2 May 2014

Route: Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park improvements (Burnaby, BC)

Map from the City of Burnaby website.  Click for more detail.
I work in the south Burnaby area and, given my propensity to run on trails rather than roads, exploring this park has become my most-travelled running route, by far.  I have posted previously about this route (see original post here) and love it.

The City of Burnaby just recently completed an improvement project on the section of the trail that runs along the Fraser River from Boundary Road to Glenlyon Parkway.  This project took just over six months (from September 2013 to April 2014) to complete and, from my understanding, was substantially intended to improve the dyke itself.  In this post, I want to speak about this improved section.

Now, first and foremost, I believe the point of this improvement project was to raise the trail and reinforce the dyke itself.  In that regard, the mission was accomplished.  A large stretch of the trail was raised, providing additional protection from raising water levels to the businesses along the river.

The changes to the trail, however, were made in two different sections.  In the graphic to the above, I have indicated the two different sections by the purple and blues lines.  The purple line, which I will call Section A, is predominantly a dyke trail running between parking lots and the river.  The blue line, which I will call Section B, is more of a wilderness trail through marshland.

Section B trail 
Section B is by far my preference.  I would be more than happy if the entire trail ran like this; it simply feels more natural.  This section is covered with trees on both sides and feels like the natural state of the area with the exception of a gravel trail running through it.  The improvements in this section were relatively minimal and, from what I see, looks like new gravel was added to widen and raise the trail a couple of inches.  Overall, very minimal change.

Section B trail
In this section, there is plenty of shade and tree cover.  On a hot day, it is simply more refreshing to run through this area.  There are several types of birds around that can be heard in the trees.  Plenty of benches are placed along the water-side of the trail to provide a place to rest your legs or enjoy a the view of the river itself.  There are plenty of natural ponds and streams and, I imagine, the majority of the area is simply the way it was hundreds of years ago.

The entire trail from Boundary Road to Byrne Road used to feel like this.

The improved Section A, however, feels much more like a trail through an industrial park.  To be fair, that is exactly what it is.  And to be extra fair, the changes in this area are far more drastic and, therefore, it will take time for it to feel natural again.

Section A trail
This section was substantially raised (my guess is by about 3-4 feet) and is supported by a retaining wall.  In the Section A trail photo on the right, you can see the railing on top of the retaining wall.  Aesthetically, I simply don't like the railing; however, I can appreciate that, without it, there is a substantial fall hazard there.

The trail itself is much wider here than it was previously.  The trees along the water-side of the trail look relatively undisturbed.  However, the trees along the inland-side of the trail have been almost entirely removed, which is probably simply the result of the raised ground and new soil.  Grass has been planted and is just beginning to take root.  With time, I am sure the natural green feeling of the trail will return but, in the interim, it is a hot, dusty trail sandwiched between trees and a parking lot.  I would, however, like to see the City of Burnaby plant some more trees to create a bit more of a natural fence between the parking lots and the trail itself.  That is not to say that they aren't already planning to do so; given that they just finished this project, they may still be working on the finishing touches.

Overall, I am sure we will see many more river-front trails throughout the lower mainland receive similar makeovers as a result of the threat of rising water levels.  Cities must work hard to balance the natural feel of trails with the needs of others in the area.  The City of Burnaby has done well with these improvements and I am sure they tried to minimize the impact on the natural feel of the area as much as possible.

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