Stanley Park will be closed beginning at 8 pm Friday to allow for the overnight dismantling of the controversial bike lane along Stanley Park Drive.
The Park Board announced last week the traffic cones, equipment, and signage that enforced the temporary road changes will be removed, with Stanley Park Drive returning to its pre-COVID state.
By Saturday morning, both lanes of Stanley Park Drive will return to full vehicle access, and cyclists will be allowed to use the Stanley Park seawall.
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The only temporary changes that will remain in effect will be the 700 metres of roadway between Beach Avenue and Lagoon Drive, where existing traffic patterns will remain in place to maintain the changes on Beach Avenue for cyclists.
Full vehicle access will also resume at all parking lots, except for the parking near Ceperley Meadows.
It is welcome news for Park Board businesses who have strongly asserted throughout the summer the impact of the road and parking changes were an added major contributing factor to their financial losses during the COVID-19 downturn. The businesses threatened legal action against the Park Board.
As a physical distancing measure, the Park Board initially banned all vehicles from entering the park on April 8, with Stanley Park Drive being completely dedicated to cyclists. After $200,000 in traffic system measures were expended, Stanley Park Drive reopened to partial vehicle access on June 22, with one lane for vehicles and one lane for cyclists.
There were significant impacts to parking in far-flung areas of the park, including the parking serving businesses, and major traffic congestion issues were reported when vehicles trailed behind Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours in the single vehicle lane. The steep hill on Stanley Park Drive before Prospect Point was also a problem for less experienced cyclists.
“We want to sincerely thank all of our restaurant staff, customers and the private citizens who rallied behind us to offer their ongoing support during this difficult time,” said Eva Gates, vice president of operations and human resources for The Teahouse, in a statement, noting that the restaurant is now preparing for fall operations and Thanksgiving.
“The decision to reopen the park to vehicle traffic is crucial to the long-term viability of local businesses — most importantly — will help keep our beautiful park accessible for all visitors,” continued Gates.
“Over the last few months, road closures and reduced parking have negatively impacted seniors, families with children, visitors with disabilities and park employees. We are now looking forward to being able to provide our guests with a more user-friendly experience when dining with us this fall.”
But the fall and winter seasons will be different at Prospect Point, as the operator has made the decision to temporarily close all cafe, restaurant, and gift shop operations starting on Sunday. It will reopen in the spring.
“We are looking forward to Stanley Park being reverted to pre-COVID conditions, however the summer season is at its end and this year’s opportunity to make any revenue has passed,” said Stacy Chala, the communications manager of the Capilano Group, the operator of Prospect Point.
“The important issue for us now, as Park stakeholders, is to have assurance that the Park’s return to its pre-COVID condition will be permanent.”
Earlier this summer, Park Board commissioners directed staff to conduct a feasibility study on reducing vehicle volumes in Stanley Park over the longer term.
The Vancouver Aquarium is currently not an attraction option within the park, as it temporarily closed earlier this month to reduce its operating costs amidst its financial crisis.