British Columbia

White Rock, B.C., moves forward with Semiahmoo First Nation on park upgrade

The promenade in front of the park on Marine Drive will be temporarily closed Jan. 29 and 30 as the city and First Nation investigate artifacts found at the site.

City halted construction after the First Nation expressed concern

An image from the City of White Rock shows the section of promenade at Memorial Park that will be closed on Jan. 29-30, 2018 for construction. (City of White Rock)

The City of White Rock still hopes to unveil a revitalized park along its waterfront in time for summer.

That timeline though could be altered after an investigation revealed that the site contains artifacts belonging to ancestors of the Semiahmoo First Nation.

Construction on the park's revitalization was slated to begin in the fall of 2017, but the First Nation asked for more time to review the project. The city agreed.

Now there could be further delays after crews found what could be a shell midden at the waterfront site.

A shell midden can consist of clamshells, fish bones, and other artifacts from people living on the site in the past.

Joanne Charles, a Semiahmoo council member, said the First Nation regards the site as an archeological site because its members know the area was occupied by its ancestors.

Temporary closure

The city says the promenade in front of the site will be closed temporarily on Monday and Tuesday as work is carried out.

Charles says an investigation will continue into what was found at the site and its significance.

"There will continue to be archeological testing ongoing as the construction or demolition of certain buildings and staircases are going on," she said.

The finding comes after the city agreed to work with the First Nation after it expressed concerns about the project just as construction was about to begin.

Since 2016, the city has been trying to renew Memorial Park along Marine Drive, which is a popular summer destination.

Railway owns park

The city contacted the province's archeology branch  in 2016 to see if it required a provincial permit to do work at the site.

It says it was told that because the park land was owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, it fell under federal jurisdiction.

After a series of public consultations on the final look of the revitalization, in July 2017, Fricia Construction was awarded the contract for the project.

Concepts for the revitalized park include new washrooms, a new space for concerts and performances plus a water park.

The city halted construction just as it was about to begin after the First Nation expressed concern.

"Out of respect for Semiahmoo First Nation, the city delayed the project," it said on its website adding that the Tsleil-Waututh Nation was also involved.

The city decided to apply for a archeological permit from the province. It says it undertook the application as a sign of goodwill and respect for local First Nations.

Charles says the city and First Nation hope to learn more about the findings at the site this week.

With files from Meera Bains.