The Town of Smithers is looking for feedback on a new landscaping redesign for Main Street.
Phase one of this project has wrapped up and the Town is now moving on to Phase two, which includes concept and design review, as well as an online survey for residents to give feedback.
(See designs below)
The first phase was focused on project background, gathering ideas, and outlining a preliminary framework of opportunities and constraints. The public engagement part of the process saw a stakeholder workshop and a public open house.
Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach is pleased with the process so far.
“I had chance to attend the workshop for downtown stakeholders and I was impressed with the consultant’s commitment to building on the legacy that we’ve enjoyed in Smithers for a lot of years,” he said.
The Town’s online survey asks residents to chose tree species, types of shrub plantings, hardscape materials, benches and seatings, as well as outlines some options for waste and recycling receptacles. There is also a blank space to give other ideas and thoughts.
Bachrach added the public’s input is important and hopes plenty of people fill out the survey.
“We when we first started to have a look at the landscaping, there was some trepidation from residents. People love our downtown and they especially love the feeling that is created by the trees and plantings and other landscape elements,” he said.
“More than anything I think residents want to make sure if any changes are made that it results in an improvement to our unique downtown. The people who attended the workshop seem to be pleased in the direction that it is going in. There are decisions to be made about the specific design direction, whether we go for a traditional look or modernize some elements of it. But I think overall, people are pleased with where it is going.”
Trees not meant to last this long
Town of Smithers director of works and operations Roger Smith said a new landscape design is needed as it has been several years since the plan has been updated.
“Over the last few years we’ve started to witness a lot of issues, with the trees primarily. The trees are planted in planters as per the original landscape design done in the early ‘80s and the trees are at the end of their life or they’ve outgrown their planter. I don’t think there was the expectation when they were put in place with the original engineer to last this long. They had life expectancy of 20 or 25 years and here we are at close to 40 years,” said Smith.
So far, the Town has lost nine trees along Main Street over the past couple of years. Smith added there is a safety concern as well because the roots of some of the trees are causing the sidewalk to heave, making a tripping hazard for pedestrians.
While Smith said the trees are the primary problem, there are a few other areas of concern.
“There are some other issues with irrigation and issues with WorkSafe BC with the garbage cans. The lids are heavy and the newer garbage cans have a back door so you can remove garbage from the back without having to bend and lift,” he said.
Smith is hoping the new design is easy to maintain.
“We do operate on a budget, so from a maintenance aspect something easy to maintain and not be too laborious and be safe for the employees,” he added.
Phase two will come to a close at the end of March and Phase three will begin, which includes detailed design and review. Implementation will start after that and take a couple of years in order to manage costs and the transition of trees.
Lanarc Consultants out of Nanaimo, B.C. has taken the lead on landscape design.
When asked why the Town didn’t hire a local company, Bachrach said hiring the landscape architect was done in accordance with the Town’s purchasing policy, which ensures the tendering of contracts is done in a competitive and transparent manner. The decision on the contractor selection was based on an evaluation process done by Town staff, which includes experience and price.
“We try our best to make sure the process is fair and results in good value for town residents,” he added.
At this stage, the Town does not have a cost estimate. However their website said the full project scope of Main Street, as well as concept considerations for side avenues downtown, will be a significant capital and infrastructure investment for the Town.
A link to the survey can be found on the Town’s website smithers.ca.