There could be good news coming for those concerned about sidewalk safety hazards – and bleak streetscape esthetics – in uptown White Rock.
According to engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon, the section of Johnston Road between North Bluff and Russell Avenue – the ‘gateway’ to the city – could have flat, uniformly level concrete sidewalks and new trees, by this fall.
Removal of liquidambar trees, which started last September, has left stumps and projecting roots, but so far done nothing to fix buckled, undulating sidewalks – a result of paving stones being pushed upwards by root systems that have been growing for decades.
But that could change soon, Gordon said.
“We’ve put water, sewer and storm-sewer services, replacing the sidewalk and replacing trees out to tender,” he said this week.
“We’ll be bringing a report to council on Monday requesting council award the tender. We’re ready to go now and, providing council awards the tender, the contractor could go in a few weeks later. Work could start by next month and be finished by fall.”
That will be a welcome development for Karen Hawkins of Save On Scooters and Medical Equipment, located just over the Surrey border, which has been providing mobility services to White Rock and South Surrey clients since 2000.
Hawkins contacted Peace Arch News with concerns about the uneven paving stones, which have long posed a hazard to those trying to navigate the area in wheelchairs, on scooters or using walkers and crutches.
“In our business, we see people after they tumble or they stumble. One misstep on a cobblestone will take you down,” she said last week. “It’s very frequent – probably every day we see people who’ve had a number of challenges (getting around that area).”
Hawkins said she understands the esthetic reasons White Rock chose the current paving stones for the uptown area.
“But in hindsight, the cobblestones, which are very pretty to look at, are kind of treacherous,” she said, adding that concerns will only multiply when the PARC seniors-oriented highrise – in the same block of Johnston Road – is completed.
Gordon agreed safety is a priority.
“It’s one of the purposes of the project – to restore accessibility for people with walkers or in wheelchairs,” he said.
“That block certainly doesn’t look good now. We’re pretty eager to go in and fix it.”
Gordon said choice of sidewalk trees – and new ‘Silva Cell’ planting technology – will be crucial in improving the streetscape and preventing similar problems in future.
“We’re reviewing species right now to make sure we pick the right ones,” he said, adding that the planting technology provides a better environment for trees so that the roots are not “searching for oxygen.”
“It ensures that tree roots don’t spread out and heave the sidewalks,” he said.
From an esthetic point of view, the city is planning to have significant tree cover for the street sooner rather than later, Gordon said.
“We’re planning to get more mature trees, rather than saplings, although sometimes you’re limited by what’s available from suppliers,” he added.
“We want to put in substantial trees that have a good chance of survival and a healthy life.”