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Coquitlam fast-tracks Crunch plans to ease congestion

Amid a boom in demand since the start of the pandemic, Coquitlam city council voted Monday to postpone Phase 1 and 2 for north trail improvements, and to begin Phase 3 plans for a Coquitlam Crunch from Dewdney Trunk Road to Mundy Park.

The overuse of the Coquitlam Crunch since the COVID-19 lockdown this spring has meant a shift in city plans for the popular trail.

Monday, council unanimously voted to stop upgrading the existing northern trail, and to start plans and consultation for the third phase of the Crunch — a southern route, from Dewdney Trunk Road to Mundy Park.

The move is aimed at easing congestion along the north Crunch, and to address traffic impacts for area homeowners. In September, a delegation relayed their safety concerns about the trail boom since the pandemic began.

Coun. Craig Hodge said the unprecedented use of city parks and trails has forced council to rethink its Crunch expansion project and to press ahead with the southern section.

As a result, the Phase 1 and 2 improvements for the north side — including a viewing deck and exercise equipment — will be delayed.

Coun. Teri Towner said the Crunch was already popular before the COVID-19 lockdown, and she applauded city staff for responding to safety and over-crowding issues around Lansdowne Drive.

“No U-turns at driveways” signs are now up and, this fall, new measures will come into place to address area street parking. Parking wayfinding signs will also be added and parking enforcement boosted.

Community outreach for Phase 3 is also expected to roll out this fall.

Still, not all of council was on board with how to pay for the southern trail, which is budgeted to cost $3.25 million.

Coun. Bonita Zarrillo opposed staff’s request to move $2 million from the Blue Mountain Park Master Plan and $500,000 from the Community Enhancement Blitz, to fund the Phase 3 design and construction.

But Don Luymes, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation, culture and facilities, said the master plan won’t be ready until SD43 decides what to do with its Winslow fields, to the east of the park. And though the funding is approved, that project “is unlikely to go ahead in the next couple years.”

Coun. Dennis Marsden said he’s pleased Blue Mountain Park will remain a priority as “there are other things people want to do than walk up and down a hill. I want to make sure we’re not putting all of our eggs in a basket when it comes to investment” for recreation.

Coun. Chris Wilson cautioned the new south Crunch “could be very popular from Day 1” and urged city staff to consult with homeowners living off of Mariner Way, especially in terms of unwanted noise.

“I think we’ve learned some lessons from the north side [of the Crunch],” Luymes said, noting parking lots and washrooms will be installed “early on.”

The existing 2.2-km Coquitlam Crunch trail runs along the BC Hydro right-of-way, from Eagle Ridge Park to Westwood Plateau, with an elevation gain of 240 metres. When complete, the trail will eventually link from the Fraser River to Eagle Mountain, via Mundy Park and a new Falcon Drive overpass.

The budget for the four Crunch phases is $7 million.