• Burnaby Beacon
  • Posts
  • The Parkway is alive: Burnaby has big plans for its BC Parkway corridor

The Parkway is alive: Burnaby has big plans for its BC Parkway corridor

A plan for Burnaby’s section of the BC Parkway will be ready by the end of this year or early next year

If you live in the Metrotown area, you have probably noticed colourful benches and picnic tables that have recently appeared near the SkyTrain station almost overnight. Now, whenever it is sunny and pleasant outside, groups, couples, singles, and families can be seen having meals, socializing, and enjoying the late spring sunshine. Sometimes, people engage in foosball and table tennis matches on tables the city has placed in the area. Occasionally, food trucks park nearby, adding to the area’s variety of food and snack options. 

Residents using the picnic tables and benches near the Metrotown SkyTrain station. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

The new additions to Burnaby’s section of the BC Parkway are part of the city’s latest project, Parkway Alive, which aims to transform the underutilized area underneath the SkyTrain line into a linear park with all the amenities that a usual park offers. Currently, the Parkway is a busy path that pedestrians, cyclists, scooter users, and skateboarders use daily to move from one area to another, especially to access the SkyTrain stations. 

During a Parks Recreation and Culture Committee meeting on June 11, city staff provided an update on the project and discussed ideas and recommendations with committee members. The project, which will continue for the next few years, will involve multiple phases and actions, hoping that it will eventually cover the entire section within Burnaby. The area under study is three kilometres long, from Patterson to Royal Oak. BC Hydro owns the land, while TransLink maintains the path for various users. 

“BC Parkway is an incredibly important linear park, and through this planning process, we’re hoping to re-envision the space,” said Andre Isakov, director of parks, recreation, and culture planning with the city. Isakov added that the project aims to “transition this space from being an in-between space, a space people use to get from point A to point B, to a space that really serves the local community.” 

Senior planner Charlene Liew presented the project update to the committee. Liew said the project has four phases. The city has completed phase one, the analysis phase, and is now undertaking the second phase, the visioning phase. The next step will be preparing a draft plan by September 2024 and finalizing the plan by December 2024 or January 2025. Before the plan is finalized, the city will conduct another round of public engagement. Liew said the project is inspired by similar ones in other cities, such as the Bentway in Toronto and the Underline in Miami. 

In the meantime, the city is planning some activities and other temporary infrastructure to revitalize the space and allow residents to utilize it more. 

Street performer making bubbles for children next to the Metrotown SkyTrain station as part of the Parkway Alive activities. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

“These activities will continue for the next few years until the corridor is built out because that’s going to take some years,” Liew said. “You will see these programs happening at various places, and next year, we’re hoping to expand from Patterson and Metrotown stations to perhaps include some areas further down the corridor.”

In the summer of 2023, the city sought informal feedback from Parkway users, who provided feedback to city staff during popup events along the path. In April 2024, the city formally engaged with the public through an online survey and popup events. The city received 1,000 responses to the survey and 400 additional responses during the events. City staff members are currently analyzing the results, but Liew provided insight into what people envision for the BC Parkway. 

Liew and Isakov said some of the popular ideas respondents suggested included installing public washrooms, water play areas for children, community gardens, dog parks, better lighting at night, and more benches and sitting areas. Most of the respondents were Burnaby residents. 

Several committee members said the area needs more cultural facilities along the Parkway. Coun. James Wang asked about the possibility of including more public art and e-scooter and bike rental facilities. At the same time, Robyn Hughes, one of the representatives of Tourism Burnaby, also spoke about the need to add more culture to the space. 

“It certainly looks like social and sport are well represented. The other part that I feel is maybe a little underrepresented is the culture,” Hughes said. She added that Burnaby is a very diverse city with many festivals every year, such as food truck festivals, and perhaps the city can look into adding some of those to the Parkway. 

Liew responded to the comments by saying that one of the planned infrastructure items will be a plaza space, which will be suitable for diverse programming, including cultural events. 

“Plaza space could be flexible and could be useful for different purposes, such as those activities that you’re referring to,” Liew said. 

The city has placed table tennis and foosball tables beside the Metrotown SkyTrain station. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Liew also said the project team reached out to the Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table (BIPT) and Maywood School to inform them about the project and obtain feedback to ensure the needs of diverse groups are being met, including diverse cultural and age groups. 

“We’re also well integrated with the Royal Oak community planning process and Edmonds community planning process,” Isakov said. He added that the city is also considering land acquisitions to expand recreational opportunities along the Parkway. 

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal, the committee chair, commented on the plan, saying that he recognizes it is early in the process and hopes it will become a multipurpose pathway that meets the needs of everyone in the community. Dhaliwal said safety is one of the most important considerations and that it is important to include better lighting, especially when it gets dark early in the winter. 

“We want to make sure people feel very safe,” Dhaliwal said. He added that he hoped the experience of utilizing the space would be stress-free for users. 

“That means we’ve got to have some amenities: benches, chairs, adequate lighting, and washrooms,” he said. 

Dhaliwal also said that this project is essential to the Metrotown area, a high-density area where most residents lack backyards or private outdoor spaces and will need more community spaces. 

The project will return to the public for another round of engagement after the draft plan is completed in September. If you are interested in contributing to the process, keep an eye out for the next round of public engagement.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

Like what you just read? Do you support local journalism? Help us keep going—and growing.

Sign up for our once a week newsletter, or become an Insider to show your love for local reporters and writers.