District of North Vancouver lays down the law in parks

The District of North Vancouver is cracking down on what you can and can’t do in its public parks and green spaces.

District council voted 6-1 Monday night to update its parks bylaw, which hasn’t had an overhaul since John Diefenbaker was prime minister. The new codified list of dos and don’ts is 17 pages long, more than three times the length of the one originally passed in 1961.

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The new bylaw cracks down on unauthorized commercial activity to outlaw things like guided foot tours, exercise classes, professional dog walking or use by day camps. Getting caught playing a game or sport on a playing field except “in accordance with all rules and regulations prescribed by posted” sign could result in a $100 fine.

As before, district parks are officially closed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Anyone caught within parks borders after hours can be fined $200. However, following court decisions in Victoria and Abbotsford, it will not be legal for district staff to evict homeless people camping out (although their tents or shelters must be removed by 9 a.m. and cannot be placed within 10 metres of a playground, trail or any other park infrastructure.)

Flying drones is now prohibited, as is playing golf or practising archery. Using a park to bury a pet’s remains or to place a memorial to a deceased pet will run you $200. (Abandoning a live pet in the park is a $500 offence.)

Getting caught jumping off a public wharf, like the one in Deep Cove, will result in a $200 fine.

The intent of the updated bylaw is reduce conflicts between park users, according to district staff, particularly when the district is receiving complaints.

Though the new rules got the support of the majority on council, it was by no means a day at the park.

Coun. Lisa Muri said she took exception to the fine for jumping off a wharf, as would many Deep Cove locals.

“That’s where we jump off the wharf. That’s where our kids jump off the wharf. It’s kind of a rite of passage. We may buck this bylaw and just go jump off the wharf anyway, even if it gets passed, just to put up a bit of a fuss,” she said. “I don’t want to become un-fun. We have to make sure that we’re safe but we also can’t take away everything that’s great about summer and great about the water and the shoreline that we hold so dear.”

Gavin Joyce, the district’s general manager of engineering, parks and facilities said council will have the option to walk back portions of the bylaw if they feel they are too restrictive or unfairly applied.

“We think we’re about 80 or 90 per cent there,” he said. “We recognize there are some stragglers or some outstanding issues but we’ll return with those at a later date.”

Coun. Roger Bassam cast the lone nay vote against the new parks bylaw on the grounds that it was too restrictive.

“I think this is an overreach on the part of our government,” he said, noting the most critical concerns like smoking and dogs in parks, are already governed by other rules on the books.

Bassam suggested the district’s rules for park use should become less restrictive not, more.

“We know that we do not have the legal authority to close parks to people who are homeless or stop them from camping in our parks but we’re going to put in bylaws to tell law-abiding citizens this park is closed at 10 p.m. and you’re not allowed to be in here,” he said. “Parks should be open 24/7, 365 and we should enjoy them and we should do so civilly.”

Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn, a former police officer, defended the bylaw and the 10 p.m. closing time as a means to deal with teens who congregate in parks for bush parties. “What we’re dealing with is public safety. ... This is not overreach of government. No regulations is anarchy.”

To read the new parks bylaw and district staff report on it, see the pdf below.

 

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