With all due respect to Semiahmoo Arts, for whom last week’s Party on the Pier was conceived as a fundraiser in the form of a centennial celebration for White Rock’s iconic pier, the $100-per-ticket event did not cut it as an inclusive event for all.
While, by most accounts, a success for the select few who shelled out the cash – and an effective way of raising money for arts programs – it did not sit well with the more general public who found themselves barred, albeit politely, from ‘their’ pier on the evening of Aug. 28.
Some people came down that evening prepared for a community celebration; other casual strollers, who had not heard about the event, were prepared to participate – until they heard the cost. Still others, not yet the age of the majority, were barred from paying tribute.
While city leaders and other celebrants may have been sufficiently impressed by this exclusive bash to contemplate making a pier event a regular occurrence, it would do well for them to contemplate reactions among the populace.
Some in White Rock are decidedly unimpressed with the optics of ordinary citizens being denied access to the pier, whatever the occasion. There is an emotional undercurrent among residents who feel the waterfront is already becoming too blatantly a private enclave – governed by the elite, who can well afford ocean-view property.
These are dangerous waters to navigate, particularly for those who rely so heavily on political goodwill.
Originally intended as a federal wharf for commercial vessels – but condemned to being a largely decorative edifice after the opening of the Panama Canal, also in 1914 – the White Rock pier was long ago claimed by the public. They walked on it, fished from it, swam around it, moored boats to it, ate in restaurants built alongside it, even drove on it, as White Rock’s destiny evolved from potential port to quaint holiday destination. The people of White Rock even banded together to save their pier, when the federal government of the 1970s decided it was time to dismantle it.
If that sounds like the residents of White Rock are fiercely possessive of their icon, so be it. These people deserve a celebration that resonates with them and is inclusive of them.
It’s not too late. White Rock’s pier was officially opened on Nov. 14, 1914, which means we’re still a couple of months and change shy of its actual 100th anniversary. The powers that be should take note, and ring Nov. 14 on their calendars.
And if they don’t feel capable of coming up with a genuine public celebration for that date, then the people should come down, en masse, for their own unhindered stroll.