Queen’s Park gets its very own master plan

Queen’s Park will turn 125 next year, and city council thinks it’s high time some changes were made. So, because it’s terribly en vogue right now, they’re drawing up a master plan for it.

Much like the city’s Transportation Master Plan, the QPMP development process will span several months and involve lots and lots of steps, committee meetings and public consultation. The parks and rec department is calling the first public input session an “ideas event” and it’s set to take place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the QP arena lobby (and remote locations around the park — intriguing.)

Queen’s Park is kind of a funny place. As a kid, it seemed huge. The section east of the road was so wild and expansive and ripe for exploring. Now? Not so much. Finley and I can do two, sometimes three loops of the Millenium Trail/1st Street in a 40-minute run. I’m familiar with every tree, every picnic table, every tennis court, every squirrel. I know the pathways and roads, paved and unpaved, like the lines that crisscross my palm.

So, as someone who has played, walked, ran, tobogganed and become very, very well-acquainted with the park over the past 20 years, do I have any ideas for how the park could be improved? Why yes, yes I do. I’m glad you asked.

Let’s start with the buildings. For a so-called green space, Queen’s Park has a lot of concrete. The main gate at the foot of 3rd Avenue is probably the best/worst example: swathes of cracked asphalt parking lots, the arena and arenex (WordPress is telling me that this is not a word. To me, it simply means “gymnastics”) and the stadium. I’m not suggesting we get rid of these historic landmarks (with the arena’s new wooden floor, heaven’s no!) but I do think the area could be tidied up a bit, made to look a bit more presentable, given that it’s most people’s point of entry to the park. The parking area behind the arena is especially hideous.

I also think that the playground areas have gone downhill since my merry-go-round days. Queen’s Park used to have one of the best playgrounds going, with its high wooden platforms and super fast zip line, but all that has been traded in for the same cookie-cutter play structures you see everywhere else. Even the swing sets have shrunk (and not just because I got bigger). Safety is important, for sure, but so is risk. I happen to be writing an article all about this, so I won’t get into it here, but if I were in charge, I’d bring back the ladders and the merry-go-round and the firefighters pole and the fun.

And in a surprise move, I think I’d also vote to get rid of the petting zoo. I know, I know, baby bunnies. I love them too, but I honestly feel that the petting zoo is past its prime. It sits empty for 8 or 9 months of the year, and it kind of seems to be… rotting? In a park where so much space is taken up by unnecessary concrete and maintenance yards, green space is at a premium. We don’t need the potbellied pig barn. And the baby calf they get every year just seems really, really unfortunate. Let’s let it stay in Aldergrove this summer where it belongs.

Ultimately, I’m pretty happy to have a place like Queen’s Park a 3-minute walk from my house. It’s changed very, very little in the 20 years that I’ve lived here and if it were to remain the same for the next 20, I don’t think I’d have much of a problem with that. But as a gem in New Westminster’s royal crown (oh god…) I also think we have a responsibility to keep it polished and pristine. It’s pretty great as it is, but it could be even better.

New Westminster wins national sustainability award

A 3D rendering of what the park will look like, courtesy of a council slide presentation.

New Westminster has been recognized as a sustainable community with an award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for its redevelopment of Westminster Pier Park.

Coun. Lorrie Williams and engineering director Jim Lowrie accepted the award in Ottawa on Feb. 8 and presented it to Mayor Wayne Wright at tonight’s council meeting.

“Obviously, this goes to the staff, this goes to the people who did the job,” said Wright.

The award is one of 12 given to communities across Canada that “demonstrate excellence in environmental responsibility.” This year, 5 of the 12 awards were won by municipalities in B.C.

“B.C. is certainly leading the way in terms of greening our country,” said Williams.

Westminster Pier Park won the Sustainable Communities Award in the brownfield category, meaning that the land the park sits on was previously used for industrial purposes, and the vegetation that has been planted there will help to rehabilitate the soil.

According to FCM, “In just three years, Westminster Pier Park has been transformed from a contaminated brownfield into a sparkling waterfront jewel that will stimulate tourism and revitalize downtown New Westminster.”

The Westminster Pier Park project was launched in 2009 when the city purchased the site for $8 million. The cost of developing the park was $25 million, of which two-thirds was funded through the Build Canada Fund.

Wright said the park will open to the public sometime in March.

“We’ll be having an opening in about a month or so and everyone will see what a wonderful place it really is.”