A protest is growing among Vancouverites who oppose a proposed highway through Vanier Park in the Kitsilano neighborhood to access First Nations Senakw’s planned high-rise development.
Jeremy Braude, a retired Kitsilano resident who has lived in the neighborhood near Vanier Park for 30 years, said that as of Saturday 280 people had signed his protest website.
the There is no road through Vanier Park The website says it is “outrageous” that the city and the Squamish First Nation are considering building a road through the park space.
Braude said, in an interview, that this protest is not against high-rise development, which he agrees with because of the desperate need for housing in the city.
However, he is upset about an estimated 300-meter proposed path that would bisect public green space. He also questions the secrecy surrounding First Nations development, which Postmedia columnist Doug Todd wrote about late last month.
“The people of Vancouver like the parks, they really like them and they value them. And we have beautiful parks in this area. And there’s a lot of passion for that.”
The proposed highway, which runs east from Chestnut Street to north of the Senakw property line, will include vehicle lanes, protected bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks, according to a service agreement between Squamish First Nation and the city of Vancouver.
The 11-tower Senakw development, to be built on land that was expropriated from the Squamish Nation more than 100 years ago, will include 6,000 units and is expected to house 9,000 people after its scheduled completion in 2027, which includes provisions for Se will set aside 250 affordable units for Squamish families.
Last month, survey signs were put up announcing where Vanier Park is planned to be crossed for a highway, which will provide access to Senakw.
“The Squamish Nation says it is an unused park. Well, that is absolutely false. It is very well used. People are walking their dogs. It’s so beautiful to walk around and say it’s not used just isn’t right,” Braude said.
The Punta Kitsilano Neighborhood Association strongly supports the Indigenous enterprise, seeing it as a potential act of reconciliation, but believes the property is being overdeveloped.
Braude questioned why there hasn’t been a public consultation, particularly on a proposed path through a park. He said residents are planning a rally soon to express their opposition.
Jeannine Guérette, a spokeswoman for the city of Vancouver, said no one was available for comment on Saturday, but she sent an emailed statement on behalf of the city:
“The land in Vanier Park where the road has been proposed is owned by the Government of Canada. The land is leased from the city and operated by the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board,” the statement said. “The Government of Canada has been in direct discussions with the Squamish Nation regarding the possibility of licensing the Nation for a highway, including pedestrian and bicycle access, on this section of federal land.”
The Squamish Nation and the federal government did not respond to a request for comment Saturday about the highway protest and lack of public consultation.
However, in May, Khelsilem, chairman of the Squamish Nation council, told Postmedia that the pandemic has made engagement difficult in the last three years and that because it’s a development on the reservation, “there aren’t a lot of compromise pieces required.”
He also said that they would welcome your input into the design process.
—with files from Doug Todd and Derrick Penner