Hidden Gem: Glenbrook Ravine Park

Glenbrook Ravine Park is a nice little park nestled between residential complexes in New Westminster. British Columbia’s oldest public park, it’s a combination of manicured and wild. You can access the park either at its lower end off Jamieson Court, or from its upper end off Glenbrook Drive, or from the middle off Blackberry Drive. The whole trail is about one kilometre long.

The lower section of the park holds the Glenbrook Park Amenities Centre, a small pond that has ducks, fish, and turtles, and a good collection of flower beds. You can even get a little bit of learning from the old bell from the old BC Penitentiary, if you’re so inclined.

Walk uphill from there, and the best part of the park awaits. Just past the manicured park, up on the left side of the hill, there are remnants of the BC Penitentiary cemetary. Unfortunatly you can’t get there from the ravine; the access looks to be blocked off by townhouse and condo complexes (I’ll try to figure this out soon!). At the first fork, take the right path and you’ll quickly come to a daisy-filled meadow — an ideal spot to have a picnic or play bocce with the kids!

This section is the most disappointing to me, as one bank of the hill is entirely covered with invasive Himalayan blackberry — good for picking but horrible for the native plants. I hope that cleanup and restoration of this section is on NWPCR’s radar.

Take the left path from the fork and you’ll continue up through more natural forest. Look for salmonberries and skunk cabbage! This is the quietest part of the park — you’ll hardly hear the native New Westminster fauna. This is one of the best places in New Westminster to get away from the noise. Yes, you’re not truly away from it all, but there aren’t many places in New West that are this peaceful (Lower Hume Park is probably the only other). You’re not going to spend days here reconnecting with nature, but it’s a short bus-ride from downtown, so you didn’t have to spend hours in a car getting here either.

When you’re nearly to the top, on the left side there’s a stone riverbed coming down the hillside. This is where some local history took place back in 1907. Billy Miner, train robber extraordinaire, robbed a train near Kamloops in 1906 and was captured shortly after that by the Royal North-West Mounted Police. He was sentenced to 25 years in the BC Penitentiary in New Westminster.

On August 8, 1907, two boys were swimming in the creek just upstream from the stone riverbed when a man came to them from downstream. He told the boys that they didn’t see anything, asked them what they’d say if anybody asked (they said “nothing”), wished them a fine day, and continued on upstream. Minutes later the escape bell at the Pen rang out — Billy Miner had escaped.

(I first heard that story from a Jane’s Walk given by Dale Darychuk two years ago. With luck he does the Jane’s Walk again in 2016!)

The trail exits through switchbacks onto Glenbrook Drive, or earlier on up stairs to Blackberry Drive. It’s much nicer to just double back and enjoy the park all over again!

Jonathan Cote Can Control the Weather!

I ran into New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote at the first Royal City Farmers Market Summer Market today. I commented about the turnout (large) and the weather (nice), and he dropped this bomb on me:

Yeah, Council was arguing about what sort of weather we were going to have today but I pushed the nice weather through.

I laughed, and wished him a fine rest of his day, but then I got to thinking… the weather has been pretty good recently. Blue skies for New West’s 145th May Day. Blue skies for The Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery anvil salute. I mean seriously, check out this quote from Archie Miller:

“That was one of the first Victoria Days in a number of years that we haven’t been watching clouds or rain coming. It was beautiful,” said Archie Miller, the group’s historian. “The day was really, really nice. Everything went well.”

And as proof of his benevolence? The forecast for Sunday, May 24, when the “ousted” Royal Lancers are holding their community heritage picnic?

Sunny, with a high of 21.

New West Rumour Mill, May 2015

It’s time for another Rumour Mill! There has been a lot going on in New Westminster recently, so let’s find out what the rumours are!

Rumour has it that an occupant has been found for the empty restaurant space at the Anvil Centre. People have been understandably hush-hush about it, because it’s a flagship location and any hint of news could scuttle the plans. I don’t care! I’m going to break the news! You heard it here first, folks: the restaurant in the Anvil Centre will be the brand new Darrell’s Deal Deli! That’s right, Save-On-Foods is going upscale and busting into the restaurant market in a brave and bold new way, right here in our very own New Westminster! Overwaitea Foods started in New West, so it’s only fitting that Darrell’s Deal Deli start here too. Welcome!

The POPart exhibit at the Anvil Centre’s New Media Gallery is a huge hit. Watch out though, rumour has it that the balloons are filled with carbon tetrachloride for its fire suppression properties. Gotta stay safe, New West!

On a more serious note, Tenth To The Fraser is back. Yay!

And I’m going to finish off with some topical poetry. Watch out Candice James, I’m gunning for your job!

Spring has spring
The grass is riz
I wonder where
The Lancers is

Doug Leung, the NPA, and the Mount Pleasant Skatepark

In 2011, the Vancouver Park Board installed a skateboard park in Mount Pleasant Park. During the construction, residents opposed it. The only resident to go on record (in that article) as being opposed was Doug Leung. At that time, the Vancouver Park Board had a majority of commissioners from the Vision Vancouver party.

In 2014 Vancouver held a municipal election to elect, amongst others, seven Park Board commissioners. A Douglas C. Leung of 54 West 16th Avenue, Vancouver, appears on the nomination papers for Non-Partisan Alliance Park Board commissioner candidates John Coupar, Erin Shum, and Sarah Kirby-Yung, all of whom were elected to the Vancouver Park Board. The fourth NPA member elected to the Park Board, Casey Crawford does not list Douglas Leung as a nominator. As an aside, Douglas Leung does appear on the nomination papers of George Affleck, NPA Vancouver City councilor, and a Douglas Lee of the same address appears on the nomination papers of Kirk LaPointe, NPA candidate for Vancouver mayor. Interestingly enough, the signatures for Douglas Leung and Douglas Lee appear to match as pointed out in this comment on Reddit

Remember, Douglas C. Leung lives at 54 West 16th Ave, directly across from Mount Pleasant Park, home of the skatepark that Doug Leung complained about in 2011.

During the 2014 municipal election, Douglas Leung was the campaign manager for the NPA as evidenced in this story and this story and this story.

In the 2014 municipal election the NPA took control of the Park Board from Vision Vancouver.

In 2015 the NPA-lead Vancouver Park Board is voting on removing the skatepark based on complaints from nearby residents.

So, to recap, Doug Leung complained about the skatepark at Mount Pleasant Park in 2011. In 2014 Doug Leung nominated numerous NPA candidates and was the NPA campaign manager, and now in 2015 the NPA-lead Park Board is responding to neighbour complaints about the skatepark?

Huh.

On the Royal Lancers

New Westminster has a tradition where old men dance with twelve-year old girls.

Depending on where you live, you’ll either find that strange or delightful.

If you live in New Westminster, are white, and are over the age of 50, odds are you’ll find it delightful.

Otherwise, you’ll probably find this tradition a little strange and perhaps a little off-putting. I’m in this camp, and I am just fine with this tradition being cancelled.

To give a little background, the Royal Lancers, a fairly secret society of older men (I say this because I’ve been unable to find out who exactly is a Royal Lancer, or what it takes to become a Royal Lancer) have a dance each year with the May Queen Suite at the May Day banquet. The May Queen Suite is made up of Grade 5 girls from New Westminster school.

The City has said that the dance will no longer be part of the banquet, and this has rustled all kinds of jimmies around town.

(Aside: Take a look at this tweet as an example of what I mean by “white and over the age of 50” for who’s angriest about this whole thing. Fully one third of New Westminster residents have neither English nor French as a mother tongue, and they’re woefully under-represented in this “tradition”.)

The only argument I’ve seen towards keeping the dance the way it is is “it’s tradition”. Okay, I’ve also seen the “it strengthens bonds between generations” arguments, which is about the only one that I’ll accept as valid. “Tradition” is not a reason to keep it. There are an awful lot of things in our past that count as “tradition” that should be remembered but not celebrated, and I think this dance, in its current form, is one of them.

I read stories like this where the lancers say things like “I don’t believe council realizes the implications of their action” and I can’t help but think of a petulant child upset that his parents have taken his ball away from him. Their actions are taking away the whole spirit of the celebrations, which is to celebrate children. Instead, by stamping their feet they’re taking the attention away from the children that they profess to celebrate.

(Another aside: read that story again and note how the actual specifics of the dance aren’t mentioned. The only hint that old men might be dancing with young girls is in the “10 hours of cooperative participation” phrase — other than that it looks like the Lancers are just dancing by themselves. Why this subterfuge?)

In fact, that’s my biggest problem with the Royal Lancers: they say they’re respectable men but they act like petulant children.

Why aren’t the Royal Lancers saying anything about changing the dance? Why is the dance restricted to old men dancing with prepubescent girls? Why not include female business leaders? Why do the boys have to sit on the sidelines?

And why hasn’t anybody asked any of the kids currently in Grades 4 and 5 about it? Everything is from the viewpoint of the Lancers. Nothing is from the viewpoint of the children. There have been quotes from May Queens of past, but they’re a biased sample (and memories can change over time).

Here’s what the Royal Lancers should have done instead of throwing a tantrum: open it up. Make your little society a little less secret. Allow anybody to become a Royal Lancer. Change the dance to allow boys to dance. Allow anybody to dance with whoever they want (we don’t want “tradition” to push away anybody, right?). Get grandparents in there to dance with their grandchildren. Uncles, aunts, whoever, and name them Honourary Royal Lancers for the evening. Whatever you do, change it.

And remember the motto of New Westminster’s May Day: “For the Children, By the Children and of the Children.” Because that’s what’s most important, and that’s what the Royal Lancers have forgot.

Update: I found this article from September 2013 that talks about modernizing the Royal Lancers dance. I’d like to highlight two quotes:

[Councilor Chuck] Puchmayr said when the city introduced the Royal Knights—Grade 5 boys to accompany the May Queen Suite—he assumed they eventually would be the ones to dance with the girls. But that hasn’t happened. Instead they sit on the floor while the girls dance with the men. One father suggested to Puchmayr the Lancers could teach the boys how to dance with the girls.

And:

“When the Lancers come in with the May Queen suite I must admit it’s quite stirring, it looks like they’re the protectors of the young girls. But then I thought about it and I went, ‘wait a minute,’ ” said Coun. Lorrie Williams, who also didn’t like seeing the boys sitting on the floor during the dance.

“It bothered me. I took a picture of that, they just watched and they almost looked like they were pushed aside. That was the illusion.”

Williams suggested the Lancers become the guardians of both the girls and the boys.

“It would be a welcome change. In adding the Knights when we did, we made a change to our tradition,” said Williams. “That way nobody steps down and nobody is offended.”

New Westminster City Council has been talking about this since then. In the August 26, 2013 minutes (thank you Rick!), on page 18 there is a motion resolving that “the City of New Westminster enters into discussion with Stakeholders and the School District for the purpose of modernizing this event.”

So two councilors are on the record for saying the dance should be changed, and yet no changes came about. Why not?

New Westminster Rumour Mill

This is first of what will hopefully be a monthly post here, where I report back on all of the rumours that are floating around the lovely city of New Westminster.

First up: the parkade. Rumour has it that Council has seen the light and they will not be tearing down half the parkade. Instead they are doubling-down and adding an extra three levels of parking! They will also be taking Columbia Street off its diet (come on people, everybody knows that diets don’t work) by removing the bike lanes and angled parking. It is expected that this will appeal to the mobile baby boomer, and the increased vehicle traffic and parking will return downtown New Westminster to the glory years of the 70s and 80s!

The canceling of the Royal Lancers dance has ruffled some feathers recently. While this is a sad end to a 100-year old tradition of grown men knocking on doors to ask fathers to turn over their 12-year old girls to go for a dance, some have felt that the dance has seen better days. Instead, the Royal Lancers will turn to the 1916 May Day celebrations for inspiration, where a demonstration of military maneuvers replaced the folk dance. Rumour has it that for the 100th anniversary of these celebrations, the Royal Lancers will shoot 12-year old girls out of cannons.

The Braid Street Bailey Bridge is open! As it is a new crossing, a modest toll of $5 for Coquitlam residents will apply.

The 2015 Metro Vancouver Transportation and Transit Plebiscite is underway, although you wouldn’t know it because nobody has been talking about it lately. Has anybody heard anything about this thing?

That’s all for now from the New Westminster Rumour Mill!

Why I Voted ‘Yes’

Today I voted ‘yes’.

Every morning I and my wife walk our daughter to school. We have to cross one of New Westminster’s truck routes at Eighth Avenue and Cumberland Street. It’s a relatively busy intersection, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. It gts filled with trucks, as you’d expect, but also from commuters dodging the tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.

In our first three months of walking to and from school we were nearly hit by cars twice, both by drivers who were inattentive and probably pissed off from being stuck in so much traffic. This morning we saw a minor fender bender at the intersection. I talked with a crossing guard at that intersection, and she sees near-misses all the time. It’s not a very safe intersection for pedestrians.

With a ‘no’ vote this only gets worse. Traffic will get worse, we’ll have more inattentive drivers on the streets, and even worse, we’ll have more angry drivers on the streets. Drivers get angrier as their commutes lengthen. Increased traffic leads to higher stress.

Yes, there are other benefits to improving our transporation system. Thousands of people every day won’t be passed up by buses. Low wage earners will have a cheaper and more reliable transportation option. Seniors and handicapped people will have better HandiDart service.

But I voted ‘yes’ to ensure our streets don’t become more dangerous than they already are for pedestrians. I voted ‘yes’ in hopes that a near-miss doesn’t become a hit. I voted ‘yes’ so I won’t hopefully have to explain to my daughter why a driver nearly ran her down again.

Down With the Parkade!

For some reason New Westminster’s Front Street Parkade is back in the news. It appears that some people missed the years and years of public debate and consultation about the parkade’s removal and think that now’s the time to re-open that debate.

It isn’t.

The parkade is still a waste of money. The parking isn’t needed. It turns Front Street into a noisy, fume-laden disaster of a road. Visiting businesses on Front Street is, well, something nobody does. You don’t go for a stroll down Front Street like you would down any other street in New Westminster.

And now people want to save it? Hogwash.

Sure, turn it into a park. That sounds like a grand idea. A park that celebrates the disaster fifty feet below. A park commemorating the failed businesses of Front Street, perhaps. A park reminiscing about what Front Street could have been, if only the parkade had been torn down.

No. This nonsense has gone on long enough. Down with the parkade!

Reasons to Vote ‘No’

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a little harsh on the ‘no’ side of the upcoming transportation plebiscite. To give a little bit of extra press and coverage for them, I’m going to list the valid reasons for voting ‘no’.

Here they are:

The Astoundingly Bad Logic of Jordan Bateman

Today BC Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced a ten-year transportation plan for BC. During the press conference he was asked about the Metro Vancouver transportation plebiscite, and if the province is considering reforming TransLink, because this is one of the reasons why people are considering voting ‘no’. His answer?

At this point in time, the province has no plans to make any further improvements to governance at TransLink.

So vote ‘yes’ or vote ‘no’, no matter what happens in the plebiscite the province has no plans to change TransLink’s governance.

And what does Jordan Bateman have to say about this?

Stone killed yes side claim that change will come to TransLink either way. Voting NO the best way to show gov’t we want this fixed.

He’s saying that you should vote ‘no’ so TransLink’s governance will be fixed, using Todd Stone’s statement of “no plans to make any further improvements to governance at TransLink” as support.

What kind of crazy logic is running through Mr. Bateman’s mind? It’s mind-boggling just how bad this logic is!

Seriously, that’s pretty weak, Jordan.