Plans for downtown overhaul

With the current buzz around our community regarding varying strong issues, among them is the concept of whether Tumbler Ridge is prepared to withstand the estimated population surge and all of the pros and cons of such a fast and furious growth spurt. Tumbler Ridge, in its initial plans in the early eighties, was designed for the needs of a one-industry town. That simply is not what Tumbler Ridge is or wants to be anymore, nor should it be, regardless of the resurgence of mine activity in the surrounding area.

The District of Tumbler Ridge has been busy behind the scenes, working on several initiatives, one of them the Comprehensive Community Planning Project.

Other projects of equal or greater importance are underway simultaneously, but will be covered in future articles. The allure of the Downtown Landscape Enhancement Project is to draw people to the downtown area to keep our in-town businesses prospering, to strongly increase businesses here and to enjoy the truly charming scenery of the downtown area nestled against a background of lovely forest and foothills.

In a consultation requested by the District of Tumbler Ridge, a presentation was prepared with nine design objectives and they are as follows.

1) Reinforce the unique character of Tumbler Ridge

2) Develop a ?theme? that reinforces the unique character of the community

3) Encourage public and private investment in the future of Tumbler Ridge

4) Create a safe environment for downtown Tumbler Ridge

5) Continue developing a pedestrian oriented downtown

6) Encourage a vibrant, recreational and cultural atmosphere

7) Maintain a sense of connection to the surrounding residential neighborhoods

8) Maintain a sense of connection to the natural environment

9) Encourage quality building and landscaping.

The area that will be directly affected in these matters is described as the downtown area encompassed between Northgate to Southgate and Front Street to Founders. Every area located within this area is what the revitalization pertains to.

The beginning of the whole process came about with the updating to the OCP in May of 2005. No modernization specifically to the OCP had been conducted since 1989 and as one can imagine, the demographics of the community, the population size, the business community, healthcare needs, etc. have all varied widely throughout the unpredictable past and present times of Tumbler Ridge, especially following the closure of both Quintette and Bullmoose mines.

While the documents are available to the public and are detail-specific, many want to know what this means in general layman?s terms. The public is already experiencing the obvious explosion in the business industry, but this revitalization is intended to be a transition for both commercial and residential.

Amongst some of the most important issues addressed, are the safety of the people and the environment. Tumbler Ridge has these concerns at the very core of its existence. To enjoy nature at arm?s length yet being as safe as possible seems to be well understood in this community. Both man and beast must exist within a stone?s throw from one another and sometimes issues of safety to either and at the hands of both becomes challenging. But how does this community expand upon these issues and yet maintain the same quintessential charm it always has?

It wasn?t until the housing sale in 2000, according to long-term residents, that the catch phrase of living in the upper, lower or middle ?bench? came about. Some phrases you may hear about from here on in are all part of the enhancement initiative. Listed are the outlined design elements, some in buzzword form. This is not a complete comprehensive list, but excerpts to give a general idea of what project hopes to bring about.

Linkages? VISUAL

view corridors, lighting, trees, shrubs, banners and signage are all visual linkages.

Linkages ? PHYSICALWalkways, bike trails, roadways, boulevards and streetscapes are all physical linkages. This pertains to both vehicular and pedestrian.

Maps (Urban Context) ?

Shows additions of major and minor entry gateways; focal points; courtyards; pedestrian linkages and municipal park area.

Visual Connections ?

Will include the enhancements of trees, shrubs and feature elements (such as sculpture), decorative lighting.

Theme Development ?

Information kiosks; streetlights; benches; bike rack; tree grates and trash receptacles.

Encourage use of theme elements such as standard colours, textures, similar signage and street furniture.

Gateways ?

Enhanced gateway at the following locations: Front Street @ Northgate; Front Street @ Southgate; Founders Street @ Northgate; Founders Street @ Southgate; Main Street @ Founders Street (minor gateway).

Streets ?

The appeal of the decor on a street can invite the public to be in the downtown core our of appeal and interest. This includes effort from businesses as well as the prospect of widening streets, where possible, street trees and sidewalk improvement.

Crosswalks ?

Painted, stamped asphalt pedestrian crosswalks that are highly visible, bulb-outs and curb-drops. The will be standardized at a minimum of 3 metres in width.

Parking ?

Effort to encourage better parking standards and improve aesthetically.

Street Trees ?

Used to define, organize and animate spaces.

Map (Street Tree Master Plan)

? Suggested as a multi-year process, trees will be regulated with streetlights, concrete bollards, crosswalks, building canopies and vehicular sight lines.

Open Spaces/Courtyards ?

Upgrade community open spaces such as courtyards adjacent to both Vinnie?s Video and Jade?s Hardware; plaza between Health Centre and Community Centre; plaza in front of Town Hall and a Centennial Park are part of the long-term strategy.

Building Fa├žade/Canopies ?

This provides an edge to the public streetscape and contributes to the street image.

Raised Planters ?

This is a great way to protect plants from urban stress such as pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Suggested spots are near street bulb-outs.

Signage ?

Street sign design which is complimentary to the theme and materials being proposed/

Public Art ?

Artwork which reflects the theme and historical legacy and cultural fabric of the town. Could be free-standing or built into the architecture.

Murals ?

A strong visual impact can be made by creating large wall murals, highly visible and possibly nature theme to go with the community?s backdrop.

Street Furniture ?

This can include benches and trash receptacles in a standardized theme. Bike racks are also street furnishing.

Utilities ? Utility connections, upgrades can continue underground.

Special Needs ? Improvements and increase of handicapped parking stalls, sidewalk crossfalls and ramps, wheelchair access provisions in new buildings and consideration to power assist doors or other designs to promote access for the handicapped.

Winter City Design ? Issues addressed such as improved protection against wind, snow removal, shelter and use of solar radiation. The creation of areas for winter use with heated structures, etc.

Lighting ? Lighting can strongly affect the character of an area. Pedestrian, street, public, parking, roadway and intersection lighting are all under consideration.

The Official Community Plan is available online at the District Website (www.tumblerridge.ca) under Municipal Hall/Projects and Initiatives. The Downtown Landscape Enhancement Project was a design consultation prepared by Jay Lazzarin, Landscape Architect. The District will be following up with the creation of revitalization legislation that will encourage property owners to participate by providing financial incentives for property upgrades.