Park board keeps Sunset Beach Park closed a month following 4/20

The park remains fenced off to the public despite showing no major signs of damage

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Excessive litter, traffic, smoke, and the needless "waste of taxpayer’s dollars"—all fears the Vancouver park board used as fodder to kibosh this year’s 4/20 cannabis protest and farmer’s market. Yet the only remnant of the event, which took place a month ago, is a blue metal fence ordered by the city to prevent the public from accessing the near-immaculate park.

On April 20, for another year, the annual peaceful gathering carried on without a permit from officials. This year, it drew in record crowds—organizers pegging the collective attendance at about 150,000 throughout the day, peaking at about 65,000 when the headliner, rap group Cypress Hill, took the stage.

Heeding the city’s concern for the integrity of the sod, event organizers invested in heavy-duty protective covering to reduce damage. Now, the grass shows no major erosion—barring some discolouration where the the walkways were situated between some 350 vendors.

Piper Courtenay

The 4/20 staff, a Weed’s "green team", and local volunteers stayed late into the evening to clean up leftover garbage and refuse following the festival and protest. The next day, the Straight’s editor, Charlie Smith, reported a “spotless” scape.

Despite being denied a permit for yet another year, organizers paid to bring in first-aid support, sanitation facilities, and a trash receptacles, and also pledged to cover any extenuating costs to the city. Dana Larsen, a cannabis activist and one of 4/20’s lead facilitators, says the only thing they won’t cover is the hefty policing bill, which includes officers stationed at the Vancouver Art Gallery where no event was held.

Organizer's also donated $4,200 to each the Variety Children's Charity, CKNW Kids' Fund, and the Overdose Prevention Society.

Larsen says he didn’t receive the city’s quote until June of last year. He says he expects the same of this year’s bill.

There were no major medical or police incidents, barring a few cases of dehydration and dizziness.

All this to say—for yet another year—the city’s concerns were assuaged by an overall positive result and pleasant event.

Why is it then that the sea wall, beach, and surrounding public space are open, but not the patch of grass where the booths and main stage where located?

No one has an answer.

Last year, the park was closed for four weeks following the event—falling dramatically shy of the proposed 10-plus weeks board members initially stated was needed for “repairs”. Unlike last year, the park board did not give an estimated timeline for the duration of the closure. A request for an update has been filed with the city but no response as of yet.

Nor has any reason been given for the fence to remain a month post event preventing the public from using the space.

What has been announced, however, was NPA city councillor Melissa De Genova’s promise to make good on a lawsuit against event organizers, vendors, sponsors, and anyone involved in the event for flouting city wishes.

She passed a motion last week pushing the council to: “acknowledge concern for the impact the '420 Vancouver Protest Festival & Farmer's Market' annual event has on the ability of the City of Vancouver to be able to provide resources to all protests, demonstrations, civic events and emergency situations within the City of Vancouver operating budget.”

Piper Courtenay
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