Hoping to address the city's growing population and increased demand for green space, Vancouver Park Board is proposing a masterplan to preserve and enhance West End waterfront parks.

Co-led by the park board and the city's engineering department, the West End Waterfront Masterplan project would consider how to improve the parks and their nearby transportation systems.

According to a staff report that will be presented to the park board's chair and commissioners at Monday night's meeting, West End parks – including English Bay, Sunset Beach, Alexandra Park and Morton Park – are some of the most popular in the city. 

"Lined with iconic destinations and vistas that define the Vancouver experience, the area features the continuous Seaside Greenway, vibrant and expansive beaches and sweeping views of English Bay, the Salish Sea and Vancouver Island beyond," says the staff report. 

"The waterfront park system lines the southwestern edge of the West End community, one of the densest neighbourhoods in all of Canada, and draws crowds in the thousands each day of the year as the city’s premier sunset watching spot."

However, West End parks are facing pressure as population and tourism are both growing. As a result, the board says it hopes to avoid overcrowding of concession, washrooms, transportation systems and the seawall, and believes a masterplan is needed to ensure growth is managed in a coordinated way. 

Seawall volume to be addressed

One area the staff hope to focus on in the masterplan is Vancouver's seawall, which it says "is heavily used for people travelling through the area … and over time has been resulting in increasing conflicts."

According to the report, an average of 2,800 people bike the seawall daily, with daily volumes reaching as high as 10,000 during summer months. 

"The seawall also needs to be better integrated with the surrounding street network, particularly the growing number of pedestrian and bicycling priority streets in the West End," the report says. 

"Key opportunities include visioning around converting roadways to park space to create enhanced park experiences and options for addressing overall growing seawall congestion, especially in peak periods."

The report adds that connections to the seawall from surrounding neighbourhoods need to be improved, especially near the Burrard Street Bridge. 

Coastal care and climate change factors in board's planning

Along with addressing foot, bike and vehicle traffic in the area, park board staff say effects of climate must be also be considered.

Citing concerns of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and changing weather patterns, the report says "creative methods of waterfront restoration" will be a key focus of the masterplan. 

Some considerations the staff hope to include are protecting biodiversity, restoring intertidal habitats, implementing vegetation that is native to the area and introducing soil restoration. 

The staff report doesn’t have a specific timeline for the plan yet, stating that a project team needs to be established first.

From there, the team will conduct research and public engagement, draft some goals and principles, then develop concepts and funding plans. It's expected work will begin at the end of this year.