Vancouver is expanding its Parks and Recreation Department to encompass the city’s cultural assets and is now formally called Vancouver Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department.
The change means that some of the city’s cultural and historic landmarks, including Officers Row and the West Barracks near the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, now fall under the city department’s jurisdiction. While both properties are owned by the city, they’ve been maintained and preserved by the Historic Trust since 2006.
The Historic Trust also handles a series of events through the year called the Celebrate Freedom program, which included the Lough Legacy Veterans Parade, Independence Day at Fort Vancouver and the Marshall Lecture series. The parks department will also coordinate with The Historic Trust on these programs.
“That partnership will continue with the newly organized Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services department representing the city in that relationship,” Melody Burton, marketing manager for the department, clarified in an email.
Maintenance of city-owned public art will also be handled by the parks department. Prior to the change, Vancouver’s Public Works staff had handled maintenance, coordinating any needed repair work directly with the artist.
“Vancouver Parks and Recreation is excited to support the growth and development of our city by adding culture and heritage programs to our array of services,” Dave Perlick, interim director of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, said in a media release.
“We believe residents will experience this change as a positive joining of community-focused programs. We look forward to providing exceptional parks, trails, recreation programs, and arts and culture opportunities in the future.”
The Historic Trust did not respond to The Columbian’s request for comment Thursday.
The shift is part of a larger overhaul regarding how the city approaches its art and history. In 2019, Vancouver formed a Culture, Arts and Heritage Commission to help fund and promote the city’s art scene, reviving a pre-recession effort. A previous version of the group had formed in 1994 but dissolved after budget cuts slashed the commission’s available grant funding in half.
The revived art program’s budget is approximately $400,000 per year, covering administrative costs, $100,000 in annual competitive grants, and $100,000 to $150,000 to preserve old works and commission new ones.
Volunteer commissioners will work together with staff to enact the city’s Culture, Arts and Heritage Plan, which includes establishing a new community arts center. Staffers in the expanded department will also continue to work with the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission on issues directly related to parks and recreation, according to Thursday’s media release.