New West residents will be able to hit the beach (water not included)

New West residents will be able to soak up some sun under a beach umbrella and walk in the sand at Westminster Pier Park.

An urban beach is one of the elements being proposed for the timber wharf section of Westminster Pier Park. The plan also includes a public pathway, landscaping and an area for group fitness activities.

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“The first time I ever saw an urban beach was in Paris, France,” said Coun. Lorrie Williams. “It was wildly popular. … It was on the river. There were tons of people there.”

Renderings of the proposed concept plan for the timber wharf show a sandy area that includes beach umbrellas. When planning the waterfront park, the city had hoped to include access to the river but it was ruled out because of concerns about safety, the speed of the river and the current in that section of the Fraser River.

“It’s simply sand contained behind some form of retaining structure,” Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks, culture and recreation, said of the urban park. “It’s not directly connected to any water.”

Westminster Pier Park opened on New Westminster’s waterfront in June 2012. The completed section of the park includes pathways, playgrounds, a festive lawn and a structure that houses a lookout area and concession.

The timber wharf section, located at the east side of the park, stands on the site’s original pilings and infrastructure so interim programming is being planned until its fully upgraded in the future. Staff will develop a detailed landscape design plan for the timber wharf and include elements identified as priorities, such as the fitness areas, urban beach, a labyrinth, a small off-leash dog enclosure and enhancements to the volleyball area. The plan will be presented back to city council before construction of the works goes to tender.

According to a staff report, a preliminary design concept has been developed and the elements have an estimated construction cost of $650,000, but the work can be done over time as funding permits.

The current priorities have an estimated cost of $298,000: public pathway – $23,000; general landscaping – $100,000; urban beach – $95,000; outdoor group fitness area – $78,100; and a sports activity area – $1,000.

Coun. Jonathan Cote said he’s been approached by many residents wanting to know what’s planned for the paved portion of Westminster Pier Park.

“I think it’s a positive thing that we are going to be moving forward with some good community uses,” he said.

Mayor Wayne Wright questioned if it’s possible to create some sort of water feature for children in the park, as there’s a need for them to be able to cool off on hot summer days. Coun. Bill Harper said he’s seen interesting public art water features in places like Chicago.

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