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Westminster Pier Park cleanup aims to meet fisheries timeline

Reopening of park still planned for February
WPP Urban Beach - Jennifer Gauthier file
The urban beach, which included beach volleyball courts and hammocks made of recycled fire hoses, was destroyed in a September 2020 fire. Cleanup of the in-water part of the site is continuing, with a reopening of the surviving section of the park expected in February.

Cleanup of the Westminster Pier Park fire site is being timed to minimize its impacts on the Fraser River fishery.

The waterfront park has been closed to the public since Sept. 13, 2020, when a fire destroyed the timber wharf portion of the park that was home to the urban beach and Wow Westminster public art.

On Jan. 4, city council approved a variance to the construction noise bylaw, which will allow Advisian and Fraser River Pile and Dredge to do in-river work related to the cleanup from the fire. Exemptions to the construction noise bylaw have been approved on several Saturday mornings (Jan. 16, 23 and 30 and Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27) from 7 to 9 a.m., which is earlier than construction is normally allowed on Saturdays, and on several Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Jan. 17, 24 and 31 and Feb. 7, 14, 21 and 28.)

“Noise will be produced by the running of a crane motor (generator) and general machinery activity,” said a staff report to council. “The works are not expected to generate significant noise; the level of noise is anticipated to be similar to a diesel highway truck. There will be no impact to pedestrian, cycle or car circulation.”

According to staff, the extended construction hours are required so the work can be done within the fisheries timeline. Work will only be done on Sundays if the contractors can’t complete the work by the Feb. 28 fisheries deadline.

The report states that demolition of the city’s pier, upon which the timber wharf was built, and the neighbouring property 200 Front St. is now complete. Debris that fell onto the shoreline, above the waterline and floating debris have also been removed, and the city is now tackling the in-river cleanup, which includes the removal of any submerged debris that may have settled on the riverbed during the fire.

In December, city officials stated the goal was to reopen Westminster Pier Park on Feb. 1.

Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said the in-river cleanup work is able to take place independent of land-side activities and should not have any bearing on the timing for the re-opening of Westminster Pier Park.

Fire broke out at Westminster Pier Park just before 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept., 13, ultimately destroying the portion of the park that was built on the original 1957 timber wharf.

The reopening of the surviving portion of Westminster Pier Park is contingent on two things – the final cleanup of the site, including the washroom and concession building, and the re-establishment of a secondary emergency services access point from Front Street. A second access point to the park was eliminated by the fire, so the city has worked with CP Rail to establish a new emergency and service vehicle crossing into the waterfront park.

“The re-opening of the park for public use is contingent upon completion of some minor clean-up in the park and re-establishing a secondary emergency services access route across the railway tracks,” Jim Lowrie, the city’s director of engineering, said in a Jan. 9 email to the Record. “Weather permitting, it is anticipated that this work will be completed by the end of February.”

A November 2020 report to council stated that once the immediate work of cleaning, restoring and reopening the park is complete, staff efforts will move on to rebuilding of the site. The parks and recreation department is expected to provide council with a work plan in 2021 that includes the principles and actions needed to rebuild the park.

"The cleanup has gone very well on the site,” Mayor Jonathan Cote told the Record in December. “Now we are looking forward to the opportunity in 2021 to really start to engage in the conversation about how do we rebuild and how do we really take Pier Park to the next level. I think there is going to be some really good opportunities with the community to participate in that dialogue.