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UPDATE: New mini-Tuggers play and gathering space replaces Expo 86 relic on New West riverfront

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New mini-tugs play and gathering space open on New West riverfront


By Theresa McManus


A new Quayside Tugger play feature is settling into it new home on New Westminster’s riverfront.

The new children’s play area, located on the waterfront esplanade near Fraser River Discovery Centre and River Market, features three mini tugboats “hauling” a rubberized play zone that mimics a barge loaded with woodchips. The play zone includes climbing elements and perimeter bench seating.

“This renewed public space along New Westminster’s riverfront is designed to create a family-friendly community gathering space, strengthen the place-making qualities of this riverfront destination in downtown and help tell the story of the ‘working riverfront’ with a playful experience unique to New Westminster,” said Erika Mashig, the city’s manager of parks and open space planning, design and construction. “The installation is intended to serve as a community hub as it is located along a multi-use regional greenway and adjacent to local shops, the Fraser River Discovery Centre, major transit station, Westminster Pier Park and provides a prime viewpoint to the marine activity on the river.”

Mashig said the small tugboats are designed to be inclusive and to accommodate wheeled access. She noted that the controls in the small tugboats are the real thing, having been salvaged from old tugboats and donated for use in this project.

Quayside Tugger, as the new play feature has been dubbed, replaces the Tugger Pilot House (Tugger), a 13-tonne tugboat structure created by Rivtow Marine Ltd. for EXPO 86 in Vancouver and later relocated to New West.

But in 2019, the city unveiled a new vision for the space, after determining Tugger had sustained “significant structural corrosion” and years of vandalism and should be removed. Instead of undertaking the significant work that would have been required to remediate the structure, the city opted to build a new play area in its place.

Mashig said removal of Quayside Tugger Pilot House began in May 2019 and was followed by deck repairs in June of that year. The detailed design and tender documents were developed over the remainder of 2019. 

“Construction of this project was anticipated in early 2020 but was deferred to a future year along with many other city capital projects when COVID-19 hit,” she said in an email to the Record. “The project was approved to re-start as part of the 2021 capital budget, however, scheduling the contractor and fabricator became a challenge.”

Mashig said the building and construction industry continues to be very active, and sourcing key materials and trades people is proving to be a challenge in many sectors. Construction began in October 2021 and the project was completed at the end of December 2021.

New Westminster’s two MLAs say the province’s $305,480 contribution to the play feature will attract visitors and boost the local economy.

“Children and families are so excited to have a new play structure right on the New Westminster Quay,” New Westminster MLA Jennifer Whiteside said in a news release. “This project is a huge draw and a vital part of our pandemic recovery as we look to promote public spaces and welcome visitors back to our community.”

Richmond-Queensborough MLA Aman Singh said it’s important for communities to have public spaces that welcome everyone. He said the New West riverfront is a place for people in the community to connect and gather.

The City of New Westminster covered costs, including the removal of the older structure (by crane and barge), deck repairs and design costs.

According to the city, the province’s $305,480 contribution was for construction of informal play features, seating, event staging and the small Tugger structures. Kal’s RePlay Fund contributed $10,000 toward the recycled rubber surfacing and the New Westminster Rotary Club contributed $50,000 toward a plaque, Tugger name and sound tubes as a way of honouring the legacy of the late Dr. Irwin Stewart, a longtime New Westminster physician and Rotarian who spearheaded many overseas humanitarian health projects and was awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia. 

“His work inspired the idea to integrate sound tubes into the design – these are tubes that extend underneath the deck and enable communication between the tugboats as well as convey sounds from the Fraser River,” Mashig said.

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