EDITORIAL: Shape of civic things to come

It’s up to the public to make the most of opportunities for input into plans for White Rock's Memorial Park

The plan for a revamped Memorial Park adjacent to White Rock’s promenade is a big opportunity for the public to contribute to “getting it right” for generations of residents and visitors to come.

It’s no news that people in the city – residents and business owners alike – are touchy about potential change to their beloved waterfront.

When the city first raised the idea of reworking the area – which includes the grassy slope between the White Rock Museum and Archives up to the washrooms at the head of the pier – nearly a decade ago, it heard loudly and clearly that residents were not ready for it, even with grant money for the project in the offing.

People seemed happy to keep the area the way it was – an unstructured space mainly used by sunbathers during summer months.

But times, and cities, change. And civic leaders feel the time now is right.

An increasingly urbanized White Rock has greater need for more organized space to manage celebratory events showcasing the city, including Canada Day By The Bay, the White Rock Sea Festival and performances such as the TD Concerts at the Pier series.

It could be argued that a proposed open-air amphitheatre and landscaping for the park would make more sense than any number of obstructive temporary stages and – if designed with sensitivity to the surroundings – has the potential to enhance and enrich the waterfront experience even when not hosting events

Throw in the fact that the city next year celebrates its 60th anniversary, and Canada its 150th birthday, and completing Memorial Park by summer becomes an attractive goal for many, though White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin has assured that while that would be nice, it’s not necessary. “If it has to take a little bit longer, then that’s the way it will have to be.”

Baldwin said that while a preliminary staff consultation Aug. 18 with “stakeholders” – including the White Rock BIA, Sea Festival organizers, Semiahmoo Arts and the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce – has led to suspicion by critics that the public’s say is being excluded, the operational meeting was a logical part of the process.

The public will have “plenty of opportunity” to provide suggestions and input  for drafting the plan in two sessions at White Rock Community Centre (Sept. 14, and Sept. 27, 6-8 p.m.)

It’s up to the public to make the most of it.