Westminster Pier Park Exceeds Expectations

The Westminster Pier Park is now open! We're in love with it.

Despite the pouring rain, spirits were incredibly high at the opening of the Westminster Pier Park.

The park is beautiful – it is sweeping and interesting, and integrates places to play with spaces to relax. It is visually interesting and they’ve made smart choices with landscaping and structures. It is not all flat, either – I was expecting it to be since it is perched on the river’s edge. But the park design incorporates elements that remind me of the river itself, like this rolling grass area.

I like the way you see the water swirling and rippling in this part:

There are a few trails that diverge and are made from different materials, which provides interest and different angles. I was kind of pleased to discover some picnic table areas along the back – each one is surrounded by plants so they felt a little private.

There are a few different playground structures, and my son loved them all. They feature very interesting toys that incorporate sand play, levers, steering wheels, and lots of wood. I even kind of like the stumps – although I wasn’t sure of them at first glance.


The nods to history are amazing, some subtle, some a bit more in your face. Along the boardwalk are words cut into iron plates – some are place names, some are names of special New Westminsterites, and some are just words we all know and love.

I ran into a senior who has lived in New Westminster for many years, and she was misty-smiling when she saw the iron words along the walkway. “So many memories,” she said, pointing to some. “I haven’t thought of some of these since I was a girl.”

The amphitheatre area is also beautiful. The images printed on steel flashing is really unique, and I love the pictures they chose – they aren’t all special moments – some of them are just people living and enjoying New Westminster.

The building nicely integrates with the park. Despite the worry I had that the beamed structure would overpower everything, it doesn’t. It fits in nicely and provides a great central part of the park. Those reclining chairs are awesome, too.

I do think there are a few kinks that need to be worked out, and some of them will likely be worked out in the “phase 2” expansion or in the coming weeks as people use the park and provide feedback to the Parks, Culture, and Recreation department.

My biggest beef is probably the one I have heard the most – the access isn’t as good as it could be. ┬áThere is really only one entrance in and out of the park, and it is at the far end of a privately owned pay parking lot with tonnes of giant puddles and poorly marked spaces. For me the park features mitigate the poor access, though, and it’s not enough to keep me away. As well, an accessible pedestrian overpass is coming by the end of 2013 that will connect Fourth Street to the park.

I don’t much care for turning around and looking at a giant, dark, looming parkade. I’m in the “tear it down” camp when it comes to the parkade, so perhaps I’m biased. I think it ruins what could be a fantastic urban view of some of the historic buildings along Columbia and might give some of the property owners an impetus to come out from behind the shadows and take ownership on how the buildings look.

I also completely missed the basketball court (the photo below is Briana’s) and when I realized my error, I wished there was a “you are here” type of map at the entrance to help with wayfinding. I can imagine meeting friends from other communities who have never been to the park before and it being tricky to explain where to go.

I cannot wait to spend a sunny summer day at this park (or simply a dry day, for that matter!), and to enjoy a picnic and the park features with my family. So many people worked on this park, and they should be commended for what they’ve done. This park far exceeded my expectations about what it would offer the people of New Westminster and today reaffirmed that I am so proud to call this city home.

Briana posted a number of other photos on our Facebook page.

Tell us what you think of the new park!

Jen Arbo

Jen Arbo is the editor and co-publisher of Tenth to the Fraser. She's been writing for the site since 2007 and lives in Sapperton with her family. A project manager at heart, she also operates Hyack Interactive, a digital communications company. Find her on Twitter or Instagram.

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  1. Thanks for this great write up Jen. It was wonderful to return on day 2 with our daughter and really get a chance to play and relax in the park. Every part of the park feels very purposeful and well thought through. It seems at once a public space, yet also one where you can get some quiet moments. I am also in the "tear it down" camp for the parkade. I would love to see what better access, a revitalized Front street and the removal of the parkade would do for the city! Pier Park exceeded my expectations though for sure and also affirms my pride in living here!

  2. The park is a real jewel. Love the fact that we've got an active riverfront – tugboats, the Samson – and now a wonderful place to picnic! This, along with the new Quay, is going to become a magnet for the downtown. The one thing I'm worried about is the Larco site (which is that giant parking lot!), which has 4 towers planned on it (likely towers on top of 6 floors of parkade). I don't know what the status is of development there, but it could go horribly wrong…
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  3. We went down to see the park as well, undeterred (well, mostly) by the rain. Like you, I was really impressed – it looks stylish and modern, and with a nod to the rich history of our city, complete with images of what it used to look like. I love that kind of thing.

    I’m with you on the access front, and I’m very glad to hear that there will be a pedestrian walkway from 4th street. One thing I thought of was that the park would be a perfect place for an outdoor music festival, or other large scale outdoor event. But, for that you’d really need better access for safety reasons.

    To me, it raised the issue of access to the riverfront in general, with the train tracks, and the commercial traffic on Front St hampering pedestrian traffic to the park, and to the River Market too. That’s a bigger question. And it will be interesting to see how this new park raises the awareness of that question in the future as more and more people have a good reason to visit the area.

    I’m also with you on the parkade thing. Now that everyone can see it at another angle, it’s even more obvious.

    Thanks for the post – great pictures!

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  4. Very nice park. Will have to read Reena's post about the condo development. If done right, it should be no problem. There MUST remain a public corridor linking the new park to the rest of the riverfront. If it is possible on False Creek, it is possible here. Can't escape the noise from the trucks though…although evenings and weekends will be much quieter.

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