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White Rock council delays accessibility mat for pier, opts to wait for grants

Increased accessibility for the White Rock Pier will have to wait.

White Rock city council voted on Monday not to fund an accessibility mat for the city’s well-known pier.

In a majority vote, councillors decided to have city staff look into possible grants to fund the mat, rather than approve a one-time $100,000 investment of city funds.

The argument was made that it would be better for White Rock taxpayers if grants could be used to create the accessibility mat (walkway) for the pier.

“We owe a responsibility to all residents … if there’s money out there we can get … I think we owe that to the taxpayer,” White Rock Mayor Megan Knight said at the council meeting.

“Everyone on this council agrees, we will get this done. Our due diligence must be done for the taxpayer.”

The mat would make the pier walkway safer and more accessible as the walkway planks can be quite uneven, especially for wheelchair access.

Accessibility advocate Susan Bains, with Equal Access Collective, spoke in favour of the city funding the mat at Monday’s council meeting and said White Rock’s choice of waiting for grant money is not in the interest of those that need it most.

“I’ve been pushing for (the mat) since 2021,” she said.

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“Wheels get stuck in the gaps, (council) knows it is not accessible. If they cared they would prioritize and take action. They have the money for this.”

Bains even supplied the city council with a list of possible grants that could be applied for some time ago.

City councillor Ernie Klassen, who is a member of the White Rock Accessibility Committee, had some sharp words on Monday as well.

“I find it a little inappropriate that a list of grant opportunities was given months ago, and we’re postponing this again,” he said. “This has been brought forward time and time again. We came up with a committee to look the accessibility in the city and we are postponing this over and over again.”

Disabled comedian Ryan Lachance, who is a White Rock resident and part of Accessibility Community for White Rock, also spoke at the meeting, pleading with council members to fund the access mat sooner rather than later.

“It seems like we are having to debate something that should be common sense for the pier, not only for people with disabilities but also for people who may have a bum leg. Anyone can easily trip on the pier,” he said. “We are trying to make it accessible for everyone. It is frustrating having to keep pointing out the obvious to the city that this needs to be done. I hope you take our requests seriously.”

Global News spoke with White Rock councillor Elaine Cheung regarding the issue. She voted for staff to continue looking into grants.

“We are going to be putting the mat on the pier. If there are grants out there for mats, we will apply for it,” she said. “It’s $115,000 to put the mat on the pier and that quite a lot for a little city like White Rock.”

There is city money that could be used for the mat, but Cheung said the city needs to spend its money to be as “effective as possible.”

Another wrinkle that could potentially delay grant applications, is the city is trying to hire a grant-writer position. Without that position filled, it could take longer to apply for grants, city staff said.

Bains has created an online petition regarding the issue.

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