The City of White Rock is cutting off access to the Coldicutt Park Ravine — south of Marine Drive between Nichol Road and Bishop Road – in the interest of public safety.
At its April 26 online meeting, council unanimously approved the permanent closure of the ravine, adjacent to the BNSF line and a route down to the beach.
Although the ravine was temporarily closed on Jan. 31, 2020 as the result of slope failure, the latest action was prompted by concerns of its proximity to the rail line.
According to a report from engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon, the city faced a choice of closing ravine access or having train whistles return to the waterfront.
“Transport Canada expressed concern about the number of people trespassing on the BNSF right-of-way and railway tracks, in order to access or egress the beach via the Coldicutt staircase,” he told council.
The concern was expressed in orders from Transport Canada to close the access point, he added.
“As public safety is paramount, we’re recommending that council approve the permanent closure,” Gordon said.
“BNSF also noted safety concerns about the trespasses,” he added, while Semiahmoo First Nation has told the city the foot of the ravine is an important archeological site, where any excavation work would also be of concern.
In consultation with Transport Canada, staff has prepared a plan that includes permanent closure of the public crossing to the ravine at Coldicutt Park and the installation of a 2.5-metre-high chain link fence with signage and a maintenance access gate at the northern access to the Coldicutt Park ravine, Gordon said.
He told council the fencing could be done for a rough cost of $25,000 as opposed to some $300,000 it would take to do some necessarily intrusive repair and maintenance work to the ravine before it could be safely opened to the public.
“Environmentally, it’s not the best to open it up,” he said.
Coun. Anthony Manning asked what the city’s liability would be for any injury as a result of inevitable further trespassing once the fencing is installed.
Gordon said he could not offer a legal opinion, but added that he felt the city would not have significant liability exposure if it could demonstrate it had taken reasonable, best practices measures to keep people out.
“I’m hoping this will mitigate (the city’s liability),” Manning said.