EDITORIAL: Westminster Pier a jewel of a park
Even a persistent drenching rain couldn’t diminish the sunny smiles along New Westminster’s waterfront on Saturday.
Three years after the City of New Westminster acquired a derelict 3.2-hectare parcel of land that runs east from the foot of Sixth Street, Westminster Pier Park is open. While the final costs of rehabilitating and transforming the property into a showcase park have yet to be announced, funding for the project from three levels of government totalled more than $25 million.
The beaming faces and glowing reviews during Saturday’s celebration of the new park seem to indicate it was money well spent.
Where once there were rotted pilings, weeds and broken concrete, there are now playgrounds, a sports court, rolling grass hillocks, cleverly designed chairs that allow loungers to face the river or the city, as well as touchstones of New Westminster’s rich heritage.
Even before it opened, the park had earned accolades by winning three awards for its environmental and remediation efforts.
And if Mayor Wayne Wright has his way, the Pier Park is only the first grand step in the city’s reclamation of its waterfront. The finished park comprises only a portion of the land the city owns; the rest will be developed as funding and political will allow. Eventually it’s hoped a system of trails and parks will run along much of the city’s stretch of the Fraser River, from Sapperton Landing in the east to the west end of the promenade at Westminster Quay.
By embarking on such an ambitious venture, New Westminster has joined the company of cities around the world that have come to realize an open and accessible waterfront can be a key catalyst to urban renewal.
But undoing the mistakes of the past, and veering away from poor decisions in the future isn’t cheap. The payoff, though, will benefit the city’s residents, businesses and visitors for generations to come.