White Rock’s iconic pier is to re-open to the public this morning (June 17), following a decision at Monday night’s council meeting.
But council has delegated potential re-closure of the pier to Mayor Darryl Walker, should overcrowding and inadequate social distancing on the structure be deemed a threat to public safety.
Council has also decided to re-open all of the waterfront parking lots within a week, except for the parkade, and reinstate the pre-COVID-19 four-hour pay parking limit.
City engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon said it would take a couple of days at most to re-open both the pier and the parking.
Both issues were raised by Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, who moved re-opening of the pier, in light of current stable pandemic infection and recovery statistics.
“(The pier) is unlike the promenade – it’s easy to close if we need to,” he said.
“At this point, in mid-June, what are we waiting for? If we wait a month, will it be safer? Or two months…or a week, will it be safer?”
Coun. Helen Fathers made the separate motion to re-open the parking, saying was particularly interested in opening lots on West Beach, which to this point have largely been limited to residents-only.
“I think, as time marches on, we have to think about the ability for people who don’t live in our city to come down to the west side, especially those people that are using the boat launch and going into the waterfront.”
Manning noted the meeting was the last real opportunity to give direction to staff for re-opening the pier before the Canada Day long weekend, adding it would be valuable to open the pier prior to that to observe whether the public would be able to practise appropriate distancing.
“It will give us time to react if things get out of hand before that long weekend – we need to see what the traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, is in that area, and if we wait until (the meeting of June 29) then, bam, everything’s open, the long weekend’s here, the nice weather is here and then it could be a gong show. I’d like to see us ease into it before then.”
Coun. David Chesney, however, urged caution in lifting restrictions, although he was willing to support a trial period.
“The reason we did all of this was because our community said, ‘are you crazy, with all those people coming to our community?’” he said. “This is the beach, this is summer, and I don’t need to wait to see what’s going to happen.
“A lot of people come to White Rock, they don’t walk the promenade, they go to the pier. So that’s a real hot-point for me. I’d love to see it all open again, but my concern is the residents in our community, many of them seniors, they abhor the idea that we’re wide open, it’s summer, ‘come on down to the beach, folks’. One sunny day a week ago, on a Sunday afternoon, we had bumper-to-bumper traffic from Oxford (Street) to Stayte (Road).”
Trevelyan said he would like staff to post two-metre distancing signs on the pier and “be ready to close it down if we needed to,” adding an amendment to delegate re-closing the pier to Mayor Darryl Walker under emergency circumstances.
Acting Mayor Scott Kristjanson said that, due to current limitations on gatherings of more than 50 people, he could not support a pier opening until a “phase three” of provincial response to COVID-19 is announced.
The motion was passed, with Kristjanson voting against it.
Fathers’ motion on re-opening the parking lots was passed with Coun. Chesney and Coun. Erika Johanson opposed.