Opinion: Surrey mayoral candidate proposes waterfront ferris wheel... seriously?

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Pattullo Bridge Surrey

With a massive geographical area the size of Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby put together, there is no question that Surrey has much potential and room for growth.

There is a large industrial land base that remains largely untouched and housing is also cheaper than most of the Metro Vancouver region thanks to its abundance in housing stock.

However, some major challenges do stand in Surrey’s way of fulfilling its mantra of “The Future Lives Here” – issues that revolve around public safety, opportunities for youth, economic development and public transportation.

Last week, the Surrey First party introduced Councillor Linda Hepner as the party’s candidate to fill Mayor Dianne Watts’ vacant seat after the upcoming November election.

Councillor Linda Hepner has worked for Surrey’s municipal government since 1985, and as someone who has been sitting in Surrey City Council for almost a decade, she has all the experience that she claims.

However, the residents of Surrey should be a little concerned about her vision and immediate plans with fixing Surrey’s pressing troubles.

One of her main priorities is to build a ferris wheel on the small beach that is wedged between the Pattullo Bridge and the SkyTrain Bridge (SkyBridge) on the Fraser River. The idea takes a page out of North Vancouver’s plans to install a large ferris wheel on the pier at Lonsdale as part of the municipality’s plan to revamp the central waterfront area into a vibrant regional destination.

The North Vancouver ferris wheel would boast stunning panoramic views of Burrard Inlet and the downtown Vancouver skyline, and it is just a few minutes walk away from Lonsdale Quay, Lonsdale Avenue and the SeaBus terminal and bus exchange.

But what does Hepner’s Surrey ferris wheel offer in terms of accessibility and views?

It can be argued that Surrey is not an ideal candidate for a ferris wheel. To have such an attraction wedged right next to two bridges, including the barely standing 77-year-old Pattullo Bridge, within an unsightly industrial area is not desirable – and that is by suburban standards too. The park right next to the beach is even appropriately named “Brownsville Bar Park”.

Is this another case of Surrey’s leading civic party waving their hand for attention?

The same tactics were employed by outgoing Mayor Dianne Watts. She was great at boasting about Surrey’s potential, as she should, but sometimes the boasting was just that… boasting.

They claim that Surrey is the future, but with ideas like this its future may never arrive.

In a recent article by The Surrey Leader which covered Hepner’s candidacy for Mayor, Hepner asks the following: “why can’t I have a ferris wheel?”

Until Surrey can resolve issues that actually matter, issues such as crime, transportation, the creative brain drain or even the refusal to fly the LGBT pride flag at the new city hall, a ferris wheel probably should not be one of the main mandates any mayoral candidate should be focused on.

A large, decent ferris wheel like Seattle’s recently opened ‘Great Wheel’ could cost more than $20 million, and that does not include the annual revenue from crowds that will be needed to maintain and operate the investment for many years to come.

Despite its ongoing promise of complementing Vancouver as being the region’s next metropolitan area, Surrey has yet to establish itself as a second tier suburban city in the region.

It falls behind Burnaby, Richmond, North and West Vancouver and even neighbouring New Westminster, which has absorbed a lot of the young, urban and creative families that Surrey has been attempting to court.

For all the noise Surrey First makes about its huge population growth, it will have a tough time reaching its full potential. Other cities in the region will continue to grow, including the land strapped City of Vancouver.

You may have also heard before that “Surrey is going to overtake Vancouver’s population very soon.” It is true that Surrey’s population will likely exceed Vancouver’s, given that it has a geographical area more than double its size, but that day will not be anytime soon and perhaps not even in the next half-century.

Throughout the recent construction boom, districts and neighbourhoods such as Metrotown, Brentwood, Edmonds, Richmond City Centre, New Westminster and East Vancouver each saw more skyscraper construction than what was experienced in Whalley – “Downtown Surrey.”

If you were to track current proposals, the planned and approved redevelopment of Oakridge Centre and the long-term master plan for the rest of the Vancouver Cambie Corridor will trump anything that has been planned for Surrey to date.

Patullo Bridge Clayton Perry
Image: Clayton Perry via Flickr 

Featured Image: Dennis Hurd via Flickr

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