Brunette-Fraser park in Sapperton a study in contrasts


Photo credit: Don Schuetze

The Brunette-Fraser Regional Greenway – Sapperton Landing is a clumsy moniker for a little stretch of park that runs west from the mouth of the Brunette River until it runs out of space a little less than a kilometer away.Photo credit: Don Schuetze

The Greenway will eventually connect Vancouver with New Westminster with a bike and pedestrian pathway. Chunks have already been built, and this is one of them. As such, it has two paths: one paved (for bikes), and the other gravel (for sneakers). It’s very flat and there are a few observation decks that allow the tired or bored to lean out over the Fraser River and try to count the squashed cars being loaded onto barges in Surrey. 

The park is a study in contrasts: squashed between the working Fraser and the railway, with the Skytrain almost directly overhead and the busy industrial thorough-fare Front street just beyond, it still succeeds in providing a pleasant amble through greenery.

Plants, as is carefully laid out on several didactic posts, are “left to grow naturally”, in an attempt to create many wildlife habitats. Presumably someone weeds out the invasives like loosestrife and himalayan blackberry to keep it natural to this area. The brush is trimmed that abuts on the paths making it almost seem manicured. For wildlife in May I noted several spotted towees and a lot of sparrows that moved too quickly for me to figure out what kind.

Access to Sapperton Landing is difficult. By car the only way is a right turn onto Cumblerland from Columbia Street. Cross two sets of tracks and watch out! The road is only one lane. Parking is several hundred metres from the entrance, behind what I think was a customs house. Sapperton is the closest SkyTrain station.

Photo credit: Don SchuetzeBy the mouth of the Brunette is an old government wharf with a few fishing boats, and a lot of warning signs. At the other end, the trail ends suddenly where there’s no more land. A dumpster keeps you from sauntering onto Front Street. When the rest of the Greenway is completed you’ll be able to walk or bike to Vancouver along the Brunette River, or to the New Westminster Quay if you go the other way. Right now, however, if you don’t feel like risking Front street you have to turn back and admire the graffitti on the berm past the tracks.

Walking one way and back with a small dog and surly teenager took about 40 minutes, with pauses to take the occasional photo.

Sapperton Landing is important historically: this is where the Royal Engineers made their camp, where prisoners for the penitentiary were unloaded, and where the colony of BC was governed. Actually that was probably up the hill a bit, but this is probably where they sat down at the end of a long day, swung their bare feet into the water and smoked a pipe.

Sapperton Landing (The Brunette-Fraser Regional Greenway) is a pleasant stroll today, but will probably be amazing once it’s connected to the rest of the system.


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A short stroll through Glenbrook Ravine

New Westminster isn’t known for its parks. They tend to be smallish, city-like green spaces, criss-crossed with asphalt paths and dotted with picnic tables, baseball diamonds and commemorative plaques. So it’s interesting to come across something a bit wilder, like Glenbrook Ravine.

In fact, it’s probably a park by default, being a ravine, but has potential to be a pleasant area for a stroll. There is a level gravel path, but it stops suddenly at the north end when it runs out of room.

Glenbrook Ravine (map)
Glenbrook Ravine (map)
Entrance to Glenbrook Ravine
Entrance to Glenbrook Ravine

This is where I’ve come in, off Glenbrooke Drive [(1) on the satelite image]. The path is steep and don’t even think about bringing grandma with her walker. It looks like there might have been a sign here at one time, but it’s long gone. The dog doesn’t have a problem getting down, and I suppose if I had proper boots it wouldn’t have been an issue for me either. Anyway, we made it down safely.

A small creek runs through the ravine, and there are plenty of signs of partiers, or “those damn kids” scrabbling up and down the west side, presumably into the housing complex off McBride. There were plenty of robins, a few chickadees, but not a lot else in February.

Glenbrook Ravine

Another entrance to the park, if you don’t mind stairs, is about halfway down, just off the alley behind Kwantlen Court [(2) on the image]. This one switch-backs on to the path and is much safer than the Glenbrook entrance.

The city has set up a number of sumps and drains along the ravine, including what looks like a drain to the Styx in the underworld.

Glenbrook Ravine

Towards the southern end, if you look up the western side you can glimpse where the B.C. Penitentiary’s cemetery is.

Glenbrook Ravine

The park ends (or starts) in the back yard of a community centre behind an apartment complex. There’s a pond and a small structure holding the Pen’s bell, complete with commemorative plaque! This entrance [(3) on the satellite image], is level and has easy access to a parking lot.

Glenbrook Ravine

With plenty of dawdling and letting the dog snuffle for signs of squirrels (none found) it took less than half an hour to go from one end to the other.

Observations on Sixth St. sleepers

This is a guest post from Waferboard. You can find him on Twitter @waferboard or on Friendfeed.


A makeshift windbreak at the Anglican church on Carnarvon
A makeshift windbreak at the Anglican church on Carnarvon


For the second year now I’ve noticed there are more people sleeping on Sixth Street in the winter than in the summer. The cold and the wetness of the season are probably contributing factors.

Following my commute route down Sixth Street from Sixth Avenue down to the Columbia Skytrain station, here are a few of the spots that have attracted overnight visitors. Obviously this is not exhaustive and perhaps not even representative of the city.

Shop doorways

Sixth & Sixth

In some ways I’m surprised not too see more of these types of sleepers. They’re fairly common in Gastown and Downtown Vancouver. However, a closer examination of the architectural peculiarities of New Westminster show that there are fewer recessed (and hence sheltered) doorways here. I have a suspicion that Gastown may have fewer alternatives to doorways than New Westminster as well. The disadvantage of the doorway is if someone wants to use the door, you have to move. Popularity: low

A peculiar recess by a window

Sixth & Fourth; Sixth & Blackford
If I was homeless this would be one of the first places I’d check out. I’d like to know what the original purpose of this recessed window was, with its own little privacy wall. During the summer its home to a bed of lava rock, and in winter it can hold two, or maybe three (if you’re close friends) people. The wall and the fact that it’s recessed means almost total privacy and shelter from the elements. It’s also conveniently close to the 7-11 across the street. I’ve been surpised more than once by a friendly “Good morning!” by an occupant, that’s how out-of-sight this location is. Popularity: high

The well-lit covered business entrance

(See #3 on the map above)

It’s a peculiar and counter-intuitive fact: many homeless prefer to sleep in well-lit, very public areas. It’s safer, presumably. The Re/Max building entrance has a few low walls to bed against and lots of light. The covered area is quite large and is suitable for parking shopping carts or for people with lots of stuff to lug around, or for groups of people. However, it is exposed on two sides, despite the low walls and I suspect it must get quite windy. Popularity: low

The Anglican church on Carnarvon

Anglican Church on Carnarvon

It’s not on Sixth, but it’s pretty close, and it’s also a really popular spot, both in winter and summer. It’s not hard to see why: there are two covered areas, a nice lawn, a door-step round the back with a fair view and a soup kitchen. The covered areas are large enough for several people, carts and lots of baggage, and it’s location on a steep slope facing south helps protect the otherwise open area. Popularity: high

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