City council will likely approve a proposed extension to this year’s Pride parade route in an attempt to accommodate the parade’s increasing crowds without re-routing it out of the West End.
The proposal, which will be presented to city council in early April, would see the parade route extended from its usual starting point on Denman St, seven blocks east up Robson St, to the corner of Robson and Thurlow.
The parade would then move west down Robson St, turn south on Denman St, and proceed along Beach Ave to its usual end point at Sunset Beach.
“Of the various options for extending the route, that was the one that worked out best for everybody,” says Muriel Honey, manager of the city’s film and special events office.
Honey, who says the city has been in discussions with the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) concerning the parade route on numerous occasions, cites safety as the primary consideration for the proposed extension.
“The route had to get longer because it was unsafe to have that many people in a confined area.”
Honey says city staff from various departments and representatives from outside organizations, such as the VPS, Coast Mountain Bus Company and BC Transit, meet to discuss “the issues, the options and the problems,” associated with staging events like the Pride parade. She says the proposed route for this year’s parade will be included in the annual special events report that will be presented to council in April.
VPS president John Boychuk agrees that the parade route needs to accommodate an increasing number of spectators.
He says the current parade route, which is designed to accommodate roughly 250,000 people, now sees 340,000 crammed along its sides. By 2010, he anticipates that number will have grown to 500,000 people.
“The parade has grown [every year] over the past 30 years,” says Boychuk. “There’s clearly a need to accommodate more people.”
Members of Vancouver’s queer community are so far responding well to the proposed extension.
“I think that would be an excellent footprint for the parade to go through,” says former VPS board member Vince Marino. “Adding those extra blocks and still staying in the West End is a great thing.”
Marino emphasises the importance of keeping the parade on Denman St.
“I think Denman St is a very important part of Vancouver’s Pride history and it should remain part of the parade route,” he says.
Long-time gay activist David Myers also likes this year’s proposed route.
“Because it preserves the existing [Sunset Beach] end point, it sounds like a pretty good idea to me,” he says. “This [route] also allows for more prime viewing along a major street,” he adds, referring to the extension along Robson.
Like Marino, Myers stresses the importance of keeping the parade in the West End.
“That’s where gay Pride originated in Vancouver,” he notes. “If you’re going to be true to history, that’s where it should be.”
Asked what his ideal parade route would be, Myers, who attended the city’s first Pride parade, says he would start the event at BC Place stadium and proceed along Robson, Denman and Beach to end at Sunset Beach.
Gay city councillor Tim Stevenson also sees the need to accommodate more people along the parade route. “We want to accommodate as many people as want to come,” he says. “The more the merrier.”
As for how likely he thinks it is that council will approve the proposed route extension, Stevenson says the idea should get the go-ahead.
“I can’t see councillors not agreeing to that,” he says. “That proposal is the best solution to accommodate the increasing crowds.”
Stevenson also underlines the importance of keeping the parade in the West End.
“That’s a bottom line for me,” he says.
Former VPS vice president Aviva Lazar is also keen on the proposed route.
“I like the fact that it’s going to stay in the West End,” she says.
However, she points out that making the route longer will also make the parade itself longer.
“If you’re a spectator at the end of the route waiting for the parade to come by, it’s a four-hour commitment,” says Lazar. “That’s a long time to wait in the hot sun.”
She wonders whether people will want to wait around for very long to see the parade come by. However, she notes that if spectators give up and go home, it might actually be a good thing. “It will allow more people to see the parade,” she says.
Asked what her ideal parade route would be, Lazar suggests starting the parade at Robson and Denman and continuing along the traditional route, but having it end not at Sunset Beach, but at David Lam Park in Yaletown.
She says the park is nicer than Sunset Beach and would be a good place to hold the festival that follows the parade.
Boychuk says the VPS asked the city for permission to extend the route’s end point into Yaletown but the city refused.
“We know that we’re not going to be able to go into Yaletown. They’re not letting us cross Burrard as we were hoping. The recommendation at this point is to expand the existing route backwards,” he says.
Boychuk says the city won’t let the VPS disrupt traffic flow on Burrard St as long as construction continues on Cambie St.
“We had requested to cross Burrard St,” he explains, “to be able to either have the parade end at Richards and use Richards St as a breakdown point, going north off of Pacific, or to be able to continue down to the Roundhouse. But because of the logistics associated with the Cambie St bridge not being fully open, a lot of the redevelopment that is going down in that area, and just some of the safety concerns, they just don’t feel it is viable at this point to examine that option.”