Another 4/20 smoke up has come and gone, and now that the smoke has cleared there appears to be a significant amount of damage.
The Vancouver Park Board tells Global News the field at Sunset Beach is “trashed,” and that the park will have to be closed for four to six weeks.
“It looks like Woodstock 2017,” said Vancouver Director of Parks Howard Normann.
“The spring we’ve had, and the winter that we’ve had, it really hasn’t had a chance to dry out. If you remember last year it was quite dry in the spring, it makes a huge difference.”
Park Board Chair Michael Wiebe says the field is “mangled” and will need to be completely re-seeded, with organizers on the hook for a bill estimated to be in the “thousands.”
“We’re putting an invoice together, so we’re looking at all Park Board costs. And we had a bit of extra staff sent down today because there was stuff like toxic gummy bears and stuff that were found. Obviously, it was better-organzied overall in how the garbage was going to be picked up this year than last year.”
The Park Board says crews removed 5,000-6,000 pounds of garbage from the venue today, which had been stacked by organizers.
Wiebe adds it’s frustrating that organizers didn’t take steps to lay down ground cover that could have prevented the damage.
“It wouldn’t have cost a lot, and for how much the organizer was bringing in, and how much they had talked about working with us. They had talked a few days ago about putting stuff down, but then the costs had gone up too high. But that was for the expensive layering that can be done under music festivals. But even just plywood would have made a huge difference for this morning.”
Protecting the grass “not possible?”
But 4/20 organizer Dana Larsen says there’s nothing 4/20 could have done to protect the field.
“It was not really possible to protect that park under those conditions,” he says.
Asked if the group had rejected ground covers because of the price tag?
“Well there’s always costs involved in these kinds of decisions. But I don’t think, with the number of people there and the condition of the weather and that, I don’t think we were going to see the park immaculate in terms of the grass afterwards in terms of anything like that.”
As for picking up the tab, Larsen says they’ll chip in – but won’t commit to paying the full bill.
“Well we’ll see what the numbers are, and what the figures are, and how we’ll go with that. We’d worked out a deal with the Park Board staff actually, to cover quite a bit of the cost of the event, but that was also contingent on getting a permit, which they refused to us. And so we’ll see how it goes, but our intention is to help cover some of these costs.”
He says mud damage aside, organizers got high marks from emergency services for a generally problem-free event.
By the numbers
That’s an opinion confirmed by the Vancouver Police Department, which says while it was on “high alert” during the event, there were few significant incidents.
It says first responders dealt with 39 medical emergencies, 19 of which were taken to hospital.
However, Providence Healthcare says St. Paul’s Emergency saw 66 people coming from 4/20, 10 of them under the age of 20 with the youngest patient being 14 years old.
VPD Officers issued eight driving suspensions for the consumption of drugs, and two drivers were criminally charged with impaired driving.
It estimates there were 40,000 people in the park at the peak of the event.
This year’s troubles come after 4/20 organizers took significant heat for trash left behind after the 2016 event.
In that instance, piles of garbage were left behind, requiring nine Park Board staff to spend the following day cleaning up. The city’s final bill for the event once everything was rolled in totalled nearly $150,000.
Back in March, Vancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr pitched a last minute plan to move the event from Sunset Beach, citing damage to the grass after a wet winter as one of her concerns.
This marks the second year the 4/20 event, which organizers consider a protest but many view as a festival, has been held at Sunset Beach without permits or permission.
With files from Jordan Armstrong, Global News