The Haney-to-Hammond family cycling route: a proposal

A cycling route from Haney to Hammond as proposed by Fraseropolis and HUB Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, with a potential loop at the western end. The map was developed by Cindy Farnsworth

The John Hammond house, c. 1893, on the proposed route.

In 2017, the local government in Maple Ridge asked our friend Jackie Chow to develop a tourist-friendly cycling route in the urban part of the city. Jackie asked me for help, since she knew me as an oddball urban explorer and mapmaker.

We agreed to focus on flat, safe, easy cycling to accommodate kids, parents and seniors. This restricted us to a couple of choices, since much of Maple Ridge is hilly and the direct east-west routes are very busy. We settled on a route connecting two historical zones, downtown Maple Ridge (also known as Haney) and historic Port Hammond. At the western end, cyclists get a view of the Fraser River at one of the few public access points in the city.

The proposed initial route is 6.2 kilometres in length one way, or a 12.4-kilometre round trip, with an option to add a loop in future — if the local government can invest in some improvements.

I want to thank Leanne Koehn and James Rowley from the Hammond neighbours for their early encouragement, along with Kathryn Baird and Lino Siracusa from the City’s tourism and economic development offices, and Colleen Macdonald from Let’s Go Biking. The proposal has been reviewed and approved by the HUB cycling committee of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, but there are a few more steps required before it becomes a visible reality.

The Harry house, 1928, faces Hammond Park. With the Hammond house and others in the neighbourhood, it is listed in the 2018 Maple Ridge Heritage Inventory compiled by Donald Luxton.

To the extent that there is cycling tourism in Maple Ridge, much of it takes place on limited sections of riverside dyke that connect with more extensive dykes in neighbouring Pitt Meadows. One highlight of this network is Osprey Village in Pitt Meadows, a destination for cyclists from the Tri-Cities and Langley. Many of them stop at the Stomping Grounds café for food and drink.

The proposed route presented here creates part of an urban link between Osprey and downtown Maple Ridge.  To make the trip more attractive for day-trippers travelling through the region, we need a new and safer connection across the Katzie Slough into Hammond, and we need a cafe or two in the Hammond neighbourhood — an idea that is contemplated in the 2014 Hammond Area Plan.

In the meantime, we’ll call our new route a “family cycling route”, and hope to attract Maple Ridge residents looking for some easy cycling near their own homes.

At the western end of the initial route, a view of the Fraser River from Emmeline Mohun Park on Wharf Street, Maple Ridge. Most photos in this series were taken under smoky skies during the 2018 wildfire season

Fraseropolis Wharf Street

A small boatworks on Wharf Street west of Mohun Park. The street runs under the Golden Ears Bridge and stops abruptly at the boundary of the Katzie First Nation reserve. To create a safe cycling link to Osprey Village and the regional Greenway system would require an access agreement with Katzie or a new cycling/pedestrian bridge over Katzie Slough.

Our friend Greg Stuart recently joined me on a test run along the initial 6.2-kilometre route. We tried to mimic the experience of a parent with young children, and decided that that even at 6.2 kilometres on flat terrain, 45 minutes is too long a cycle for a most young kids. This will probably work best for people aged 14+.

Three quarters of the 6.2 km out-and-back is already designated and signed for cycling. To make this route better known and used,  the City government should designate the remaining Hammond leg (shown in black on the map) for cycling, and add signs and street markings over time.

Beyond the western end of our proposed route, there is the start of a future loop. Shown as a dashed line on the map, it is all public or utility land. It could be improved to create a connection to the Golden Ears multi-use path, and to the overpass that leads to Osprey and the Pitt Meadows dykes.

Cycling author and blogger Colleen Macdonald has suggested that, rather than approaching the City government for official approval, we should simply encourage the public to use it. We would approach the City after demand takes shape. This post is a small step in that direction.

A city right-of-way connects Wharf Street with cycling pathways to the northwest, but it is an impassable bog through much of the year.

To the north and east, old Hammond gives way quickly to long stretches of infill housing from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. History here is invisible: within living memory, this land was occupied by orchards and berry fields.

A recently opened multi-use path along Lougheed Highway is part of the proposed route. Noisy but safe, the need to include this feature shows the scarcity of east-west cycling choices in a car-dependent city stretched along the Fraser River. The hospital, with no through traffic, sits to the south of this location, and the city cemetery lies conveniently to the north.

The end or beginning of the route at the Memorial Peace Park, home to a Saturday market and close to tourist-friendly (as well as family-friendly) cafes



Brighter days in Nanaimo

On Wallace Street at the edge of the Old City Quarter

Fraseropolis Occidental Hotel

The Occidental Hotel, 1886, restored in the 1980s.

Nanaimo’s roots go back to the 19th century. Its central area has rich architectural and heritage interest — combined with a mix of sometimes brutal modernist styles, and a tendency in recent decades for local owner-operated business to fail.

But as of 2018, central Nanaimo may finally be finding its feet.

The city occupies a difficult site. It faces the lights of Vancouver across the Strait of Georgia, which is atmospheric, but it’s fragmented by steep hills, gorges and bogs. Growth has hugged the coastline, sprawling northward. As with many Canadian cities, the establishment of ever-bigger shopping malls sucked the energy — i.e. the pedestrian traffic, and therefore the potential customers — out of the old downtown.

So what’s happening now to reverse the trend? In no particular order: we could look at the exodus of boomers from Vancouver, cashing out of their high-priced homes and looking for something cheaper and calmer. We could notice that climate change and extremely hot weather in the United States is bringing hordes of American tourists to the B.C. coast, seeking relief. At the same time, the city government’s central area plan, adopted in 2002, is generating new apartment housing and improved transit.

My co-tourist on a late Saturday afternoon was Russell MacEwen. Russ remembers when Nanaimo residents travelled downtown to shop at the butcher shop and the department store. He landed his first job at Ryan’s wholesalers in 1962, at the edge of what they now call the Old City Quarter. He assembled packets of school supplies for delivery to drug stores and such.

During our walk, he pointed to where the high school stood, to ruined steps leading up to a vanished mansion, and to an empty field where the bells once rang at the Catholic convent. However, we also saw structures that have been rescued by redevelopment. The railway station is now a pub and museum, the Eaton’s department store is an apartment complex, and heritage homes have been occupied by lawyers and health clinics.

Fraseropolis Coach and Horses Nanaimo

A corner of the E&N Railway station, dated 1920, now partly occupied by the Coach and Horses pub.

Fraseropolis Nanaimo pot cafe

On Selby Street opposite the railway station. This classic streetscape shows up Nanaimo’s history as a town of miners and mill workers. The yellow structure, a former neighbourhood grocery store, is now a cannabis club.

Boutiques on Wesley Street, a block below Selby.

Nanaimo’s harbour marina and the Old City Quarter make up the two poles of an easy touristic walk. They are about 10 minutes apart by the most direct route. In between lies the old downtown, with a European-style network of winding streets.

Fraseropolis Nanaimo marina

Nanaimo’s waterfront promenade: a bistro with a newish residential tower behind

The marina lies close to the southern end of a scenic waterfront promenade, offering a half-hour walk with a view of islands and parks. The marina precinct has seen its own struggles: it was conceived some decades ago as a tourist attraction, especially because of its proximity to the city’s convention centre. However, the federally-controlled Harbour Commission (by local rumour) has been greedy in setting rents for ice-cream vendors and gift stalls, with disruptive results. The pattern may have stabilized; there is certainly lots of foot traffic in high summer.

Menu reducedWe had dinner for four at Le Café Francais, just behind the convention centre. It is operated by a very nice family from a town in Normandy, and the food was good. Our server, one of the sons, joked about having to post pictures of the Eiffel Tower on the walls, but c’est la vie.

Fraseropolis Nanaimo downtown

The Nanaimo marina, with the high-end Cameron Island residences to the right

Fraseropolis Nanaimo downtown 2Fraseropolis Nanaimo downtown plan

Fraseropolis Nanaimo Commonwealth

Meanwhile, back in the real world: Nanaimo’s central area also features severe examples of modernist architecture. At the top of this set of three is the rear of the City Hall, showing postwar Art Deco elements. Second is a commercial block on Wallace Street. Dunsmuir Place, immediately above, was developed around 1980 by the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society. This “charity,” fed by bingo revenues, was the child of a one-time B.C. Minister of Finance, David Stupich. His insurance company happened to rent space in the building. He was sentenced to prison for diverting charitable donations to the New Democratic Party, but he died before he could serve his time.

Fraseropolis Nanaimo heritage

A shambles of settlement-era wooden structures in the lower downtown, possibly 1880s, with the Cameron Island tower in the background.

Fraseropolis Nanaimo downtown plan 2

Fronts of the same structures, facing Victoria Crescent

B.C.’s trading profile: coal to Japan, mystery food to the U.S.

A vintage terminal building at the Port of Vancouver, 2014

Over the past year, the United States has taken steps to restrict Canadian imports, and the President has threatened to ramp this up with tariffs on vehicles and auto parts.

Responding to public anxiety, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has created a Ministry of International Trade Diversification — though in fact, we’ve been trying to reduce our dependence on the U.S. for decades, with no clear pattern of progress. Canada sent 68 per cent of its exports to the U.S. in 2008; that figure was up to 76.3% in 2016. Continue reading

Metro Vancouver transit: fastest growth in North America in 2017

A detail from a 2016 Council of Mayors plan showing transit improvement priorities

TransLink’s service levels are increasing rapidly, and a new funding plan should allow continued expansion — for a while.

The Metro Vancouver transit authority’s latest performance report, published on June 21, shows that with added service, boardings across the system — bus, SeaBus, and SkyTrain — increased by 5.7 per cent through 2017 to a record 407 million. This was the biggest jump in ridership among major urban areas in North America (see the chart at the bottom of this post.) Continue reading

Trouble in Brookswood


Brookswood, a classic 1950s subdivision in the Township of Langley, has been locked for years in a dispute over the pace of development. It sits just minutes from malls and highways, but it has a deep country feel.

In late 2017, on the third try in four years, Township Council approved a plan that contemplates significant population growth in the Brookswood-Fernridge planning area. From fewer than 14,000 residents, the population is supposed to grow to 39,000 when projected development is complete. In percentage terms, Langley is growing faster than any other major municipality in Greater Vancouver, and it needs land for medium-density housing. The question here is whether the preservation of an old, sprawling suburb might be justified because of its special character. Continue reading

Family incomes in Metro Vancouver

Yaletown, 2017

Statistics Canada has added new community profiles to its website based on the 2016 census. These include income measures the federal Conservative government axed from the 2011 census — possibly because open up a discussion about economic inequality.

Within Metro Vancouver, the highest median family income, in North Vancouver District, is 50 per cent higher than in Richmond, which has the lowest family and individual incomes and the biggest low-income population (“federal Low-income measure, after tax”). Continue reading

Riding Vancouver’s fast train to nowhere

Adam Fitch’s rapid transit map. His LRT line idea is shown with a cord painted green, from a proposed new Emily Carr SkyTrain station in east False Creek to UBC. The red line, with marked stations, traces TransLink’s SkyTrain route plan as of about 2012. In the real world, stations from Arbutus are to go into service before 2025; stations west of Arbutus have been delayed indefinitely.

My thanks to Kamloops-based planner Adam Fitch. He invited me to join him on a May 4 “Jane’s Walk” to consider a cheaper alternative to the Broadway Extension rapid transit project.

Fitch’s proposal would take advantage of a corridor owned by the City of Vancouver, and would avoid most of the tunneling costs associated with the Broadway scheme. It’s an entertaining concept, but it won’t get built, largely because it won’t take people where they want to go. Continue reading