City to replace rip rap at Robert Ostler Park

Park’s foreshore has taken a beating during recent storms and is now slumping into the water

City council has endorsed a plan to create a man-made beach at Robert Ostler Park in an effort to protect the foreshore.

Council passed the resolution at last Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. However, while council supports the engineered beach approach, a decision has yet to be finalized in light of other parks projects council has to consider.

The engineered beach would replace the rip rap on the park’s foreshore, which has taken a beating during recent storms and is now slumping into the water.

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the city stands to lose a piece of a city jewel if the rip rap is not replaced.

“The failure of the armouring has resulted in erosion of the bank, undermining of the adjacent sea walk, and has allowed the wave action to overtop the rip rap and throw debris and water up onto the bank,” Milnthorp wrote in a report to council. “Infrastructure such as picnic tables and benches will continue to be destroyed, exposure to salt water will damage turf in the foreshore area of the park and undermining of the sea walk will result in the loss of the sea walk in this area.”

The city hired engineering firm McElhanney to come up with a long term solution to the problem.

Engineers discouraged the city from simply replacing the rip rap, stating in a report that adding more rip rap will not prevent the erosion of the underlying material, which would undermine the protective layer and cause slumping and failure.

The report also finds that “adding more rock fill will steepen the face of the foreshore resulting in greater potential for wave and debris overtopping” and “with an increase in frequency and intensity of storms, improperly designed rip rip will need frequent repairs, and will result in more maintenance to the upland portions of the park.”

Engineers found that an engineered beach, on the other hand, mimics natural run-up conditions of nearby beaches which dissipates wave energy and intensity, preventing erosion.

Milnthorp said there also appears to be a degree of community support for the beach option.

In a survey posted online and in city facilities, more than 78 per cent of the 474 responses received favoured an engineered beach, as did the results of meetings with two city commissions and a public meeting in January on what to do with Robert Ostler Park.

The city has already used the engineered beach approach to try and mitigate storm damage near Rockland Road and the Island Highway – though a portion of the sea walk is slumping nearby – and at Rotary, Dick Murphy and Ellis Parks.

The technique involves reshaping to return the beach to a more natural slope that helps protect the sea walk and the underground services from storm damage. It would also provide better public access to the beach via Robert Ostler Park, the host venue to several community events including Canada Day.

It would also increase total park space by 2,660 square metres by providing full access to the waterfront.

The cost to create the engineered beach is estimated at $750,000 and will be funded through federal gas tax funds, rather than property taxation.

City staff are also looking at undertaking other improvements at Robert Ostler Park in conjunction with the engineered beach project, that include: relocating the storm drainage system under Ostler Park, upgrading the Seagull Walkway adjacent to the park, re-configuring the north entrance to the park and Quadra ferry terminal, replacing the playground, replacing the park irrigation system and resurfacing the park with new sod.

Milnthorp said staff will bring a report to council in May with a proposed strategy, design and construction plan that would coordinate all of those projects.