Elevators, zipline into new pier park?

City looking at improving access to new waterfront park on the Fraser River

An elevator may or may not be part of the plan to improve access to Westminster Pier Park.

The City of New Westminster will explore several access arrangements to make it easier for folks to get into Westminster Pier Park. Council has directed staff to issue a request for proposals for the design and construction of an overpass, which would include stairs and/or a ramp or elevator connection into Westminster Pier Park.

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The riverfront park, which opened in July, is currently only accessible via a parking lot at the east end of the park, next to River Market.

A staff report to council stated planning work has considered a number of options to provide access to the park via Fourth Street, including a bridge from the existing parkade to a tower in the park that would include stairs and/or an elevator leading into the park.

"The original access plan for the park included an accessible ramp from the proposed Sixth Street overpass," stated the report. "With completion of the park, it has become evident that it may be possible to provide a ramp connection from the overpass into the park toward the eastern end."

Roger Emanuels, the city's manager of design and construction, said the city is ready to take a "sobering second look" at access arrangements, now that the park is constructed and the footprint is more tangible. He said the process will flush out potential access arrangements to the park.

The request for proposals will include a preliminary design review and will compare the costs and impacts on the park of a ramp connection and an elevator. Before a final design is approved, the concepts and cost estimates will be submitted to council.

The City of New Westminster has included $1.3 million in its 2012 capital budget for the connection to Westminster Pier Park.

Coun. Lorrie Williams thinks the city should abandon the idea of providing elevator access into the park. She said elevators have been a "big problem" at SkyTrain stations and require a lot of maintenance.

Coun. Bill Harper supports elevator access to the park, as he believes it will help seniors and others get into the park. He noted elevators can be shut down at certain hours, as was done at a facility he visited in New York.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said the city needs to ensure it provides "universal access" to the park. He noted ramps don't work for everyone, including people with poor physical health and people using walkers or canes.

"I think the elevator is very important, especially for people with extreme disabilities or even limited disabilities," said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr.

Puchmayr would also like the city to include a zipline into the park as part of the request for proposals, as he thinks a zipline would provide another way of getting into the park.

Coun. Jonathan Cote said access improvements to the waterfront park have to be "top priority" for the city. While he has no problem looking into the issue of a zipline into the park, he said he doesn't want the request for proposal process to be designed around that concept.



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