The Children’s Farmyard in Vancouver’s storied Stanley Park is in need of a new operator and business plan if it’s to stay in business past the end of April.
The Vancouver Park Board recently voted to put forward a “request for expressions of interest” for any parties to submit written business cases or concept plans for the use of the Children’s Farmyard in either a “similar or new capacity.”
The park board, according to CBC Vancouver last month, has been ordered to cut $2.8 million from its operations and originally agreed on Nov. 25 to close the farmyard.
At a later meeting, however, the board said it “recognizes the potential educational value of the Children’s Farmyard” and called for expressions of interest with a deadline of April 30.
The park board describes the farmyard as giving children “the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a rural environment.”
The farmyard is now subsidized by the city for about $160,000 of its annual budget. According to the park board, the farmyard “was identified as not being part of the Park Board’s core services.”
According to a city report, the Children’s Farmyard draws over 150,000 visitors per year, including 35,000 in the spring and summer and the rest during the park’s Ghost Train and Bright Nights events.
Stanley Park would continue to have the mini-train attraction during the summer and at the two seasonal events, the city report said.
If the farmyard closes, the park board would be responsible for “finding the best and most appropriate home” for its livestock, and the farmyard could not close until that transition is complete.
Closing the farmyard this year would thus limit savings to the city in 2010, but it’s expected the annual budget savings in 2011 and subsequent years would run around $100,000.
Originally developed in Stanley Park in 1962, rebuilt in 1982 and extended in 1993, the Children’s Farmyard sits on just over an acre of the 1,000-acre Stanley Park and houses “about 50” different species of livestock and reptiles.
The facility now included two heated barns, plus outdoor corrals, yards and a small stream and pond. Its inhabitants include sheep, goats and potbellied pigs that can mingle with visitors, along with donkeys, cattle, rabbits, ducks, chickens, a llama and assorted reptiles.
The farmyard, according to the park board, has also housed endangered species of sheep, cattle and waterfowl under the oversight of Rare Breeds Canada.
The farmyard was open in the early winter of 2009 on weekends only, weather permitting, starting in February. However, hours of operation in 2010 have not yet been listed on the farm past Jan. 2.
Stanley Park, which has operated since 1887, is considered one of Vancouver’s main tourist attractions. Billed as North America’s third largest urban core park, its annual traffic is estimated at about eight million people.