Public washrooms at new downtown Vancouver park often closed due to vandalism

May 18 2023, 7:59 pm

The new public park at the northeast corner of the intersection of Smithe and Richards streets in the core of the downtown Vancouver peninsula opened just over a year ago.

sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7 — the formal First Nations name of the park, meaning “Rainbow” — was highly received by the public, as it provided a unique urban park experience that broke away from the Vancouver Park Board’s usual mould of cookie-cutter, green-lawn parks.

This park is generally regarded as a success, with the large children’s playground regularly seeing high use, although the roller slide has been closed since late Summer 2022. A spokesperson for the Vancouver Park Board told Daily Hive Urbanized the slide’s temporary closure is due to technical problems, including noise issues, and they have been working with the slide supplier to fix this “complex issue.”

People are often seen using the various spaces and meandering aerial walkways to relax and linger, and a retail unit home to Kafka’s Coffee is activating the park’s plaza, serving to bring more foot traffic into the park.

As well, the park’s design answered public calls over the years for the expansion of public washroom availability, with the inclusion of two single-stall public washrooms that are co-located with Kafka Coffee in the pavilion building.

But the real availability and state of the park’s washroom facilities provide yet another example of how the expansion of public washrooms in and around downtown Vancouver — or in high-traffic locations in general — can be easier said than done.

rainbow park vancouver washroom closed

Closed public washroom at sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7 (Rainbow) Park, as of January 6, 2023. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

rainbow park vancouver washroom closed

Closed public washroom at sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7 (Rainbow) Park, as of January 20, 2023. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

rainbow park vancouver washroom closed

Closed public washroom at sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7 (Rainbow) Park, as of March 4, 2023. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

rainbow park vancouver washroom closed

Closed public washroom at sθәqәlxenәm ts’exwts’áxwi7 (Rainbow) Park, as of March 16, 2023. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

Building a public washroom is the easy part. Upon completion, the operations and maintenance of the facilities to a high standard of cleanliness and safety is a whole different challenge.

But forget about keeping it clean, as the Park Board has been struggling to keep these washrooms open.

The washrooms have been closed for nearly half the time since they first went into service in April 2022, when the park opened. And both washrooms have been closed for the vast majority of 2023 to date. This is based on Daily Hive Urbanized’s observations, as the Daily Hive headquarters is located in close proximity.

Soon after these washrooms are fixed from instances of vandalism, they are closed again from incurring new damage.

“Over the past year, the washrooms have seen flooding due to blocked toilets, damage incurred by fire and the theft and damage of several washroom features, including locks, latches, sinks, exhaust fans, baby change tables, etc.,” a spokesperson for the Vancouver Park Board told Daily Hive Urbanized in an email.

“The goal of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation is to provide safe, clean, and accessible washrooms which enhance the park user experience for all… however, repeated vandalism, theft, improper use, and aging supporting infrastructure (such as old water pipes, plumbing, and fixtures) do impact the quality and availability of park washrooms from time to time.”

It was also noted that more recently, there is a separate plumbing issue at this particular park washroom location.

Kafka Coffee’s operators declined to comment on this story.

rainbow park vancouver april 30 2022

“Rainbow Park” at the intersection of Smithe and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver, as of April 30, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

The spokesperson also noted Park Board staff will be providing an update on the implementation of the comprehensive Washroom Strategy approved by the previous makeup of Park Board commissioners in late 2020.

In accordance with the approved strategy, the Park Board has increased the frequency of cleaning and maintenance at all of its washroom sites.

It has completed Portland Loo single-stall toilet facilities at CRAB Park, and additional facilities equipped with the Portland Loo model are coming to Coopers Park and Columbia Park.

It is renewing washrooms at priority locations such as Granville Park, Winona Park, Second Beach, Collingwood Park, Oppenheimer Park, and the outdoor access washrooms at Kerrisdale Arena. Other measures entail new washrooms at Tisdall Park, improving accessibility features such as new signage, better lighting, and more accessible toilet stall fixtures, and rolling out free menstrual products in community centres at select park washrooms.

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