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Kirk LaPointe: West Van locals share secrets about hedges and bears

When it comes to bears, are we friends or food? How do I get my neighbour to trim a hedge? Are there secret Porsche race days? Locals respond to this West Van newcomer's questions and more.
The lineups for BC Ferries to and from the Sunshine Coast don’t appear to be as distressing to readers of the North Shore News as they likely would be for consumers of the Coast Reporter, writes columnist Kirk LaPointe. | Mike Wakefield / North Shore News files

A few weeks back, I posed seven questions to readers to help acquaint me, a West Vancouver newcomer, with some idiosyncrasies of the district.

Some warned: Be careful what you wish for. But in journalism I’ve found that it’s hardly ever wrong to turn to the crowd when you wonder. I am grateful, almost but not quite to a person, for the responses. I’ll try this exercise again some time. Meantime, here is what I learned.

  1. On the matter of getting a neighbour to trim the gigantic hedge obscuring a view, I took in a lot of “been there, done that” email that sounds like, no pun intended, I’m barking up the wrong tree. Mostly what I read was the electronic equivalent of a sigh and a shrug. A tall hedge is a metaphor for how some of us live, I suppose, and it’s their business. “Assuming you can locate and communicate with your actual neighbour, they will politely ignore you. Wait until they move,” one wrote. It is clear through the correspondence that people have some concern about tree-trimming bylaws as excessively restrictive. Which made the suggestion that I ring the doorbell with a befriending, ice-breaking case of wine seem a solid waste of money. Someone suggested waiting for them to take a holiday and rolling in the trucks, which even the defiant journalist in me found a little much.
  2. I asked why drivers appear more co-operative and better behaved on this side of the Lions Gate, and unsurprisingly it produced a chorus of how Vancouver is bad for the soul, even if the day started serenely on this side. Let’s leave that contention aside – my own “been there, done that.” I was hoping for a traffic engineering answer and one never surfaced.
  3. Ah yes, the bears. This question elicited the most emotion. I wondered why I’m counselled to embrace them. The answers I got mainly reflected on efforts many make in the district to just make sure bears aren’t all shot and killed. Around the time I asked the question, The Narwhal published a strong piece based on a freedom-of-information request from the Fur-Bearers activist group showing an alarming toll: 5,632 black bears killed in B.C. between 2011 and 2021. As for West Vancouver, 26 were taken in that time, including five last year (and a high of nine in 2019). North Vancouver killed 29 bears in that period, Squamish 59. Mostly people wrote that it’s our responsibility to live with them, not the other way around, and we need to be bear-smart to stop encouraging them to cavort and worse. As for a suggestion that bears need to be included in our land acknowledgment, again let’s leave that aside.
  4. The lineups for BC Ferries to and from the Sunshine Coast don’t appear to be as distressing to readers of the North Shore News as they likely would for consumers of the Coast Reporter. There is a difference between a getaway and a get-to, an excursion into more open space and an appointment into a doctor’s office, that alters one’s views.
  5. There is little point in suggesting golf carts for Gleneagles. A couple noted that golfers have a better chance of surviving the hike up Cardiac Hill than do today’s carts, a point I’d agree with if there’s any dampness. Even as a runner for four decades, though, I would suggest that the serious hill seriously dissuades too many and there is a better solution than the current afterthought of the alternative third green in the valley.
  6. People loved the idea of an “empty stores” tax, maybe a little too much, to penalize property owners holding retail outlets vacant for no apparent reason. There is clear disquiet with these missing teeth along Marine Drive. Sounds like a study for the new municipal hall gang.
  7. Then there is the question about whether the Porsche Club is an urban myth, and oh my, did I get (no pun intended again) the gears on whether it exists (it does) and whether its dawn convoy is designed to dodge the cops (it doesn’t, it doesn’t, it doesn’t, people insisted, insisted, insisted).

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV as well as vice-president, editorial, Glacier Media Group, the North Shore News’ parent company. He is also a West Vancouverite.