Westminster Pier Park Exceeds Expectations

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.  There 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!

City Noise: How Much is Too Much?

Translink has embarked upon a new series of consultations about the Pattullo Bridge. The City of New Westminster itself also recently made waves when it announced it was going to focus on completing its Master Transportation Plan before collaborating with Translink (for the record, I say “bravo” for that). The future of the Pattullo Bridge will have a significant impact on residents in New West, as it seems Translink is quite determined to widen the bridge to 6 lanes, bringing more traffic using our city as a thoroughfare to get to other places. Green New West and City Caucus have already blogged about the first consultation (and local Hector Bremner got a sneak peek at the plans) – but there are other consultations, including one tonight at Inn at the Quay. All New Westminster residents should make plans to attend at least one. If you can’t make it in person, a live webinar is scheduled for March 8th.

Downtown Parkade in New Westminster by Graham Ballantyne
Downtown Parkade in New Westminster by Graham Ballantyne

The reason I draw your attention to the Pattullo Bridge plans is because the increase in traffic noise is something that has been raised as a concern (and was when we talked about the UBE too), and it’s gotten me thinking about noises in the city.

I live on the ambulance feeder route to Royal Columbian Hospital and when we moved in we spent two or three sleepless nights, tossing and turning to the screeching and whining of the sirens. And then we adjusted. People come to our house now comment on the sirens, and we generally reply “What? Huh? Oh, right, the sirens,” because we have completely forgotten about them.

A friend of mine used to live by the airport in Richmond in a small community called Burkeville. I remember one New Year’s Eve we sat in her hot tub in her yard and toasted the midnight clock strike under a giant jet headed for destinations unknown. Planes rumbled over her house with cupboard rattling proximity and we hardly even noticed.

City noises permeate our life. Whether it’s your neighbour and their incessant leaf blowing or car vacuuming, or whether you live on a major transportation route, city noises are a part of what makes up the urban fabric. They are a trade-off, in essence, of having easy access to services we desire.

So many cities worldwide have a noise bylaw and they generally address things like barking dogs, construction, obnoxious neighbours, and other noises I see as irregular noises. Your neighbours are prevented from doing things that may generate unacceptable levels of noise – no construction before or after certain times, for example.

A city generates sounds – the whoosh of traffic, the hum of a factory, the sounds from a working river or railway. The become a part of the landscape of where we live. I took a trip once to visit my brother in Northern BC and the first two nights I was there I couldn’t sleep because it was simply too quiet. During this most recently held municipal election, I was chastised for not caring about my fellow residents because I admitted I don’t mind the sound of trains, and in fact, I kind of like them.

What do you think are acceptable city sounds?

 

A note on the Windsor Hotel court case

I’ve had a few people post comments about a current court case in New Westminster on unrelated posts on this blog. The City of New West is involved in a case currently before the Supreme Court of B.C. relating to the former owner of the Windsor Hotel’s unsuccessful attempts to relocate a liquor store to 12th St. a few years ago, and the commenters I mention would like us to write about it. (Note: I haven’t approved the comments, as they are off-topic, and also because I am concerned about the legal implications of some of the statements they made. )

It’s pretty unusual for us to “cover” hard news like that of a court case. We just don’t have the resources to do it justice, so we leave it to the professional journalists and those amateurs who are passionate enough about the subject to invest the time required.

The Newsleader’s Mike McQuillan is following the case, and I imagine someone from the Record will be too.

If you’re interested in a dab of speculation while following the play-by-play of the court case, I suggest you check out the blog of VOICE New Westminster, a political slate opposed to much of the current council’s policies.

Just an FYI for other readers who wish we would write about a particular issue, if you’ve got a story tip for us, please email me directly at info [at] tenthtothefraser.ca rather than leaving an off-topic comment on another post. We do read all the email we get, and we write up story tips as time allows.

If you really want to make sure your issue is written about here, the best way is to offer to write a guest post (under your real name please). Please contribute an original piece or clearly state where else the work has appeared or submitted (i.e. republished from another blog, or also sent as letters to the editor to the local papers).

If anyone wants to comment here on the Windsor case, you may, but please pay close attention to how you write it. Considered criticism is fine, but I can’t approve comments about current court proceedings that imply guilt (we are all innocent until proven guilty, right?), or that are an excuse for name-calling. I will reply privately to anyone whose comments I don’t approve so that you know why. If you use a fake email, that obviously can’t apply.

Light a candle for Mother Earth during Earth Hour on March 27

Last year New Westminster had the unfortunate honour of being the Lower Mainland community with the fewest participants in Earth Hour 2009. For one hour, people all around the world turn out their lights in a symbolic gesture to show awareness that there are limits to the Earth’s resources. New West, however, said, “Meh.”

To be fair, our family was among those. Earth Hour wasn’t really on our radar, and we didn’t really think about it until it was over. Later on, I regretted it.

I have come to believe in the power of small change. By itself, Earth Hour solves none of the problems associated with climate change. But it presents an opportunity to take time out from the thoughtless consumption that marks so many of our evenings: watching TV, surfing the Internet, or whatever the usual pattern is.

So take Earth Hour and use the hour of quiet to have a candlelight snuggle with your sweetheart, do some quiet meditation, break out the acoustic guitar or go to sleep decadently early.

New West power consumption dropped only 0.1% in 2009’s event, compared to 1.4% in 2008. This year, the City of New West is again calling for participation in the event. Here’s hoping we step up to the plate in 2010.

Earth Hour is from 8:30-9:30pm on March 27, 2010.

Westminster Pier Park Open House

Future Home, by Dennis Sylvester Hurd via flickr
Future Home, by Dennis Sylvester Hurd via flickr

I know some people out there aren’t on board with the City of New Westminster’s decision a while back to purchase the land along the waterfront of the Fraser River. But, like the Olympics, the decision was made, it’s inevitable, and you either have to quietly rage about it or just get on with trying to enjoy it.

Admittedly, I’ve always been one of the supporters of the decision to purchase the land and do something – anything – with it. I can’t stand looking at the wasteland that is that stretch of the Fraser, and I can’t stand the idea that it was just going to sit there and rot. So, I’ve always been “Yay City!” about the whole thing. Yes, I know it cost a lot of money. But so does more or less anything these days, and the addition of park space is win win.

So when we here at Tenth to the Fraser got an email from the very helpful Carolyn Armanini from the Planing Department at the City, with info about the open houses and links and all sorts of other stuff, I had to drop what I was doing and go have a good look.

Here’s a page with all sorts of linky goodness about the project. The important info missing from that page is that there is an Open House and Workshop to finalize the Park Master Plan scheduled for March 17th, 2010 and if you want to have questions answered or find out more or have your say, that’s your chance to do it.

Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Time: Open House 4:30-6:00 pm (drop-in, Front foyer)

Workshop 6:00-8:30 pm (Council Chamber)

Location: City Hall, 511 Royal Avenue, New Westminster

Now. Let’s talk about the design. Here’s the current proposed design concept and rationale, and if you go and have a look at that, you’ll see a few interesting things. They’re running with a thematic design of three areas:  “Front Porch”, “City Living Room”, and “City Play Room” (check out page 11 of the proposed design package), with activities and structures to accommodate that theme.  They’ve incorporated historical elements, ecological elements and places for festivals or play. Can you imagine a summer music festival there? Where you can bring your kids and play at the playground as the sounds of music and the river fill the air?

I grew up on the Island, and Nanaimo has Swy-a-lana Lagoon near the centre of the city as their nod to an oceanfront town. Swy-a-lana is always busy and features, among other things, a tidal pool, terraced tidal steps, lawns for bocce and other games, and a playground. It’s always been a nice, downtown park in a city laid out like a hub.

But New Westminster is a riverfront city, first and foremost, and the Westminster Pier Park design reflects that. First, and most obviously, it’s on the river. Second, it contains elements of history, ecology, and the future. And third, its proposed elements are actually useful – playing fields, water parks, day moorage places, children’s play areas… these are all things the City desperately needs more of as the demographic of New Westminster changes.

Today, I’m in love with my city.

What do you think?

Youth Centre Activism

members of the Youth Facility Task Force, City Council, the Honourable James Moore, and Harry Bloy, MLA
members of the Youth Facility Task Force, City Council, the Honourable James Moore, and Harry Bloy, MLA

Where I grew up we followed a middle school model and so public school was divided K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The summer between grade 8 and 9 in 1988 was a long, hot summer and I spent most of it worrying about the gigantic leap to high school – primarly what I was going to wear that first day of school. Like many small towns, the town where I grew up was the type of place one might describe as “sidewalks rolled up at 6PM” or perhaps “home of the nearly dead and the newly wed”. For those of us in the aching, angst filled years between 13-18, weekends were filled with drinking outdoors on Crown Land, driving aimlessly around town back and forth from A&W to McDonald’s, attending house parties, walking for miles, and being silly bored. For most teenagers, it ended there or perhaps veered into vomiting in a bush or breaking curfew. For others, this drunken boredom turned to vandalism, assault, and, as “they” say, opened up a gateway to a life of crime. That summer was soured and my clothing concerns became so unbelievably insignificant when tragically, one of my future classmates was killed the week before school started while riding her bike along the highway on her way to visit her horse stable.  Her name was Alexandra Clancy. I didn’t know her well, but I knew her enough.

Alexandra Clancy had been an avid supporter of the creation of a youth drop in centre in our small town – a place to hang out, without looming parents, and be in a safe place. After her death, a group of teenagers began to champion the cause and I spent countless hours fundraising for a youth centre. We envisioned pool tables, couches, the ever-so-modern Nintendos, and maybe a concession of some sort. We wanted it to be in the centre of town, and open really late. We organized a highly successful 24 Hour Dance-a-thon, did bottle drives, car washes… you name it. I poured my energy into fundraising for the effort.

Time is its own master, and I never did see the creation of a youth drop in centre while I was at the age to enjoy it. I grew up, moved on, and kept in touch with the goings-on of the teenagers in town via my mom, who had helped with the fundraising. The youth centre did happen, albeit in a limited form and many years later, and a quick Google search shows that the Canada Revenue Agency Charities Directorate pulled the charitable status from the group in 2001 for failure to file.

Honourable James Moore, Mayor Wayne Wright, Harry Bloy MLA
Honourable James Moore, Mayor Wayne Wright, Harry Bloy MLA

So when a press release from our city came across my inbox announcing  the groundbreaking of a youth centre at Moody Park, I was excited to see not only the funds already allocated (pricetag – $2.75 million), but stuff actually happening.

The youth centre is a joint venture of the City of New Westminster, the Province of BC, and Western Economic Diversification Canada and is aimed at youths aged 13-18. The space is planned for 4000 square feet, and its location adjacent to the senior-aimed Century House is meant to foster intergenerational relationships, a fact that New Westminster needs to actualize given the changing demographics. The project also includes some revitalization of the park facilities, including the construction of outdoor washrooms. As a patron of the park, I’m happy to hear that. I admit I’m excited about this also because it’s in my neighbourhood, and the roving teenagers I see frequently wandering might actually have something to do.

The expected completion date is the nicely vague “spring 2010” but the fact that it’s going to happen within a year amazes me and impresses me. I guess back in my day we never thought to approach the coffers of the Provincial goverment and instead concentrated on our various community fundraising efforts.

Isabel Gomez-Garcia, Co-Chair of Fundraising Committee, Lorelei Guthrie, Royal City Merchants Association, and Jan Greenhow, Co-Chair Fundraising Committee
Isabel Gomez-Garcia, Co-Chair of Fundraising Committee, Lorelei Guthrie, Royal City Merchants Association, and Jan Greenhow, Co-Chair Fundraising Committee

That’s not to say that money doesn’t need to be raised to furnish and outfit the new Youth Centre. In addition to the groundbreaking ceremony, the Youth Centre @ Moody Park Fundraising Campaign with a goal of $200,000 was also announced. They’ve even started up a micro site so we can donate and track the progress.