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‘Train wreck’ discussion stalls decision on White Rock’s waterfront signage

Interpretive signs were removed in 2017 during work on Memorial Park
A design on the updated design and placement of interpretive signage on White Rock’s waterfront has been put on hold until ‘council can make a decision based on facts.’ (City of White Rock graphic)

A decision on where to locate interpretive signage on the waterfront, and what it should look like, has been postponed following council discussion in which the process was described as “an absolute train wreck.”

Council voted earlier this month to hold off on any decision regarding the series of environment-focused signs until “this council can make a decision based on facts, not hearsay.”

The move, proposed by Coun. David Chesney, followed a delegation by Margaret Cuthbert and David Riley, of Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society; presentation of a corporate report regarding revisiting the signage design and placement; and, much discussion.

Cuthbert, who is president of FOSBS, told council that her group has been involved with the signage since 2006, when the society was asked to update the blue-framed signs that had been installed by the White Rock & Surrey Naturalists in the early 1980s.

In 2012, they were redone again, she said, and five years after that, in 2017, the eight signs – installed above the washrooms at the foot of the pier, near the Rotary clock – were removed to make way for the Memorial Park reconstruction.

READ MORE: Groundbreaking scheduled for White Rock’s Memorial Park

Cuthbert said that at that time, city officials advised that the signs would be going back up. But that has yet to happen.

“We continued to connect with the city after the park was finished, and now we’re seven years later,” she said.

City communications manager Amanda Silvers told council that she inherited the project when she joined the city in 2021, and saw an opportunity to improve the signs, including with simplified language, improved accessibility and designs that reflect the city’s brand.

In response to historical conflict with respect to the signs’ placement on the clock plaza impeding views for restaurant patrons – and in consultation with Cuthbert regarding content – designs that could be mounted along the pier railings were developed, Silvers said.

However, the result “wasn’t to (Cuthbert’s) taste,” Silvers said.

Cuthbert said she was “not happy” with the refreshed versions. She described the pier concept as “dull” and “uninteresting,” but said her point of view was “dismissed” by city staff.

Following an FOSBS presentation last September, the previous council voted to return the original signs, updated by the society, to the clock-tower plaza. The latest corporate report was in response to questions from new council members around plans for the signage.

In discussing the matter, Coun. Bill Lawrence said it was “close to impossible” to consider returning the signage to the clock-tower plaza, “just due to the pushback” from restaurant owners. Coun. Christopher Trevelyan agreed, describing that particular aspect as a “non-starter.”

Chesney, however, disagreed, noting the pushback came from just one restaurant owner.

“Do we govern for one, or do we govern for 20,000?” he said.

“That’s still an incredible vista. I don’t see that this is an issue at all.”

Cuthbert said the proposed placement on the clock-tower plaza railings was misrepresented in the report; that the signs were not proposed to be placed atop of the railings, but rather, lower down.

Lawrence, Trevelyan and Couns. Elaine Cheung and Ernie Klassen all agreed the plaza was not an appropriate placing for the signs. The promenade was raised as an option, as was a railing on the south side of Marine Drive, at Balsam Street.

Chesney’s motion to wait for “the proper information that everybody can agree on” received unanimous support.
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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