More fencing is going up on White Rock’s West Beach – this time, in an effort to curb trackside trespassing between the west end of Bayview Park and the Coldicutt Ravine staircase.
Once the 40-foot chainlink barrier is up, it means the boat launch will be the only legal access to the waterfront west of the pier, within city limits.
The work, by railway owner BNSF, started Tuesday and is to be completed Wednesday – but it is not the last of new fencing planned for the seaside tracks.
BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas told Peace Arch News that designs are in the works for the foot of the Coldicutt stairs “to block people from entering onto the right-of-way” – effectively turning the popular pedestrian access into a dead-end north of the tracks.
As well, discussions are to take place with the Semiahmoo First Nation next week regarding fencing eyed to stretch east for about 140 feet starting from the Finlay Street pedestrian crossing.
The work, Melonas said, is “per discussions with Transport Canada and in agreement with BNSF plans to further enhance safety.”
He said the recent increased focus is “driven greatly” by the July 2013 death of a jogger on East Beach and the incident in February in which a senior who wandered onto the West Beach tracks was struck a glancing blow.
Melonas described the volume of trespassing issues along the railway’s line through White Rock as “absolutely unprecedented.”
“In one concentrated area, nothing compares to what we experience at White Rock,” he said, noting that the whole of Washington State recorded 20 trespassing fatalities last year and 16 in 2012.
In White Rock, “the amount of people that are constantly going under, over, through (the railings), walking on the tracks… The numbers are alarming,” he said. “The promenade presents the largest ongoing trespass situation we face in the northwest.”
Tuesday’s prep work for the west-end fence took place as City of White Rock staff worked to complete safety measures at the nearby boat launch – measures that are hoped to lift a Transport Canada order that led to the city’s installation early last week of a locked gate.
The lock was removed Friday afternoon, following discussions at the waterfront between city, BNSF and Transport Canada officials.
(Transport Canada inspector Dennis Maskell maintains the decision to lock the gate was the city’s, as it was not part of the order)
Additional steps at the boat launch being completed today include installation of a stop sign. Cross-hatching and the words ‘No Stopping on Tracks’ have already been painted on the paved approach.
Director of engineering Greg St. Louis said he has asked the Transport Canada inspector who ordered control measures to inspect the latest improvements this week.
He noted one modification – of metal plates added to the gate to prevent it opening towards the tracks – had to be replaced and reinforced early Monday, after someone forced the gate backwards, blocking the tracks.
He said the effort required means it was likely the work of “two burly guys” or someone in a vehicle. Other than the bent plates, the gate showed no obvious sign of damage.
He said complaint calls to the city regarding the recent changes at West Beach have tapered off since the lock was removed; the main concerns he’s hearing now are to do with the increase in train whistling. That, too, is the result of a Transport Canada order, which directed BNSF to ensure its trains were sounding their whistles intermittently for the duration of their journey along the waterfront.
Melonas said all of the steps are in the name of safety.
“The point is just to look at the tracks,” he said.
“It’s part of an education for everybody. One (death) is too many.”