Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another Brick In The Wall Part 2

Aerial view of Stanley Park seawall
Without question, Vancouver's most popular attraction, for locals and tourists alike, is the seawall, a 22 kilometre source of civic pride running along from its starting point at Coal Harbour, around Stanley Park, along English Bay and Sunset Beach, all around False Creek, and the Olympic Village, and finishing up at Kits Beach.  Vancouver's newest billionaire, Dennis "Chip" Wilson, of Lululemon fame, has reportedly offered to help finance the extension of the seawall to its logical end at Jericho Beach, a 2.5 kilometre extension that would also connect with Spanish Banks.   If and when that's completed, the walkers, joggers, cyclists, boarders, roller-bladers, dogs, babies in carriages, and tourists will have an even more unparalleled route for taking in the waterfront scene and city views.

Storm damaged old seawall
But, while the new bits of the seawall are getting all the attention, with each section looking even better than the one before it, the original part of the seawall is really starting to show its age.  A couple of years ago an effort was made to repair some of the badly damaged sections (see my previous posting Another Brick In The Seawall;postID=2302302061745537069 ) but a recent very typical Northwest wind storm, combined with the highest tides of the year, quickly managed to create havoc along a number of other sections.  In doing so it also exposed the questionable construction techniques used in building and maintaining the seawall.

Storm damaged old seawall
While the City and the Parks Board have no problem coming up with novel ways to spend taxpayers money for bike routes and greenbelt initiatives they never seem to find the money to properly maintain one of their most important assets.  They also seem to have a double standard when it comes to safety concerns.  There are no railings to protect people from falling onto the rocks and water below and, on the busiest stretch of the seawall between 2nd Beach and Sunset Beach, there are no street lights, never mind the rest of the Stanley Park section.

Storm damaged old seawall
Putting up a sign that persons using the seawall do so at their own risk would be just another ignored distraction like the signs pointing out the speed limit and directions for cyclists and separation lines for pedestrians.  Even if it's for aesthetic reasons I don't see how the City can simply ignore the obvious need for a railing along the seawall.  Perhaps when a group of school children hurt themselves they will sit up and take notice.

Old seawall meets newly repaired seawall
The lack of street lighting is even more alarming when you combine this with the absence of a railing along the seawall.  Officials argue the cost of wiring up the seawall is prohibitive, not to mention the added electrical bill that would result.  But street lighting costs could be contained by installing solar and/or wind powered lights instead of miles of electrical conduit.  There would also be the added benefit of folks being able to go for walk in the dark without fear of assault or robbery.

Combination wind & solar powered street light
Railings and lighting are not as sexy as a seawall extension but maybe "Chip" could consider "chipping in" for this project as well and shame the City & Parks Board into following the same standards they impose on anyone else developing land next to the seawall.  Why is it that anything done by the private sector is so first rate but anything built or maintained by a government department is so sub-standard and shabby looking? Compare any stretch of the seawall in Coal Harbour or False Creek with the seawall on park land and you can see how it's really starting to show its age which, in some sections, is almost 100 years.

Coal Harbour seawall

False Creek seawall
English Bay seawall

Beach erosion 
Even less sexy, but more important, is the way drainage issues along the seawall are addressed. Not that it ever rains in Vancouver but, for those occasional months of the year when water is making a mud pit out of the poorly designed lawns and dead end walkways leading to English Bay, it would be nice if the water was directed to the storm sewer system instead of allowing it to erode the edge of the seawall, puddle on the walkway, and degrade the beach itself.  Even if the City & Parks Board doesn't care about the residents you think they would at least be sensitive to the impression it makes on the tourists.

Dead end walkway to the beach
So my Xmas wish for 2013 is the City & Parks Board not only announce a plan for expanding the seawall but also one for rehabilitating and modernizing the existing sections that need attention, particularly along English Bay.  Maybe they can even get Dennis Wilson to head up a fund raising campaign and get people to pay for a street light that would be named after themselves.  All in all after all we're only looking for another brick in the seawall.

Current & proposed seawall route