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Residents protest park reno

VANCOUVER- Residents of the Downtown Eastside are running out of parks to call home after one of the city's oldest green spaces was shut down for a facelift.

Oppenheimer Park, which dates back more than a century, was closed to the public earlier this summer as it undergoes a $2.3-million redevelopment.

It's slated to re-open by January 2010 with a new lawn and a children's playground.

But in the meantime, advocates for some of the people who use the park as a gathering spot say there's nowhere else to go.

"We've started putting chairs outside the offices at VANDU. There's just no public space at all if you're poor," said Ann Livingston, a volunteer with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users advocacy group.

Livingston wanted the park board to conduct the redevelopment in phases so at least part of the park could be used.

But park board commissioner Aaron Jasper said it was cheaper and faster to tackle the redevelopment in one go.

"It was not only faster, but better in terms of costs," Jasper said.

"Obviously we're very mindful of our costs lately."

The Oppenheimer closure also affects the long-running Powell Street Festival.

This weekend's annual festival celebrating Japanese roots in Vancouver will be blocks away, having been temporarily moved to Woodland Park.

Irwin Loy reports for Vancouver 24 Hours

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