It is the biggest stand of trees in New Westminster, and you have probably never been there.
Poplar Island has a rich history, which you can read about in some detail here. For those with stunted attention spans, it has been a rancherie, an Indian Reserve, a smallpox hospital (prison?), a shipbuilding centre, a home, and for most of the last 50 years, little more than a convenient place to boom logs. The history of ownership is about as chequered, and perhaps even a bit uncertain now…
I raise this issue now because some people have suggested that a bridge to Poplar may be a good idea, as part of the project to connect Queensborough’s perimeter trail system to the Boardwalk and Quayside, and finally provide a real community connection to Queensborough residents.
The problem is, attaching Poplar to this idea is a recipe for all kinds of troubles.
First off, that legacy of Poplar creates all sorts of legal issues around connecting to it. With a 100-year history of industrial activity, there is a clear history of Schedule 2 activities, so re-zoning it for Park would be somewhat complicated, even if there is not contamination present (actually, the logistics involved in doing the sampling required to determine if it is contaminated would be a real hassle for an island with no roads, no landing docks, and no services). Then if somehow the City got the rights to use the Island, and negotiated fair use with the appropriate First Nations, and got the contamination situation figured out, how do we go about controlling access to the park, preventing fires, stopping squatters, etc. I suspect there is a reason the island is being preserved in a relatively natural (if second- or third-growth) state…
I hate to be a Debbie downer. I think that a well-designed park, accessible and safe, with a proper emphasis on displaying the important heritage of Poplar, would be great benefit to the City, but it will take a long time and a fair pile of money to develop. Maybe in my second term as Mayor. So the risk here is a measured response to reclaiming Poplar Island will slow down the bridge project, potentially for decades.
Worse actually, is that Poplar Island does not represent a good place to put a bridge, if your goal is to connect the burgeoning communities of eastern Queensborough and their integrated greenways with the Boardwalk, the Quay, Skytrain, and the rest of downtown.
If we want to build a pleasant park trail to be used occasionally for dog walks, then let’s wait until we can get Poplar worked out and build the bridge then. If we want a piece of sustainable transportation infrastructure to connect Port Royal and the rest of Queensborough to the rest of the City, let’s at least put the bridge in a useful spot. That means ignoring Poplar for now.
|(Click to make big enough to be readable. Hey Google Earth, your share of my profits are in the mail)|
As you can see in the above diagram, connecting just west of the train bridge to the trail just east of the little beach on Queensborough would require a bridge about 200m long (measuring between imaginary pillars set on opposite banks). The controversial “Submarine Park” location, more like 225m. Access via Poplar will require two bridges, totalling 325m at the closest points, of 475m to connect to the Third Ave overpass as was suggested by come commentors.
I recognize there is more to a bridge’s cost than a simple length calculation, but as a first approximation, isn’t it safe to suggest a shorter bridge is likely to be cheaper?
The second half of bridge location is that it connects to. As attractive as hooking into the Third Ave overpass may be aesthetically, I don’t think pedestrians from Queensborough are not all that interested in better access to Key West Ford (although I am sure their vehicle deals are second to none). They want to get to the Quay, to the Skytrain, and to Downtown New West and the new MUCF. So why take them so far away from their destination?
I think the Submarine Park is a minor issue, compared to building a bridge that acceptable to the local community from an aesthetics viewpoint, is accessible by more people, and serves its purpose as an important peice of sustainable transportation infrastructure.
The Submarine doesn’t have to move, and in the slim chance it has to, there are other locations it can go. At the Quayside Sale/Festival, I overheard Councillor Harper talking about the bridge with a concerned citizen, and addressing concerns that the “Submarine Park” was going to be removed. He said: “do you really think this Council is going to vote to remove a park?” The question may have been rhetorical, but it seemed to stump the questioner…