of a grass practice field. A practice field brings minimal extra traffic, whereas a field for games becomes a destination with a far greater impact on the local area.

The series of events outlined in the diagram shows the need for a NEW BUILDING PERMIT PROCESS to look at all aspects of the proposed stadium and the effect it would have on our community.

 

Greenest City 2020?

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The City of Vancouver has a long held, and widely publicized, aim of being the greenest city in the entire world by 2020. That’s next year folks!

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written on the strategies and initiatives for reaching this goal. See Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan.

greenest city log

It all so good in theory, and yet, when I look at the proposed changes to our own neighbourhood, I find it very hard to put the two things together.

The proposed change of plan at Notre Dame School, to go from:

(a) grass practice field with trees retained, to

(b) sunken artificial turf games facility with trees removed,

… seems to be going in entirely the wrong direction.

Notre Dame is a private school, but it should be noted that the City’s green plan repeatedly calls for cooperation between “developers, planners, designers and public and private landowners.”

 

TREE REMOVAL

The proposed removal of the row of Lombardy Poplars on the school’s western border contradicts a large number of the the green initiatives that shelter under the Greenest City Action Plan umbrella

Notre Dame poplars at sunrise

To begin with, the maintenance of trees is part of the City’s Urban Forest Strategy

“Vancouver’s urban forest includes every tree in our city – on streets, in parks, public spaces, and back yards. Our urban forest plays important environmental and social roles: it cleans the air, absorbs rainwater, provides bird habitat, and improves our health and well-being.“

If every tree in Vancouver is part of the Urban Forest strategy, it follows that every effort should be made to retain the 23 mature, full-of-bird-and-bug-life, poplars on Kaslo Street.

Poplar trees reflected in puddles

I was told by an old-timer in the neighbourhood, who lived opposite the school site, that when the poplars were planted those particular trees were selected because of their prodigious ability to soak up water from the ground. This was important because Notre Dame was, and is, built over Hastings Creek and is also positioned at a low, water-collecting point of the neighbourhood. In the past it was a marsh. It is unknown what effect the removal of the poplars will have on the wetness of the school site, not to mention the surrounding area.

City trees are also a critical part of the City’s Access to Nature Goals

One specific goal within this strategy is:

Ensure that every person lives within a 5 minute walk of a park, greenway, or other green space by 2020; restore or enhance 25ha of natural areas between 2010 and 2020

notre dame map wider

As you can see from the aerial view above, the area around Notre Dame School (the red dot in the middle) is already very poorly served by green space. The walk to the nearest park is far longer than five minutes. Many people head to the tiny bit of “greenway” provided by the Notre Dame poplars to walk their dogs, or simply to stroll within the sound of birdsong and the whispering of wind in the leaves. Removal of this tiny strip of green is a big step in the wrong direction for a city aiming to provide its citizens with more green space, and the physical, mental and spiritual well-being it is known to promote.

Summer time poplars

A sub-set of the Access to Nature Strategy is the Vancouver Bird Strategy in which the City strives to make Vancouver a rich and welcoming year-round habitat for all kinds of native birds. A healthy and diverse population of birds is intended to add to the enjoyment and enrichment of Vancouver residents, and also attract visitors from around the world.

A pair of northern flickers playing in the Notre Dame poplars
A pair of northern flickers playing in the Notre Dame poplars

The Kaslo Street poplars provide an important habitat for local birds. Watching the trees  for any length of time will reveal a parade of chickadees, juncos, bush tits, northern flickers, crows and robins, and even hawks, ravens and bald eagles making occasional visits. Many birds nest in these trees in the spring time, making use of the security from ground-predators provided by their elevation. In spring, 2018, some migrating mountain bluebirds (rare in this region) used the school as a resting area for a few days on their trip to their summer habitat in northern BC.

Northern Bluebird at Notre Dame
A Mountain Bluebird resting at Notre Dame, April 2018.

Vancouver achieved its goal of attracting visitors from around the world last summer when the prestigious meeting of bird scientists (IOC2018) was held here. I met some of those scientists, and we discussed the small things that can make cities bird friendlier. We agreed that areas like the small stand of poplars in my neighbourhood are great examples of small spaces making a big difference within the urban environment. Ironically, this was just couple of weeks before we learned that those very trees were threatened.

Raven in the Notre Dame Poplars
Raven in the poplars

Note: The City required that the school have arborist’s inspection done of these poplars. We have to assume that resulting report said that the trees should be removed but, as far as we know, this is only because of the school’s plan to create a ten foot drop-off right at their base of the trees (to accommodate the sunken field) which will render them unstable. We would like to see a second arborist’s report undertaken on the viability of the trees without such drastic excavation.

poplars to remain
Instructions on the Notre Dame Field permit issued by the City of Vancouver in 2008. The new plans, part of the “minor amendment,” no longer include this important detail.

Should the project go ahead and the poplars be removed, the city requires that the school replace them with other trees. I am curious to know what trees of any size could thrive on top of a ten foot retaining wall.

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ARTIFICIAL TURF

The other way in which the Notre Dame proposal seems to be marching away from green city goals is by coating the entire remaining surface of the campus with a combination of artificial turf and parking lot.

Artificial turf can be played on for up to 80 hours a week and does not (normally) need watering. These two advantages seem to have caused a stampede by the Vancouver Park Board (as well as private institutions like Notre Dame School) to install this surface on as many fields as possible to increase playing time.

But there are some very serious disadvantages to artificial turf that really need to considered more closely, including possible adverse heath effects for those using the fields, as well as a variety of environmental problems.

As far as climate change is concerned, it seems a very bad idea — not only for the users of the field but for whole neighbourhoods around the fields.

From Health Impact Assessment of the Use of Artificial Turf in Toronto written in 2015,

Unlike natural grass which has evaporative cooling properties, artificial turf is made of several heat-retaining materials which can significantly increase field surface temperatures, substantially increase air temperatures near fields, and thus contribute to the urban heat island effect in surrounding neighbourhoods. This increases the risk of heat-related health impacts during hot weather events. Widespread use of artificial turf would also make Toronto less resilient to extreme weather events and increase adverse health impacts associated with these events.”

It’s also a bad idea in terms of meeting the City’s rainwater management plan, in which they aim to maximize the amount of permeable surfaces on public and private property in order to cope with increased climate changed-caused rainfall.

Artificial turf is known to be far less permeable than natural grass, and Notre Dame plans to install such a surface in a sunken field, on natural marshland, and over the watercourse of Hastings Creek …  I’m not an engineer, of course, but this seems like a high drainage risk.

Artificial Turf Mountain

Part of the Greenest City Action Plan is Zero Waste 2040 and I can’t help but wonder where a mountain of worn out artificial turf fits into that.

Artificial turf does not last forever. Its lifespan depends on various factors, from the amount of use, to the quality of the product. But all of it is sure to wear out sooner or later, and then what? Off to the landfill it goes. This Dutch video follows an expired fake grass field to its final resting place at the Artificial Turf Mountain.

Does Vancouver want an Artificial Turf Mountain of its very own by 2040?

 

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A SOLUTION?

Ideals, politics, and competing interests can make uneasy bedfellows. Creativity and ingenuity is required to work in such a scenario.

So here’s a modest proposal.

What if the school were to look at ways in which a grass field could work to meet its sports and exercise needs, and the trees could be saved?

In return for the school being such a good citizen, working with the City to reach its 2020 green goals, the City Park Board could take over maintenance of the Kaslo Poplars, pruning and tending to the trees, and perhaps planting native species grasses and shrubs on the City side of the trees. That way the school would soon have its exercise space, which would please students and parents who have waited so long for a field. They would have a sports area, plus an outdoor classroom area for Environmental Studies classes, providing amenities geared to students with a wide range of interests. The mountain bluebirds might even come back!

The school would gain positive public recognition for making such a wonderful contribution to the City’s green action plan, and the City would gain a small strip of green space to inch them a little towards their 2020 goal of everyone within five minute walk away from a bit of nature in the city.

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Or shall we just chop the trees down, carpet everywhere with artificial turf, and call the city green, even if it’s just the uniform emerald of an endless sea of this …?

Artificial turf

Let’s go with the first idea!

It really doesn’t take a lot of green space to create foothold for nature and birds in the city, to the benefit of all city dwellers — so let’s try and work together to save this tiny oasis before it’s gone.

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If you’d like to contact the City of Vancouver to express your opinion on either the specific Notre Dame School issue, or on the expanding use of artificial turf on Vancouver park space, here are few handy addresses:

VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL

Adrienne Carr  adrienne.carr@vancouver.ca

Peter Fry  pete.fry@vancouver.ca

Melissa DeGenova  melissa.degenova@vancouver.ca

Lisa Dominato  lisa.dominato@vancouver.ca

Jean Swanson  jean.swanson@vancouver.ca

Colleen Hardwick  colleen.hardwick@vancouver.ca

Michael Wiebe  michael.wiebe@vancouver.ca

Christine Boyle  christine.boyle@vancouver.ca

Rebecca Bligh  rebecca.bligh@vancouver.ca

Sarah Kirby-Yung  sarah.kirby-yung@vancouver.ca

General message to Mayor and Council at this link.

Or call 311 and leave a comment.

VANCOUVER PARK BOARD

Stuart McKinnon  stuart.mckinnon@vancouver.ca

John Irwin  john.irwin@vancouver.ca

Gwen Giesbrecht  gwen.giesbrecht@vancouver.ca

Camil Dumont  camil.dumont@vancouver.ca

Dave Demers  dave.demers@vancouver.ca

John Coupar john.coupar@vancouver.ca

Tricia Barker tricia.barker@vancouver.ca

Or call 311 and leave a comment.

VANCOUVER CITY STAFF

Gil Kelley
(General manager of Planning, Urban Design, and Sustainability)

gil.kelley@vancouver.ca

604-873-7456

All calls and emails have to be logged, so each one counts!