New Westminster’s mayor is pledging to rebuild the city’s fire-ravaged Pier Park, but says it will be several years before the popular waterfront attraction is open again.
The fire broke out Sunday, Sept. 13, and quickly grew to engulf the old-pier section of the riverfront greenspace. Crews were only able to fully extinguish it on Thursday.
“Definitely the pier park fire has been a shock to the community,” said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote.
“It’s not going to happen overnight but we will rebuild Pier Park. It’s an important part of our community.”
As in the case of White Rock’s pier, which was destroyed during the 2018 winter windstorm, Cote said the city will look to senior levels of government to help with the costs of rebuilding.
Cote estimated the cost to replace the park as in the $20 million ballpark.
“We are going to be hoping to look for partnerships to help to rebuild,” he said. “This wasn’t in the original financial plan for the city of New Westminster, and I’m cautiously optimistic we will be able to get that support.”
First the ruined pier and its charred, creosote coated pilings will need to be removed and the area given an environmental remediation.
Jason Hwang, vice-president of the Pacific Salmon Foundation, said it is crucial that the area is cleaned up as quickly as possible and to ensure contaminants aren’t leeching into the river for weeks or months.
“Anything like that that’s petroleum-based will have a very direct effect on fish if it gets into the water, because that kind of pollutant in the water is taken up directly by fish through their gills,” he said.
“Salmon really have a high dependence on the Fraser River and things like pollution events add to the number of other stressors that salmon are trying to deal with right now in terms of their sustainability and ongoing wellbeing.”
Once the cleanup is done, Cote said he wants the city to do a deep consultation with residents and local First Nations about what the park’s replacement should look like, to ensure they get the long-term vision right.
In the meantime, the investigation into the fire continues.
New Westminster police have arrested a suspect in the fire, but he has not been charged or named.