City of White Rock workers erect fencing around the promenade ahead of the Easter long weekend. The popular waterfront walkway has re-opened, but the fencing has been left in place in case it is needed again. (Alex Browne photo)

White Rock waterfront fencing to remain in place for now

Council votes to wait until early July to reassess need for temporary barrier

The blue fencing along White Rock’s waterfront will be staying in place for now.

At the city’s special meeting June 8, council voted down a motion from Coun. Scott Kristjanson that asked that the rental fencing – which costs $3,000 to $5,000 per month – be removed immediately.

Installed in early April as an extra measure to discourage pedestrian traffic on the promenade – closed at that time to stall the potential spread of COVID-19 – the fencing was retained after the promenade was re-opened May 29, in case it might be needed again.

Kristjanson had argued that the fencing is no longer needed since, in his observation, a majority of residents and visitors appear to be following social distancing rules on the waterfront.

“We had a very nice, sunny weekend and the promenade and the beaches are open,” he said. “I’m getting the sense that maybe it’s time to move the fences and return (them) and save some money. It felt like people were doing a good job of social distancing – there were a few crowds that I saw, but that would probably happen with, or without, those fences sitting there.”

His call was supported by Coun. Erika Johanson.

‘The reason why we put them up was to close the promenade completely, and the argument at the time was ‘we can leave the promenade open, and keep the parking closed and that would discourage people and prevent people from going onto the promenade, and I still think that’s a viable option,” she said.

“We are spending money on this blue fence that I don’t think is needed. If things get worse we can just close off the parking.”

READ ALSO: White Rock’s promenade to close to the public

READ ALSO: White Rock re-opens promenade, increases waterfront parking

However, both Coun. David Chesney and Mayor Darryl Walker – who had a different viewpoint about how well social distancing is going – said they favoured keeping the fence in place for a couple of weeks longer, at least, while data on the relaxed phase two of anti-COVID-19 measures is assessed.

“I think it’s way premature to start taking those fences away,” said Chesney. “Wait until we get a full week of sunshine going right into a weekend and take a look at what happens at that point in time. Social distancing was non-existent on the promenade, because what you have is people coming down, they’re a family of four or five, six, seven, eight mixing and mingling with each other on an everyday basis, so when they come to the promenade, there’s absolutely no attempt to social distance.”

Chesney pointed out that removing the fencing, and redeploying it, if it proved necessary, would cost the city a total of $30,000.

“Let’s wait another couple of weeks; let’s get a good stretch of sunny weather. The reason we put those fences up is that people did not adhere to the basic rules of social distancing. If you throw all of those fences away and open it up, you’ll just be packing them back down there, because it will be an absolute mess.”

“I’m not convinced that we’re out of this, as yet,” Walker said. “We’re doing well, but (Chesney) has hit it on the head – we haven’t had good weather yet, and we will soon and we’re going to see what it looks like, and we’re going to see if there’s some kind of spike, and that’s what bothers me.”

Walker also expressed dismay that waterfront businesses seem to be “turning a blind eye” to violations of social distancing rules.

“There seems to be no reaction from the businesses, as if it’s not their responsibility to try to keep the community safe as we’re trying to help them re-open and get their job done,” he said.

Coun. Helen Fathers said she is hopeful that relaxation of provincial regulations will soon allow a complete opening of the waterfront, including the pier.

“I do agree we could wait another couple of weeks, but I’m hoping by July 1 stage three will be, possibly, in place,” she said.

The motion was defeated with Walker and Couns. Chesney, Helen Fathers, Anthony Manning and Christopher Trevelyan opposed.

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