First the idea, then the manifestation.
IN my last column a while back, I noted Marshall McLuhan's observation on how important the local soundscape is to us as human animals. It functions as a kind of psychological biopsy into the health of our community.
Viewscapes serve a similar role.
It was hard to miss this fact during the annual Waterfront Walk, from Cates Park beach to Strathcona Road last weekend. The weather co-operated, and some of the District of North Vancouver's longest-serving community volunteers as well as welcome newcomers were there to greet and guide a strong turnout of adventurers. The low tide was perfect for rambling, and the spectacular views of Burrard Inlet, snowy Eagle Ridge and mighty Mount Seymour inspired plenty of camaraderie.
People were talking - especially about the new development proposal for the old Matsumoto/Noble boatyard site west of the park. The site of repeated, furious community anti-development campaigns in the past, the latest proposal shows how different things have become. A recent presentation to the East Seymour Community Association on the planned redevelopment left a fair number of attendees modestly optimistic. That's good news. By contrast, last year the Pacific Arbour seniors project soon to open at Parkgate drew more than 1,000 people in opposition to its domineering architectural style, souring a good community amenity package from the builders. Already, local wags have nicknamed that 11-storey block "The Bastille."
Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us, however, that we live within an "inescapable network of mutuality." Seymour residents have known something was bound to resurface at the boatyard sooner or later. It's not Leave It To Beaver days anymore around these parts, and there's an understanding that give and take is required on both sides when it comes to altering the dynamics of local livability. As Lorraine Harvey, chairwoman of the East Seymour Community Association says: "Developers know they need to be more sensitive to the needs of the area." She's right.
The new four-storey boatyard proposal is lower and less dense than previous redevelopment attempts. This means it doesn't obstruct existing views from the Dollarton Highway or from Roche Point above.
The plan calls for an extension of the waterfront promenade from the recently-built up Noble Cove area through to Cates Park, and for two beach-access points - all useful community amenities. A single dock for the entire development is proposed.
Maureen Bragg, North Vancouver's tireless waterfront-access champion with Save Our Shores Society, which organizes the Waterfront Walk, shares the mood of cautious optimism that has so far greeted the proposal. "It's a compromise," she explains.
"Importantly, there will also be additional repair to the riparian creek section which is salmon bearing. That means better fish access. It's improving the beach which district hall has already started - they've been timely this year in signing and clearing any overgrown street-end waterfront access trails."
Bragg noted happily that the Vancouver Port Authority is also finally on board as a financial supporter of the Waterfront Walk event. Great decision, port guys! Next, let's see some action in clearing out the remaining boat-squatters hogging space in Deep Cove. Right after the walk, half a dozen tubs were still moored in heavily used water directly out front of the canoe and kayak centre that pays the district mightily for the privilege of doing business there. With a public marina and the yacht club just a tinkle away, there's no excuse for further exploitative moorage in an ecologically sensitive area where swimming season has already begun.
Meanwhile, straight across the inlet from the oil refinery at the foot of Burnaby Mountain, immigrant families were harvesting clams and kelp along Cates beach, illustrating the reminder from Leonard George that, for the Tsleil-Waututh First Nations people, "When the tide went out, our table was set." One shudders at the thought of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project here. Imagine the number of oil tankers jumping from 80 to 475 a year clanking through the Second Narrows railway bridge in Burrard Inlet? That's the most dangerous section of the entire inner harbour.
The new generation of huge Aframax tankers haul 700,000 barrels of crude - each about three times what was spilled by the Exxon Valdez along the Alaska coastline. The consequences of any spill on marine life and for our communities both sides of the inlet and spreading as far as Nanaimo would be catastrophic. Frankly, I'm worried, Charlie Brown.