“Just when you think you’ve seen the best the world has to offer, there’ll always be Canada.”
— travel writer, Chuck Thompson
BACK from a long holiday journey around B.C.
Truly, is there anywhere like this province of ours with its Okanagan orchard and wine-growing country, the rugged Interior’s bone-dry atmosphere, or those passionate mountainscapes, big trees, and ferry crossings along the Salish Sea coast? Abundant wildlife every day. Star-watching, night after night. Emily Carr had it right — the glory out there in the wilderness. Super-natural, that’s for sure.
Revisions to our “Best Of” list? Vernon, Courtenay and Powell River are the towns we’ll head back to soonest. All have great welcoming vibes. Vernon has kept its architectural character and a cohesive downtown that keeps getting better with collector books and record shops, good restaurants. Surely it has lower rents and effective civic planning. Courtenay’s old-timey main street is a pleasure to stroll and makes you want to spend a little money there. It’s quietly become a cultural hub too, with a great museum, good civic theatre, and a serious music festival. Powell River has its Willingdon Beach campsite adjacent to the main oceanfront park. What a discovery — with a breakwater for strolling, and a big float for fishing and crabbing that’s kid-friendly — like Deep Cove used to be.
No doubt they all have their own challenges. What town doesn’t? But these three rate attention. Having taken eight ferries, I’d argue the Saltery Bay to Earl’s Cove run south of Powell River offers the most magnificent natural beauty of the lot. Unforgettable, although fish farms springing around here are not an encouraging sign. When are we going to get these harmful operations out of the saltchuck and into large, dry-land container facilities? That’d be a solution we can all live with, and our American neighbours can keep on buying the 85 per cent of that mushy, third-rate product no B.C.er I know will eat.
At Davis Bay outside Sechelt, we called in to see Artie George, the fine native-carver from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation who relocated his studio here. Check it out directly across the road from the beach. His work is always worth seeing.
You can learn a lot from road trips. Are there lessons for the North Shore? You bet. Veteran travellers will tell you that the cognates among healthy, creative communities are heritage preservation and maintaining ecological integrity. Protecting vintage architecture and common green space is fundamental to retaining civic cohesion. So it was sad to return and hear that another unique local heritage home has bit the dust Keep it up and North Vancouver will soon be fit for wandering ghosts among the highrise clusters. Any blockhead can plan that — see the pathetic old Soviet empire in Eastern Europe as reference.
Next they’ll be talking about re-routing existing traffic patterns to benefit big redevelopment projects. Oh, I forgot. Aren’t they talking in district hall about possibly closing the direct Dollarton Highway access to the Ironworkers Bridge at Second Narrows?
From the macro to micro; a dead young harbour seal washed ashore in Deep Cove the other evening. Whacked by a power boat or jet ski? The latter have been showing up throughout the summer in front of Panorama Park beach, so far without incident to swimmers, but no thanks to the district. Why weren’t the lines of safety floats set up this year to demarcate a specific swimming area, from shore out to the raft? Kids need this. Without them, people have roamed and used the entire beachfront. That’s healthy. Without the safety floats, however, you’ve had kayakers, boats of various kinds and jet skis cruising anywhere they’ve liked, including the main swimming beach. Two evenings ago, my wife and I swam out to the raft after work, then had to stay there as the sun dropped behind Indian River ridge and the air cooled. Why? A jet ski with a pair of riders tooled around in the water nearby and we couldn’t head back for fear of being rammed head-on like one poor swimmer in English Bay a few summers back. That’s indefensible.
As I bundled the seal into a plastic bag, a neighbour said, “Thank god it wasn’t someone’s kid.”
When does saving a few bucks on budget outweigh public safety during the busiest beach season in a generation? Lifeguards were cut last year as a budget-saver, but what would it have cost for an hour of a rec worker’s time to row out the floats? Instead, we got four minimally useful float-buoys near the raft instead.
It took eight calls to get the dead seal removed. District response was prompt, but with it being wildlife, they left it for Fisheries and Oceans. After several calls, a DFO guy said “We only deal with live or injured animals. If it’s dead, we prefer it remain in a natural state. The turkey vultures will take care of it.”
Turkey vultures? This guy watches too much Clint Eastwood. Is that what they say when dead critters wash up at English Bay or trendy Kits Beach? I explained that a United Church seniors’ group was already hosting a morning social for families from the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver about 100 feet from the carcass, and that local beach kids were already doing things with sticks that kids will do. Oh, and that we haven’t seen a vulture here in 25 years. But we do have bears. With the smell, this was the inevitable removal scenario unless it got picked up soon, almost sure to end badly for the bear.
You try to be a good citizen and it turns into a John Cleese-like fiasco. District workers dealt with it.
Meantime, there’s that DNV under-the-radar website announcement, District Conducting Canine Canvass. That’s polite talk for municipal employees knocking on your front door. The problem, they say, is that up to 50 per cent of households have dogs, yet only 20 per cent of dog owners license them. I quick-canvassed my neighbours: 20 without, 7 with. That’s a quarter of homes in a dog-friendly area. We all know Bylaw 5981 obliges licensing.
What happens if these inspectors by-any-other name also spot Auntie Edna’s unauthorized medicinal pot-plant in the garden? Or Cousin Norman’s home-brew soda works in the basement? Or the eccentric neighbour doing . . . whatever? It’s the kind of thing Pierre Trudeau spoke against when he brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Do we chuck our copies of that in the district waste bin? Didn’t West Vancouver suffer a public backlash a few years back over bylaw officers accused of “spying” on private property in pursuit of unlicensed dogs?
When does an arbitrary intrusion into our life like this become unacceptable?
Now, that’s when.
© Copyright 2013