COLUMN: White Rock will be ready to welcome tourists this summer

White Rock’s iconic pier will be open by the end of August, if all goes well, and most of the other features of the waterfront area that so intrigue people from around the region during the warmer months will be open to the public by the Victoria Day weekend.

This is very good news for those who love to spend time there, and in particular for business people along Marine Drive. The severing of the pier and the significant damage to the beach caused by the Dec. 20 windstorm kicked the area very hard.

White Rock council awarded a contract April 8 for rebuilding of the damaged portion of the pier. At just under $3.1 million, the costs will be covered by insurance. The city is planning a complete reconstruction of the pier over the next few years, at a total cost of $16.2 million, but the immediate repairs should begin very soon. Council members said they hope the pier will be open to the public by Aug. 31.

The extensive rebuild is not likely to be covered by insurance. Hopefully, senior levels of government can contribute some funds to that project, as it would be very difficult to finance it strictly through local property taxes. Some fundraising campaigns for the pier have already been set up as well, and it is quite possible that some donors will chip in a significant amount.

Meanwhile, Memorial Park could be open as soon as this weekend (April 19). Reconstruction of the area at the foot of the pier has been underway for almost two years. Most of the formerly grassy area has been converted into a large concrete area, including seating. Concerts and community activities can easily take place there, with much more room than was available previously. It will likely become a central feature of the waterfront area in years to come.

The four-storey parkade at Victoria and Vidal (one block off Marine Drive) is also set to open by April 19. This will ease parking issues during the summer months, particularly on weekends.

The rebuilding of the pedestrian rail crossings is expected to be complete by the end of April. This reconstruction has taken most of the winter, and has impeded access to the beach. The new crossings will be safer, and will be worth the wait.

The East Beach walkway, most of which has been closed since the storm, is also expected to be open by Victoria Day weekend. The walkway was damaged, and some of the waterfront land was eroded. In addition, hundreds of logs and a great deal of other debris were washed onto the walkway and that required an extensive cleanup effort.

The severing of the pier was one of the most significant events in White Rock’s history, given the iconic and historic nature of the structure. It is very important that it be fixed up, and a plan to completely reconstruct it using concrete pilings is the best way to ensure that it lasts for many years.

Both the past and present White Rock councils deserve credit for the significant investments they have made, and will be making. These will make it easier for more people to come and enjoy the waterfront. White Rock attracts people from near and far, and is a true gem in our midst.

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

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