West Vancouver’s annual display of decorated trees along Dundarave Beach now stretches further than ever before, glowing brightly to "inspire hope" this holiday season.
While events can’t go ahead as planned this December with provincial health restrictions in place to reduce COVID-19 transmission, families and household bubbles can still take a walk through the stunning Dundarave Festival’s "Forest of Miracles."
For the first time, the festive tree display will stretch from its original site at Dundarave Beach eastward to Millennium Park and the Grosvenor Ambleside Galleria to ensure public safety during the pandemic.
There are more than 130 B.C. grown grand firs and live trees to see at the “eccentric open-air art gallery,” which have been decorated beautifully by families, community groups, and businesses who made a charitable donation to sponsor a tree.
Each year, the festival raises much-needed funds for Lookout Housing and Health Society, which works to provide housing and a range of support services to adults with low or no income.
To date, the festival has raised more than $400,000, which has allowed Lookout to purchase non-market housing to house people experiencing homelessness and in-need seniors.
Michael Markwick, festival spokesman, said the pandemic seemed to be making “donors all the more generous” with more than $15,000 in charitable donations already made to Lookout.
"The trees in the Forest of Miracles were claimed at a rate we’ve never seen before," he said. "Charitable donations to Lookout are on a pace to break our records. We’re seeing in the Forest of Miracles a powerful outpouring of love and hope."
Paul Harmon, manager of Lookout’s North Shore shelter, said it had been a tough year, with COVID-19 making it difficult to help and serve folks because they just didn’t have the usual space or capacity.
"The festival, it helps us and gives us some hope that through the donations and the generosity of the community that we'll be able to build on to what we have at this time," he said.
Harmon said donations had gone toward helping seniors find homes this year.
"If it weren't for the Dundarave Festival, these seniors would still be in our shelter; our shelter is basically semi-permanent housing … and they may be somewhere else or on the street," he explained.
West Vancouver Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said she was so pleased the popular Forest of Miracles could go ahead, adding she had heard from members of the community they were “thrilled” to see the trees back this year.
"I think it's been a hard year for people, and they're really going all out to embrace Christmas, the season, giving and celebrating all the things that we have to be grateful for," she said.
“West Vancouver is made up of people that really do care, and they support this initiative, both in terms of donations, but also in terms of making it a central part of their Christmas season and celebration.
“This is just a real metaphor for the community and coming together.”
Booth invited residents, mayors, and councillors from across the North Shore to sponsor a tree and for everyone to visit while keeping a safe distance and following PHO restrictions.
“We all need a bit of Christmas cheer right now, especially those folks who rely on the North Shore’s Lookout Shelter,” she said. “Please also consider donating to support the Lookout’s life-transforming work.”
The Forest of Miracles was officially opened for the season by Booth on Dec. 1 at Dundarave Beach, at the bottom of 25th Street.
Here's what you can expect...
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.