The Vancouver park board is considering completing a gap in the city’s seawall between Kitsilano and Jericho beaches after a private donor has offered to kick in tens of millions for the project.

The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous for now, has made a very serious – though not unlimited – offer to finance the project, mayor’s staff said Wednesday.

The donor is a longtime city resident and philanthropist who loves the seawall, which the city has contemplated extending for years.

Though Mayor Gregor Robertson has lent his support to the concept, it is sure to generate controversy as it may require altering the shoreline in front of some of Vancouver’s most expensive real estate.

Vancouver park board chairwoman Sarah Blyth said Wednesday the project would be put through a public consultation process.

“The first part is speaking to the community [in the proposed seawall area] and the people of Vancouver because we can’t do anything without knowing if that’s what they want,” she said.

The park board has toyed with the idea of extending the seawall, she added, but funding has been an issue.

The donor’s offer solves part of the funding puzzle and could help leverage financing from the provincial and federal governments, Blyth said.

“Is it time to extend the rest of the seawall? I think it might be. It would be a legacy that belongs to Vancouver forever.”

On the plus side, connecting the Jericho and Kitsilano waterfronts with an approximately 2.5-kilometre walkway would create a continuous seawall that stretches from Point Grey to False Creek and Stanley Park.

But the stretch of waterfront off of Cornwall and Point Grey is also home to some of the city’s priciest houses, some with large concrete retaining walls dropping directly to beach front that is impassable at high tide.

That means some kind of pier structure would need to be built to support a walkway adjacent to about 80 waterfront homes along the 2.5-kilometre stretch.

The walkway would also pass through the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club’s Jericho location.

Blyth acknowledged there may be some local resistance to the idea, but said that’s why public consultation is crucial.

The public could reject the idea, or cause the plan to change, she said. It is also possible part of the route would not be on the beach, added Blyth.

Robertson said he’s confident the city can develop a design for a walkway between Kitsilano and Jericho that works for local residents and opens up Vancouver’s waterfront for everyone.

“I’d love to see a public connection from Jericho to Kits beach,” he said in an email.

“We should be embracing any opportunity for more public waterfront access, whether it’s in Kits, Coal Harbour or along the Fraser,” he said.

While the general concept has been examined, no detailed engineering or designs have been completed.

That would have to happen before a total cost can be calculated, although mayor’s staff expect the project to cost tens of millions of dollars.

Planning will move ahead when Blyth puts forward a motion at a park board meeting later this month to start consultation and more detailed design work.

By Gordon Hoekstra
via vancouver sun

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