British Columbia

Vancouver councillors want more funding for park patrols

A pair of Vancouver politicians believe the issues around discarded drug needles in city parks could be solved with more park rangers.

'A lot of the issues we're having with downtown parks could be alleviated by some more presence'

Tricia Dong's dog sits in front of the park's playground, which is seen littered with needles and other trash. (Tricia Dong)

A pair of Vancouver politicians believe the issues around discarded drug needles in city parks could be solved with more rangers patrolling the facilities.

NPA Coun. George Affleck has put forward a motion for an increase in park funding in next year's budget to pay for additional rangers, while NPA park board commissioner John Coupar is putting forward a motion asking staff to look at the feasibility of 24/7 patrols. 

Vancouver has over 240 parks but most of the attention has focused on places in the downtown core where people have occasionally found discarded needles lying in exposed areas.

"It's escalated in the last couple of years. ... the complaints, the concern from the downtown parks. It's really an issue that we're hearing more about and should be dealing with." 

In July, the city and park board started placing two park rangers in Andy Livingstone Park after neighbours complained of frequently finding needles and drug paraphernalia.

​But Affleck says that outside of Andy Livingstone, there are only around eight park rangers total patrolling the entire city until about eight at night — and that's seasonal.

The cost of additional staffing isn't yet known. 

Neighbours complain there are often discarded needles and drug paraphernalia in the downtown park. (City of Vancouver)

Green Party councillor in support

The motions are working their way through both council and park board, because the park board is an independent body but relies partly on funding from council. 

"I think [people] believe our parks need some work and they need some cleaning. And I think the city that provides half the money to the park board needs to assess its funding and see if there's a way to help them out," said Affleck.

While the NPA has a plurality of seats on the park board, they hold just three of the city's 10 council seats. But Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr says she will also support Affleck's motion.

"I think that the park rangers have done an incredible service. There just aren't enough of them," said Carr, saying park rangers are particularly valuable, because they've been trained in using naloxone and helping people who have overdosed.

"Just as we passed at city council to provide more staffing for support services to our frontline responders ... I think this is a very good move.

"Everyone wants clean, safe parks."

With files from Farrah Merali