Questions about the project background

    Why is this project needed?

    The combined sewer and drainage pipes in the neighbourhood surrounding Columbia Park and Alberta St are too small to accommodate the future multi-family housing and jobs envisioned in the Cambie Corridor Plan. 

    Without upgrades and creating additional opportunities for managing rainwater near where it lands, there is increased risk of flooding, both locally and downstream in the pipe system, and sewer overflows during rain events. 

    With a blue green system, the City seeks to maintain or improve adequate drainage service, while improving climate change resilience and reducing the load on our pipe system.

    Why are we using a "blue green system" approach?

    In the past, improving drainage was limited to installing bigger pipes and moving rainwater to the Fraser River as fast as possible. City and Park Board staff are undertaking a study to explore how blue green systems can support pipe upgrades and also enable rainwater to be captured and treated closer to where it falls, thereby avoiding or delaying costly upgrades, mimicking the natural water cycle, and creating a cascade of local benefits. 

    A 'blue green' approach will explore how utility upgrades and green rainwater infrastructure work together to support growth and climate resilience, bring more nature to the urban landscape, and improve connections for people and nature..

    Is this project part of the Cambie Corridor Plan?

    This project was identified in the ongoing Cambie Corridor Integrated Water Management Plan. It builds on the important work of previous plans including the Cambie Corridor Plan and its associated Public Realm Plan, which will identify sewer and drainage infrastructure needs to service the Cambie Corridor Plan land use changes. Key aspects of the Cambie Corridor Plan and the Public Realm Plan that relate to this project include:

    • The area around West 41st Ave and Cambie St will be an activity hub for the growing population, support a range of employment, retail, cultural and public spaces, a variety of housing options, and rapid transit connections.
    • The neighbourhood will include green connections and spaces to gather that enable people to safely and comfortably walk, bike and roll to and from destinations. 
    • New parks and open spaces will be added while existing parks and open spaces, like Columbia Park, will be improved. These improvements are needed to support the neighbourhood’s growing population. 
    • Alberta St is identified as a “Park Connector Street” between Queen Elizabeth Park and Columbia Park. Park Connector Streets provide clear connections to and from parks and include planted areas with opportunities for green rainwater infrastructure.

    For more information, see the Cambie Corridor Plan

Questions about rainwater management

    What is rainwater management?

    Vancouver received between 1,200 and 1,500 mm of rain every year.  Managing the rainwater that falls on our city is important to address flooding, to protect public health and water quality and to help recharge our aquifers and protect our natural systems that are disrupted through development. 

    Rainwater management can be supported through a wide range of types of grey (pipes, storage, catch basins) and green (rain gardens, swales, permeable pavement, infiltration systems) infrastructure.

    What is green rainwater infrastructure?

    Green rainwater infrastructure (GRI) is an approach to rainwater management that uses a combination of engineered and nature-based solutions to protect, restore, and mimic the natural water cycle. Rainwater running off from hard, impermeable surfaces such as roads, sidewalks, and rooftops is captured, stored, and filtered. The water then rejoins the water cycle by absorbing into the ground, returning to waterways and/or the surrounding atmosphere.  

    Green rainwater infrastructure is both a drainage infrastructure tool as well as a method to manage and enhance urban water and natural systems.  When integrated with grey infrastructure (sewage and drainage pipes and storage tank systems), GRI can provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.   

    “Blue green” systems use green rainwater infrastructure to make a robust drainage system that also brings more nature to the urban landscape, improves connections for people and nature, and can help support getting around by walking, biking, and rolling.

    What are examples of green rainwater infrastructure?

    There are many types of green rainwater infrastructure.  Some of the common ones seen in Vancouver include rain gardens, rainwater tree trenches, swales, sub-surface infiltration systems, and permeable pavement.  

    Rain Gardens (also called bioswales or bioretention) are sunken garden spaces that features layers of rocks, soils, and vegetation such as trees. Rain gardens allow water to be filtered, absorbed into the ground or absorbed by soils, plants and returned to the atmosphere. 

    Rainwater Tree Trenches are a type of green rainwater infrastructure that uses trees for rainwater management.  Structures underground provide extra room for tree roots to grow while also storing rainwater that can be used by trees.

    Permeable Pavement is a special type of surface used on roads, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots that allows rainwater to pass through the pavement and soak into the ground.


    Are green rainwater infrastructure and blue green systems the same thing?

    Blue green systems use green rainwater infrastructure and may be designed to work together with grey infrastructure systems below ground. 

    The blue green systems bring more nature to the urban landscape, improves connections for people and nature and helps support mobility through walking, biking and rolling.

    What type of streets can be part of a blue green system?

    Blue green systems can be implemented on all types of streets ranging from laneways to residential streets to busy arterial roadways. This project includes Alberta St, as well as West 43rd  Ave, which is anticipated to include more shops, cafes, offices, and housing in the coming years. Both streets, along with Columbia Park, will form important parts of the system.

Questions about amenities and options

    What improvements to streets could be part of the Alberta St and West 43rd Avenue blue green system?

    Improvements to Alberta St and West 43rd Ave could include:

    • More space for people walking, biking, and rolling
    • Space for short term loading for deliveries and drop-off/pick-up 
    • Changes to vehicle circulation to support improved walking, rolling and biking
    • Rain gardens, rainwater tree trenches, permeable pavement, and other types of green rainwater infrastructure
    • New trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants
    • Naturally managed areas for habitat and biodiversity
    • Seating
    • Gathering areas
    • Public art

    What types of amenities could be included in a renewed Columbia Park?

    Improvements to Columbia Park could include:

    • More space for people walking, biking, and rolling
    • Rain gardens, rainwater tree trenches, permeable pavement and other types of green rainwater infrastructure
    • New trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants 
    • Naturally managed areas for habitat and biodiversity
    • Seating
    • Gathering areas
    • Public art
    • Sports field renewal
    • Playground renewal (including nature play)
    • Water play
    • And more

    Will any sports fields or amenities in Columbia Park be removed?

    No decisions have been made about what amenities may be added or removed. We are asking residents and park users to tell us what parts of Columbia Park need improvement and what kinds of amenities and spaces they desire. We will also be considering needs and preferences identified through previous planning work for the Cambie Corridor, VanPlay: the Parks and Recreation Services Master Plan, and other city-wide plans.

    Will there be green rainwater infrastructure in Columbia Park?

    Columbia Park is a key part of the Alberta Street blue green system. The project team is exploring options for integrating green rainwater infrastructure such as rain gardens, underground rainwater storage, rainwater tree trenches, and other options into Columbia Park. 

    Green rainwater infrastructure can help to improve biodiversity and access to nature as well as capture and clean street contaminates from rainwater before returning it to our aquifers, atmosphere, and our surrounding oceans and rivers.

Questions about engagement

    How will public & stakeholder feedback influence the project?

    Public and stakeholder feedback will help identify what improvements residents would like to see in Columbia Park and the best options to capture and clean street contaminates from rainwater in the park and local streets.  

    Feedback from the public and stakeholders during the Alberta St Blue Green System and Columbia Park Renewal project is critical to understanding:

    • Desired improvements to Columbia Park, including what amenities to maintain or improve and the best options and areas for green rainwater infrastructure
    • The best places and options for green rainwater infrastructure in Alberta St and West 43rd Ave to minimize the amount of rainwater in underground pipes
    • The best ways to integrate accessible walking, biking and rolling connections through street redesign 
    • The best ways to accommodate goods and services delivery to adjacent land uses
    • The best locations for informal spaces for seating and gathering (after COVID) on West 43rd Ave and Alberta St. 
    • Opportunities for public art
    • Opportunities to balance street parking, vehicle travel lanes, and green rainwater infrastructure
    • Which preliminary design options people prefer

    What information will influence this project?

    In addition to public and stakeholder feedback, the following issues will influence the final design:

    • Technical considerations (hydrogeological, rainwater, engineering requirements)
    • Storm sewer upgrades in the local urban watershed
    • Transportation networks (walking, biking, rolling, driving, and parking and loading considerations)
    • Anticipated growth in the neighbourhood’s population
    • Financial feasibility
    • Maintenance considerations
    • Public safety 
    • Accessibility 
    • Recreation amenities in nearby parks, including service level targets and equity considerations
    • Environmental factors and biodiversity

    What are the next steps?

    The schedule for engagement is as follows:

    Vision and values – Fall 2021 - COMPLETE

    Concept options – Spring 2022

    Preferred concept – Spring 2023