New Westminster Pier Park

New Westminster, British Columbia

Photo Credit: PWL Partnership Landscape Architects


Research by: Nicole Brekelmans 

Edited by: Samantha Miller 

Case study compiled in 2019



Project: New Westminster Pier Park

Type of Urban StrategyWater, Ecological Infrastructure, Industrial Landscapes 

Type of ProjectWaterfront Park and Habitat Rehabilitation 

LocationNew Westminster, British Columbia

Date Designed/Planned: 2009

Construction Completed 2012

DesignerPWL Partnership Landscape Architects and Worley Parsons 



The New Westminster Pier Park is a 3.8-hectare waterfront park that runs along the Fraser River (PWL, n.d.). The park plays a major part in the city’s long-term masterplan of reconnecting the waterfront to the downtown core by creating additional public spaces that focus on New Westminster's rich heritage while integrating sustainable and ecological design strategies (PWL, n.d.). The project focuses on extensive site remediation to remove existing contaminants while enhancing wildlife habitats to increase fish and bird populations (Archdaily, 2014). Additionally, the pier park reuses and repurposes many of the materials that were apart of the previous boardwalk and site, to further connect to the waterfront’s industrial past, while also reducing waste and energy during the construction process (Future Landscapes, 2018). The main goal of the project is to reclaim the downtown and the waterfront to transform them back into the economic and community hubs they once were (Morphet, 2012). 


The New Westminster Pier Park has been highly successful through receiving multiple urban design and sustainable design awards long before the park was completed in 2012. The park has also become an excellent example of ecological infrastructure as well as a project that reconnects its city centre to water. The project provides the public with ample opportunities to experience the Fraser River through various spaces such as an elevated viewing dock, festival lawn, and accessible pedestrian and cyclist paths. The habitat enhancement and groundwater remediation to reduce contaminants are excellent examples of the many strategies implemented within the project to create a sustainable park that blends the site’s social and ecological processes together.


The New Westminster Pier Park is part of the city’s long-term plan to reclaim the industrial brownsites along the waterfront while connecting them to the adjacent urban fabric as well as the core of downtown (Archdaily, 2014). The Pier Park consists of a 3.8 hectare site along the Fraser River that remained idle for 20 years before the City of New Westminster bought the land (Archdaily, 2014). The project is an ecological based design through its remediation and habitat enhancement strategies implemented within the site resulting in a drastic increase in diversity. The Pier Park also has a strong focus on New Westminster’s rich heritage which is emphasized through repurposing multiple elements from the previous space such as the existing piers and boardwalks, as well as adding additional elements including a photo panel and a memory band of words. The park aims at accommodating a wide range of activities and events for the public such as pedestrian circulation, festival events, and other large community gatherings. The project’s focus on ecology and remediation has led to the New Westminster Pier Park being recognized nationally as an innovative and sustainable design through receiving awards such as the 2011 National Brownie Award, 2013 Regional Honour Design, and 2014 National Urban Design Award.


The City of New Westminster bought the waterfront site for $8 million in 2009, and later received funding to cover two-thirds of the project’s estimated cost ($16.6 million) from the federal and provincial government through the Build Canada Fund. The city also contributed its own funds of $8 million towards the new park. (New West City, 2010)


The New Westminster Pier Park is located on a 3.84 hectare site situated along the Fraser River which was once a brownfield site due to an industrial past along the waterfront. The previous condition of the pier contained decaying wood, contaminated ground water with chlorinated solvents, and dense soil due to the incorrect disposal of garbage and other wastes (Morphet, 2012). The contamination of the water led to uninhabitable conditions for any native species and resulted in no habitats existing for over 150 years. The Pier Park runs along the waterfront edge towards Sapperton Landing and activates the urban fabric adjacent the pier and downtown to further connect the city’s core to the water (Future Landscapes, 2018). This connection to downtown is created along with incorporating the railway that follows the pier park along the river.


New Westminster Pier Park is located in the oldest city in western Canada which was the first capital of British Columbia (SB magazine, 2017). The city was established as an industrial site and flourishing settlement that attracted immigrant workers and their families. As the city grew, New Westminster became a hub for merchants and shipping along the Fraser River during the 1860s, and included factories, canneries, a city market, and Lytton square (New West City, 2010). In 1898, The Great Fire destroyed a major portion of the city’s downtown, resulting in a major economic decline and commenced a century of uncertainty through other city-wide hardships (New West City, 2010). A large portion of the waterfront was eventually abandoned in the late 1990s, leaving the area idle for 20 years until the City began a restoration project including the river as well as downtown.


The overall goal when designing and constructing the New Westminster Pier Park was to celebrate the city’s heritage while addressing issues based around urban design and ecological features to create a healthy and active space for the community (Future Landscapes, 2018). 10 Design Principles were created to help guide the design process towards three main themes: sustainability, heritage, and connecting the downtown to the water. 1. Create a unique experience of the Fraser River focused on the New Westminster heritage 2. Create strong pedestrian and cyclist connections along the river and towards the downtown core 3. Provide opportunities for visual connections along the river 4. Provide opportunities for physical connection with the Fraser River 5. Provide opportunities to celebrate the ends of Sixth, Fourth, Merivale, and Elliot Street through community gathering and other public activities 6. Reduce the visual impact of the rail lines and adjacent roads 7. Allow for a range of river experiences 8. Maximize open space and provide areas for passive and active recreation 9. Reinforce and enhance habitats along the river edge 10. Use durable and sustainable materials (New West City, 2010)


The New Westminster Pier Park was designed and constructed on the basis of three focus areas; restoration and renewal, sustainability, and place-making. Each area required different design strategies and perspectives when problem-solving, therefore separating each into its own phase during the process. Restoration and Renewal: This phase focuses on the brown site remediation and enhancing the ecology on the site. Along the existing boardwalk, chlorinated solvents were discovered in the groundwater below the Fraser River bed. This resulted in the removal of 3,600 tonnes of contaminated soil through the process of jet grouting (World Landscape Architect, 2013). A portion of the boardwalk also required repair, PWL opted for newly constructed piers instead of fill in the river which could contribute to a further damaged ecology. Additionally, new habitats were introduced through an intertidal riparian foreshore. Also known as an ecological bench, this habitat runs one-third of the length of the park and provides a new food source for local salmon. The bench includes native plant species such as dogwood, willow, native rose providing benefits to birds, insects and other wildlife (SB Magazine, 2017). Sustainability: Details and careful attention were placed on creating a long-lasting and sustainable park through material selection as well reducing embodied energy levels during the construction process. This was accomplished by creating a mandate for all components apart of the project to endure a 75-year life span. This led the PWL designers to select robust materials such as galvanized steel, heavy timber and high fly ash concrete along with focusing on reclaimed materials and sourcing locally (SB Magazine, 2017). Place-Making: This area focuses on reconnecting the city of New Westminster to the Fraser River, along with providing the community with recreational space for public events that is reminiscent of the site’s past and respects the heritage. This involved creating multiple different spaces along the boardwalk and park to accomodate for a wide-range of recreation, whether passive or active. This includes festival lawns, gathering areas, and playgrounds. The site’s industrial past is conveyed through incorporating long timber piers, piles, timber structures, and rustic metals. Additionally, hinge lounger seats are placed in the park to pay homage to the hand trucks once used on the industrial waterfront site (SB Magazine, 2017).


Morphet , S. (2012). Challenging Park Project Re-Connects Community with the Waterfront . Innovation , 22–25. Retrieved from New Westminster Pier Park. Retrieved from PWL Partnership Landscape Architects. (2010). New Westminster Waterfront Park . Retrieved from West Master Park Plan Boards.pdf Whelan, J. (2014, April 20). 2014 Canadian Urban Design Award Winners. Retrieved from (2013, May 17). Westminster Pier Park: New Westminster Canada: PWL Partnership. Retrieved from (2017). New Public Life Brought to Industrial Waterfront . SB Magazine , (4), 24–27. Retrieved from 4 2017.pdf (2018). New Westminster Pier Park . Retrieved from


The New Westminster Pier Park is a 2.5km waterfront park that connects visitors to the Fraser River (Future Landscapes, 2018). The park includes a 600 meter boardwalk, along with amenities such as concession, elevated viewing areas, volleyball and basketball courts, public art, spray park water features, and natural playgrounds. The incorporation of timber piers and piles throughout the park reflects the parks historic industrial past, as well as recycles and reuses materials from the existing boardwalk before site remediation. Also, 10,000 shrubs, trees, and a living green wall were included in the site to incorporate natural vegetation while also blocking road noise from the front street (Future Landscapes, 2018).


During the process of developing and constructing the New Westminster Pier Park, PWL designers and Worley Parsons engineers dealt with multiple challenges and issues. The first issue was dealing with a tight timeframe. This was due to the project being granted funding through the Building Canada fund which required the city to spend the money within two months. This resulted in the project developing from a rough design to a master plan with city approval within a very short time period (Morphet, 2012). Along with the tight time frame the project also dealt with physical constraints with the narrow boardwalks reaching 30 meters wide at its widest and including only one access point at each end (Morphet, 2012).
The largest and most unexpected challenge was the discovery of chlorinated solvents in the groundwater below the Fraser River bed. The discovered contaminates led to putting a pause on the current construction of the project to focus on the site remediation process. Remediation came with its own issues as well, due to obstacles such as active rail lines, dense soil and underground obstacles reducing solutions to only one; jet grouting (Morphet, 2012).


The New Westminster Pier Park began as a part of a large and long-term plan to revitalize as well as reconnect the city’s waterfront and downtown. “We used to be the economic and commercial hub of the Lower Mainland back in the earlier parts in 1900s… and over time as the suburbs grew up and the city of Vancouver became established, the luster of being that economic hub began to dwindle and so our downtown core has been in the doldrums for the past several decades.” (Morphet, 2012) After addressing the need for revitalization and renewal, the city purchased the property and receive funding through the Building Canada Fund which promptly initiated the beginning of the design and construction process


The New Westminster Pier Park has been highly successful, with winning multiple awards for sustainable and urban design well before the park even opened in 2012. Additionally, the park has resulted in 10,000 new residents within the city as well as 3000 new jobs. 2011: National Brownie Award - Canadian Urban Institute for Sustainable Remediation Technologies 2012: Best Make Over of a Community Space - Georgia Straight 2012: Sustainable Communities Award in Brownfield Category - Federation of Canadian Municipalities 2012: Commercial Building Award - Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver 2012: Innovation and Administrative excellence in converting a contaminated brownfield into a usable greenfield - Canadian Association of Municipal Administors 2012: APEGBC’s 2012 Environmental Award - Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia 2013: Regional Honour Design - Canadian Society of Landscape Architects 2014: Parks & Open Spaces Award - BC Recreation and Parks Association 2014: National Urban Design Award - Royal Architectural Institute of Canada 2015: Award for Landscaping - Royal City Builders (New West City, 2010)


PWL was the lead design firm during the master-planning phase of the project, focusing on creating a sustainable and community based park. During the construction phase PWL worked with the engineering firm Worley Parsons. During this phase both firms worked together to develop solutions to ecological issues such as the contaminated water, as well detailing the park elements (SB Magazine, 2017).