File photo Marine Drive ‘hump’ hillside following contentious clearing work in 2015.

‘Hands off’ hump – White Rock councillors

Virtual clear-cut of waterfront vegetation created controversy in 2015

White Rock Couns. Helen Fathers and David Chesney have served notice they will be paying close attention to staff maintenance of the ‘hump’ hillside below Marine Drive between the city’s East Beach and West Beach.

At Monday night’s council meeting both noted their concerns as members of the previous council when they were surprised by a controversial removal of vegetation, in 2015, that amounted to a virtual clear-cut of the hump.

“It was brought to my attention on the weekend that there was some thought about vegetation management on the hump, and I just wanted to have the conversation around the council table because, being part of the last council, I did feel like myself and Coun. Chesney got a little bit caught out on the vegetation, hump and management,” Fathers said.

“I most certainly wouldn’t like to see what happened in the past happen there…so I’m bringing it forward under new business.”

The removal of vegetation in 2015 had led to subsequent speculation by council watchers that it was related to advocacy by then-councillor Grant Meyer for a parking facility on the hump.

Chesney said he had spoken with engineering and municipal operations manager Jim Gordon about current plans for maintenance of the hump, and had taken a look at the area himself.

“I love the way it looks, to be quite truthful. I don’t love it as much as the way it used to look, but I love the greenery and to me, in reading the staff request that there was work to be done, I don’t see any impediment on the sidewalk of blackberries – there’s a buffer zone between the fence and the vegetation,” he said.

“According to Mr. Gordon, there have been some complaints about the lack of view from the jut-out area there, but I’ve often wondered why, when they took down close to 70 or 80 trees, they left one right in front of the viewpoint.

“But I say hands off. Leave the hump alone, let it grow, let it green. The eagles look like they’re moving back into the trees…the whole hillside has come back to life. I don’t see any reason, unless I’m missing something, that there should be any work done there.”

Coun. Scott Kristjanson agreed with Chesney and Fathers, saying he would like to see more green spaces in the city.

“The blackberry bushes are good habitat and good food sources for the wildlife, which, in turn, helps the eagles make a living as well. I’d much rather we not touch anything there.”

Coun. Anthony Manning asked Gordon whether, in driving micropiles into the hump area (a measure to further stabilize the hillside), any vegetation would need to be cleared to conclude that work.

Gordon answered that he hadn’t considered whether driving micropiles would necessitate vegetation loss, but guessed that it would “probably be minimal, if any.”

In clarifying the work on the hump contemplated by staff, he said “this is only at the top of the hump near Marine Drive itself – this is more a regular maintenance program; what we did last year.”

“This was strictly just an annual maintenance issue that we do just at the very top (at) Marine Drive,” chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill added.

“It’s intended to keep the blackberry bushes from growing too high…they will grow, but if council doesn’t want to do anything in 2019, that’s fine,” he said.

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