COLUMN: Pier reopening a celebration of White Rock’s greatest treasure

Tuesday, Aug. 27 was a glorious day in White Rock’s history, and many thousands of people were there to be part of it.

It was a warm, sunny late-summer day. Sand bars at the beach were firm during the day, and then were gradually covered with the incoming tide and the warm sea water as the afternoon wore on. Every restaurant on Marine Drive was busy. The parking lots were close to full.

It was a typical summer day, but it was unique in one very important respect. The pier was reopened to pedestrians after an eight-month shutdown, made necessary by the violent windstorm of Dec. 20.

If anyone doubted the drawing power of the pier, the crowds that surged onto it all day and long into the evening proved them wrong.

People came in the thousands, from all over the Lower Mainland. Many came from even farther away. There were people of many racial backgrounds, people of all ages, people of varying abilities. All were drawn by the sun, the sand, the white rock, the overall atmosphere, but most of all, the pier.

They had the opportunity to see just how much work has been done along the waterfront. Not only is the pier open again (it still needs a number of finishing touches), but the walkway along east beach is mostly complete. That area has changed quite a bit, with less grass but a number of good improvements. Most notable is the gradual rise in the walkway just west of the washrooms, and the much safer railway crossings. The crossing adjacent to the raised section of the promenade will make it much easier for people with mobility challenges to easily and safely cross the railway tracks and get onto the waterfront promenade.

The bandshell at Memorial Park is also a major improvement. The rocky moments at the beginning of the project are all forgotten. There is ample seating, room for concerts and entertainers (three drummers were playing as we walked by), and perhaps most importantly, a much wider walkway in an area that has always been crowded. This is due to its proximity to the pier and the former Great Northern Railway station that new houses the White Rock Museum and Archives.

The new washrooms at the foot of the pier are a huge improvement from the old ones, and there is a great deck for viewing the entire bay right above them.

Nature co-operated fully to make the special occasion even more memorable. As the sun set, the colour of the sky kept changing, due to the different reflections of the sun on the clouds. Many wonderful photos were taken during that time.

I posted a photo on Facebook at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, and it didn’t take long for responses to come in from people in Asia and Africa, as well as many local people. Also responding were my two aunts, both of whom live quite a distance from White Rock. They grew up there and consider it to be one of the most special places in the world.

White Rock’s waterfront is one of the greatest treasures we have here in the South Fraser area. The overwhelming response to the opening of the pier proves that. Many thanks to the City of White Rock and its government partners for ensuring that the pier-restoration work went ahead quickly, and to the Friends of the Pier and many other people in the community who stepped up and helped financially to ensure the project would not be held back for lack of funds.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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