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$5.1-million Riverside Park project progressing as city eyes completion dates

A widened pathway along the South Thompson River in Riverside Park creates a tree-lined boardwalk effect, tapered at a gentle grade for accessibility purposes, and funnels beachgoers to new concrete block stairs onto the sand.

A widened pathway along the South Thompson River in Riverside Park creates a tree-lined boardwalk effect, tapered at a gentle grade for accessibility purposes, and funnels beachgoers to new concrete block stairs onto the sand. 

The new three-to-four-metre-wide path was built 1.5 metres higher than a previous concrete sidewalk to mitigate one-in-20-year flood event impacts on infrastructure in the park. Fencing has been added in some areas of higher elevation. No trees were removed and, in fact, some were added. 

The multi-use pathway is expected to be open to the public later this summer once upgraded lighting is installed, according to the City of Kamloops.

On Tuesday, media toured construction underway in Riverside Park, which is often described as the “crown jewel” in downtown Kamloops. 

The $5.1-million project includes not only the new pathway — running from the east end of the park to Uji Gardens — and flood-mitigation work, but also a new state-of-the-art splash park, demolition of the old concession, construction of a new plaza area for food trucks, construction of an inclusive playground and a new change room building. 

A Tourism Kamloops pilot project that brought paddling, games and other tourism-related initiatives into the park last summer will not return this year, but the new change room building will have space to potentially include such tourism-related activities in the future. 

The splash park, plaza and more remain to be completed. 

According to the city, the spray park will not be completed this year. Supply chain issues led to an announcement Friday morning that the spray park will not open until the spring of 2023.

Plans, however, are moving ahead on the construction of the inclusive playground, which was approved by city council during recent budget talks.

The new playground, being built adjacent to the existing play structure in Riverside Park, will be the first fully accessible playground in Kamloops and is expected to be completed this fall.

Jill Moore, a wheelchair athlete who aids product development with Landscape Structures (the playground vendor), said designing for this type of park is about providing the just-right fit for every person.

“We believe people with disabilities should get to control their environment, be it spinning, swinging, swaying and we try to integrate that as much as possible,” Moore said in a city press release.

City of Kamloops capital projects supervisor Ryan Maalerud said the beach will reopen to the public this summer, with a date to-be-determined. 

Canada Day will look similar to pre-pandemic days but smaller and slightly compressed, due to park construction. 

As the city preps for the two rivers to potentially peak at the same time, flood protection work is complete in the park. 

“What we’re standing on here, it’s basically a structural retaining wall, concrete block system and we’re actually two blocks deep, so we’re about 1.2 metres below grade,” Maalerud said, adding that it provides protection from river water, should sand be washed away. “It’s quite the system that we’re standing on. Obviously, it doesn’t look like much when we’re here but it’s quite the wall.”

The city doesn’t anticipate potential flooding impacting construction in the park.

Myriad events are scheduled to take place in Riverside Park this summer after years of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those events include the Canada Day celebration, Music in the Park, Ribfest, Seniors’ Picnic, and the Busker’s Festival.