Vancouver City Council has approved a new plan for the future of Hastings Park, home to the Pacific National Exhbition, Hastings Racecourse and Empire Field.
Critics said the plan guarantees the site will never be a real park, just a year round revenue generator, but Mayor Gregor Robertson disagreed, saying the plan adds 50 acres of new park space.
"With the plan in place, we can now move ahead with immediate upgrades and public benefits for the community," Robertson said in a release after the vote at city hall Tuesday. "Hastings Park is one of the most beloved parks in Vancouver and by almost tripling the green space, we’re enhancing it for future generations."
Robertson said the plan's priorities include:
- Reinstating community use of the synthetic turf at Empire Field.
- A youth-focused sports park and mountain bike park.
- A pedestrian trail from Hastings Park to New Brighton
- Planning and design of new sports courts.
The amount of park space will increase to 76 acres from 26 acres.
It will also add a stream and saltwater marsh and more than five kilometres of new pedestrian and bike trails, Robertson said.
Among the critics was Eric Harms, President of the Hastings Community Association.
"This master plan pretty much deals with the pre eminence of the PNE over the site," said Harms. "You have had 100 years of incremental encroachment by the PNE until by the end of the 60s, the place was entirely paved."
Harms also pointed to what he called a lack of public access, the expansion of the PNE's Playland amusement park, a new convention centre, use of existing buildings as revenue generators and a parkade for thousands of cars.
"It's the triumph of commercialization," he said. "I don't think we are done with this struggle yet."
The vote went ahead despite the objections of councillors Ellen Woodsworth and David Cadman, who called for the vote to be deferred, "in the wake of unprecedented public opposition."
"The overwhelming majority of people are telling us to stop, telling us to rethink this plan, and to go back and do it right," Cadman said.