Surf park proposal floated for polluted waters of Vancouver's east False Creek

A Vancouver company wants to build a surf park in one of the "worst" waterways in the city, which it says would help clean up the polluted waters near Science World.

Park Board has met with company about 'bold' and unsolicited proposal but not endorsed it

A Vancouver company wants to build a beach and an artificial wave pool in the polluted waters of east False Creek near Science World. (Reviver Sport)

A Vancouver company is floating the idea of building a surf park in one of the "worst" waterways in the city, which it says would help clean up the polluted waters of False Creek near Science World.

The CitySurf proposal, from Reviver Sport, is to build a floating pool at the east end of False Creek with a free public beach and a paid artificial wave pool.

CEO Philip Davis said the idea came from his own stand-up paddleboarding in the waters, which are frequently plagued by high E. coli levels in the summer.

"We think it's a great opportunity to engage in probably the worst piece of waterway and do something about it," he said.

"I live downtown and I know what recreational hurdles we have in terms of water access."

The company, Reviver Sport, imagines the wave pool being programmable to have small waves for kids and big ones for surfers. (Reviver Sport)

Programmable wave?

The company's idea is to build a pool floating in False Creek, but physically separated from it by a membrane that would somehow filter the water to make it safe for swimming.

(False Creek is not suitable for swimming, according to Vancouver Coastal Health, which advises people to wash their hands and shower after coming into contact with the water.)

Such a floating filtration system is an emerging technology that no one is using yet, said Davis. In New York, a floating, filtered swimming pool has also been proposed for the polluted East River but not yet built.

Davis said the wave would be programmable — small at times for swimming or paddling lessons, but able to grow.

"The wave can be modulated to be everything from a very small crumbling wave for kids to catch on boogie boards to a six foot wave that expert surfers could ride."

The filtered water from False Creek would be recirculated in the pool, then released back into the waterway, said Davis.

"The ability to be able to use the water in False Creek is paramount to the success of what we're doing."

The location would provide a recreation zone for downtown residents and be close to transit, said the company. (Reviver Sport)

'Bold idea' says Park Board

But those waters have challenges.

The region's combined sewer overflow system, which is being phased out through years of construction, means the water outflow below Science World releases raw sewage when there's a lot of rain.

And, creosote-treated pilings along with remnants of False Creek's industrial past can leave a chemical smell in the air on hot days.

But that's exactly why Davis said he imagined something different on the city-owned waterfront lands.

"Part of the envisioning for this come from years of paddleboarding in False Creek and looking at some of these issues and smelling some of these issues."

The Vancouver Park Board said it has been approached by Reviver Sport with the "unsolicited idea," and has met with the company.

"We have in no way endorsed the concept at this point," wrote Dave Hutch, manager of park planning in a statement. "It is a bold idea to be further discussed at our VanSplash aquatic consultation."

The park board is in the middle of months of consultation about the future of swimming in the city, including the possibility of more outdoor pools.