Seawall set to reopen after extensive facelift

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Features include viewing decks, new island

Cheryl Rossi
Van. Courier

The highlighted portion of the seawall along False Creek will reopen next week.

While the partial closure of First Avenue to motorists Dec. 3 is bad news for drivers, it’s great news for pedestrians and cyclists who will travel uninterrupted along the seawall for the first time in 18 months.

“We’re not finished the seawall, but we’ve taken it far enough that we can reopen it to the public,” said Jody Andrews, deputy city manager and project manager for Southeast False Creek and the Olympic Village. “We’d now like the public to be able to use that right up until the start of the Games in 2010 and they’ll be able to not only watch us finish the seawall over the coming three months, but then actually over the coming 23 months be able to watch us finish the Olympic Village, as well, from the waterfront.”

Pedestrians and cyclists will cruise along on separated paths that can carry them all the way around Stanley Park and over to Kits and Jericho beach to UBC and the Endowment Lands.

The city has completely rehabilitated the shoreline east of Cambie Bridge to Science World. “The old shoreline was in really rough shape. It was a lot of concrete and asphalt and rebar,” Andrews said.

Heading west from Science World one-third of the shoreline has been replaced with sloped rip-rap–boulders and rocks that have been specially fit together at low tide. “Those spaces in between the rocks are really important in the intertidal marine habitat,” Andrews said. “They create all sorts of very healthy spaces for plants and marine life to grow and flourish… It brings back a lot of vibrancy to the ecosystem.”

Decks with viewing abutments have also been added to this area. The centre of the refurbished area is more urban with massive granite steps leading into the sea. A new pedestrian bridge will be brought in by water at high tide and set in place over an inlet roughly between Columbia and Manitoba before the end of the year.

“The bridge has only one pier support in the centre which means that kayaks, canoes, paddleboats can paddle into the inlet, dock the boats at the granite steps and then just walk right into the development,” Andrews said. “So you can imagine if you’re out for a kayak one day you can paddle into the Southeast False Creek inlet, beach your boat at the granite and walk up and get a coffee, have a little break and then go right back out on the water again.”

Closer to Cambie Bridge, a new intertidal channel and island have been built to reintroduce a marine habitat. The island is shaped like an iceberg with a small top and a large base to provide ample intertidal space between low and high tide. “False Creek used to be almost all intertidal marsh. At low tide, it was all muck and sands and grasses that were exposed and at high tide, it looked like just another part of the ocean,” Andrews said.

Sometime after Dec. 3, the public will be able to reach the island via a spit of cobblestones. “That small thin connection will flood at high tides… It was designed in a way that it doesn’t flood very often, but it does once in a while so it is a bit of a sense of adventure and discovery to go out there,” Andrews said. At low, low tide, the island will appear connected to the mainland.

The city is working on a weir bridge where the wetlands it’s developing to harvest and treat rainwater will flow out, so pedestrians may not be able to access the island right away. The city may also wait until all of the native vegetation including evergreens, Oregon grape and salal shrubs have taken root to open the island to the public. Dead trees were also planted to provide perches for birds to nest.

“A lot of the [flora] we don’t see at all in False Creek and so it is kind of interesting to go down that list and see what we are reintroducing here that used to be here naturally a hundred or plus years ago,” Andrews said.

The section of the seawall between Science World and Cambie Bridge is about 90 per cent complete. Final finishing and landscaping will be done once the grading of the adjacent construction concludes in 2008.

Andrews expects a grand reopening of the seawall in February.

© Vancouver Courier 2007


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