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Work on Clarke Park to begin soon.

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The District of Squamish council has approved a half-million-dollar upgrade to Squamish’s downtown park — minus the 45-year-old cherry trees.

Thanks to a $375,000 grant from the provincial Towns for Tomorrow program, Stan Clarke Park is slated for an overhaul this summer. The work includes an $80,000 playground, “reading circles” to provide spaces for Squamish Public Library programs and highlights the Cenotaph as an important ceremonial area.

The new design, approved by council at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday (July 3), incorporates the planting of 23 new birch trees, representing Squamish lives lost in both the world wars, said Greig Garland, the district’s capital projects engineer. What it doesn’t include is the seven existing cherry trees.

The trees that line Second Avenue are reaching the end of their lifespan, Garland noted. Based on a coring, the minimum age of the cherry trees is estimated to be 45 years old. The species to which they belong live for approximately 30 years.

The trees are growing into nearby B.C. Hydro power lines, Garland said. The trees stand in the way of the plan’s landscaping and low profile fence designed to prevent children in the playground from running out on the road. Their leaves also make the area dark, he noted.

Garland suggested local schools and community organizations propagate the trees. Residents can then plant the saplings throughout the community. District officials will offer arts groups the cherry tree wood, Garland added.

Councillors Patricia Heintzman, Susan Chapelle and Bryan Raiser pushed for a children’s pump track in the park. The design currently includes a paved tricycle and run-bike pathway around the playground.

People drive out of town to Alice Lake Provincial Park to use the kids’ pump track, Raiser noted. Putting the feature downtown would be a draw and would be in keeping with the recreational spirit of Squamish, he said.

Chapelle agreed. Although nice, the design doesn’t reflect the community, she said.

“When I look at this, it almost looks too urban,” Chapelle said, noting the residents could pull together to build a track in the park themselves.

District officials will examine the request, Garland said. Municipal staff anticipates construction to begin this month, with the project complete by mid-September. Parks operation staff recommended that the entire park be fenced off during construction.

The Chief Newspaper