Category Archives: Queensborough

What does growing income disparity in Metro Van mean for New West?

I read an interesting article recently from Atlantic Cities about income disparity in Vancouver, based on a research paper produced at the University of Toronto.

The report findings reveal three ‘cities’ within Metro Van. City #1 includes higher-status areas in historically upper-middle-class neighbourhoods, gentrified urban areas and redeveloped zones within areas like New West that are close to parks, views or the waterfront. City #2 includes the traditionally stable middle-class neighbourhoods and City #3 includes neighbourhoods where the average income fell more than 15% relative to the metropolitan area.

While we do have our own issues with income disparity in New West, I found it interesting to see where we stand in contrast to the region. The blue-shaded areas are the areas where household incomes have grown 15-288% more quickly than the metropolitan average between 1970 and 2005. The white areas are neighbourhoods that have seen an increase or decrease under 15%, and the red areas represent income decreases of more than 15% since 1970. If you zoom into the map (which is unfortunately pretty grainy, making details hard to see), New West shows up as largely white & blue, while large sections of nearby Burnaby, Coquitlam and Surrey have seen significant declines in household incomes since the ’70s.

Map showing average changes in household income by neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver between 1970 - 2005

A map showing average changes in household income by neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver between 1970 – 2005

A map illustrating the change in average household incomes between 1970-2005 in the Lower Mainland shows incomes in New West increasing in the Queensborough and the West End neighbourhoods, while remaining flat in Queen’s Park, Downtown/Uptown and other parts of the city. Elsewhere in the Lower Mainland, affluent neighbourhoods seem to have seen incomes increase, while many formerly middle-income neighbourhoods have seen incomes decline.

According to the report, “The three neighbourhood groupings or “Cities” represent a dramatic transition from the old model of concentric social areas with poverty at the urban core and a solid band of middle income districts in the suburbs. Relative to metropolitan changes, significant income gains and losses are occurring in both city and suburban neighbourhoods. There is more inequality with 54 percent of the 2006 CMA population living in tracts that either gained or lost more than 15 percent of their income relative to the metropolitan average over the 35-year period. Equal numbers of people, about 565,000, lived in the gaining and losing tracts.”

So what does this mean for New West? Well, the report illustrates that in the current economic climate, to those who have, more will be given. And to those who do not have, even what they have will be taken away.

I think this illustration shows New West in a favourable position within the Lower Mainland. While the actual income numbers continue to show significant lower income populations here than in many other more affluent parts of the city, it shows that most citizens have either maintained their incomes or increased them – which is significant in an era when so many have seen incomes eroded. Income inequality in surrounding areas appears to be worsening, and that will result in social issues that will impact us all.

There are troubling implications when you look at who is gaining and who is losing. The report says: “City #1 is overwhelmingly the home of the native-born. In contrast there has been a marked increase in immigrants in the remainder of Metro Vancouver, and especially in City #3, which has shifted from a majority native-born in 1971 to an immigrant majority in 2006. City #3 also includes a plurality of visible minorities (61 percent) while City #1 does not (23 percent).” I don’t have enough information to be able to interpret this nugget, but it does raise questions whether opportunities for immigrants are shrinking or if some other factors are at play.

During New West’s renaissance, the City appears to have consciously tried to guard against simply pushing out lower income populations through protecting and supporting local nonprofits, protecting low-income housing and taking the initiative to house the homeless (rather than just complaining about how it’s the job of the Province to take care of that problem). As a result, we are likely to continue housing and caring for a large number of the region’s lower income families. Is that bad? While I think many people automatically think about the most abrasive marginalized people when considering the issue (those who are hardest to empathize with), we do well to remind ourselves that low-income families include seniors, new immigrants, single-parent families and others who have simply been dealt a raw hand. We can’t just pretend these people don’t exist, and we can’t write them all off as having ‘made their own beds’ to lie in.

Juxtaposed with regional trends indicating worsening income inequality, it’s good to remember that many of us in the middle risk sliding into that red zone, whether through corporate downsizing, developing health problems and being unable to work for a time, lack of financial literacy (leading to taking on too much debt – another significant problem), retiring with inadequate savings or any number of other misadventures. We all believe these things won’t happen to us, but the reality is that we’re not so special or so smart that it can’t. Every one of us could make a mistake or fail to spot and address a potential threat that could set our families back economically. Wouldn’t you prefer to live in a city where there was somewhere to turn for help, if the worst should happen?

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New West Activities for September 29

This weekend is a hugely busy weekend in the Royal City – there is so much to do! And we’ve had such great weather that it is a perfect time to get out and about. Here are our top three picks for Saturday family activities:

Support Family Place at their first annual fundraising garage sale on Saturday from 9-2. They’re at 93 Sixth Street, and they tell me there will be lots of childrens toys, games, household goods and clothes. Money goes to help support all their awesome programs, and to continue to provide a warm and welcoming place for families with children aged 0-6.

Check out the awesome new festival mashup, River Fest! In celebration of World Rivers Day, the Hyack Festival Association and the Fraser River Discovery Centre have teamed up to produce a new giant event on the mighty Fraser. Check out the Facebook page for details, but activities include music, crafts, information tents, and all sorts of other family friend activities. On Friday and Saturday.

Stop by the Lantern Festival in Queensborough from 6-9pm on Saturday September 29. Activities include assembling an LED lantern, music, sparklers, and a scavenger hunt. it takes place at Port Royal Park, at the east end of Ewen Avenue in Queensborough.

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Dumped Mattresses KVT Photography

Show Your Love for the Fraser River: Join the New West Shoreline Cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup™ is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems.

This year on Sunday, Sept 23, the South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup—to register, click on the link— will launch the beginning of New Westminster’s RiverFest, an art and environmental festival inspired by the Fraser River.

The Cleanup is a family friendly event, open to everyone who welcomes taking care of our shoreline. And this year, participants can show their love for the shoreline in a few different ways.

Previously Non-Recyclable Items

Throughout Canada, waste from cigarettes remains the top cleanup item collected. Last year approximately 350,000 were removed from our shorelines. This year—for the first time—all cigarette butts picked up from the New West cleanup will be sent to TerraCycle, a company that specializes in recycling previously non-recyclable items, such as pens, inkjet cartridges, and Tassimo coffee, tea, espresso, milk and hot chocolate T Discs.

In New Westminster, Nestlé candy wrappers and empty containers from Garnier® personal care and beauty products can be taken directly to London Drugs. TerraCycle Canada will then recycle these items into park benches, waste bins and more!

Styrofoam, another previously non-recycled item, was also one of the top items collected at last year’s cleanup. This year, with the launch of Styrofoam collection at the New Westminster Recycling Depot, other recyclable items collected during the cleanup, including Styrofoam and paint cans, will be picked up by the City Of New Westminster for recycling.

Removing litter, however, is just one way that participants can show their love for our shoreline.

Invasive Plant Pull

Kids and adults can also take part in an invasive plant pull of non-toxic plants.

This year participants can take part in removing holly, Lamium, morning glory, purple loosestrife, Scotch broom, and another patch of English ivy—check out the photo from last year’s plant pull.

Plants are considered invasive for a few reasons. One reason is because people or animals have brought them from their original natural habitat to a different one. These non-native plants become invasive depending on their adaptability—how quickly they can grow and multiply in the new habitat.

When non-native plants grow quickly, they take over and force native plants from their home. They rob them of their space, sunlight, water, and nutrients. Over time, these invasive plants change and damage the conditions of the natural habitat. For these reasons, invasive plants are carefully removed to not spread their seeds or other plant parts that can regrow from special habitats like—our Fraser River shoreline.*(Definition from For Peat’s Sake: The Story of Burns Bog, available at the NWPL)

For those of us who love the taste of blackberries, it can be hard to learn that the Himalayan blackberry is considered an invasive plant (Invasive Species Council of British Columbia). It’s dense thicket and thorny stems can be hazardous to humans and animals alike. The plant can also out-compete native shrubs with deep roots that can provide stability along the shoreline. To minimize the hazard of the plant’s long shoots, Jennifer Lukianchuk, Environmental Coordinator from the City of New Westminster, and Cindy Sale, Communication and Events Coordinator from the Fraser River Discovery Centre, are going to show their love for the shoreline by putting on safety equipment to prune off some of the more exposed shoots.

South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup and Invasive Plant Pull

The Shoreline Cleanup starts from 9:30 AM at the pier at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster. Participants under 19 are welcome but must attend with their parent or guardian or bring the signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.

Please bring boots that can get muddy and wear pants to protect yourself from the shrubs that grow nearby. Bring either a pen to help with data collection or tongs (some will be supplied by the City) to pick up litter, and snacks and water for yourself.

The South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup is organized by New Westminster Environmental Partners (NWEP) in partnership with the City of New Westminster and Fraser River Discover Centre.

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Notes & observations from New West’s first all-candidates meeting of 2011

Turnout was good at the first all-candidates meeting of the 2011 campaign, hosted by the Queensborough Residents Association.

Turnout was good at the first all-candidates meeting of the 2011 campaign, hosted by the Queensborough Residents Association.

At the first all-candidates meeting for the 2011 civic election in New Westminster last night, Bob Osterman took me to task for making fun of his ugly election signs.

I don’t recall doing that, and I can’t find any posts in the archives that mock his signs, but Bob took me aside and said that last election me or someone related to Tenth to the Fraser did, and I guess I’ve got to believe him. Bob went on to explain why.

“I’ve been using the same ugly signs for the last 20 years,” Bob said with a laugh, “and I’m gonna keep on re-using those ugly signs every time I run. And you know what I do with the stakes in between elections? I use ‘em to stake my azaleas and my tomatoes.”

Whether Bob’s ugly election signs are a sign of pragmatic thrift, environmental consciousness (reduce, reuse, recycle!) or a kind of superstitious talisman – his version of growing a playoffs beard – I believe this anecdote illustrates a simple truth about New Westminster politics: there’s more than meets the eye.

Since we began blogging about New Westminster three years ago (we launched Tenth to the Fraser shortly before the 2008 election – though the timing was quite unintentional), the way I view local politics has changed profoundly. Three years ago, the names on the ballot were just names on the ballot. I’ve now had the privilege to get to know most of this year’s candidates as people.

My husband Will and I launched Tenth to the Fraser in part as an incentive for ourselves to dig deeper into local issues and get to know our community better. We have succeeded far beyond my initial expectations. Several of the council and school board candidates this year are now our friends, and most are friendly acquaintances. I look back at Will’s observations of mayoral and council candidates at the last Queensborough All-Candidates’ meeting and our endorsements in 2008 and it’s funny – we snubbed some of the people who we have grown to like and respect. Like most voters, all we had to go on was election flyers, the all-candidates’ meeting and newspaper coverage. In other words, we had to rely on secondary sources, and it’s very hard to get a true measure of a person via leaflets, reporters or 30-second stump speeches. This too is a secondhand report, but in it I hope to show a bit about the people on the ballot. If you are able, I encourage you to meet the candidates in person – many of them are quite different than how they come across on paper or in pixels.

This post will not offer any specific endorsements, just some observations and notes that I took during the all-candidates’ meeting. Given the disclosure above that some of these candidates have become friends, I do want to reveal up front who these are. I’m no journalist, and like everyone I am not unbiased. I’d rather be honest about my biases, and let you temper your own judgements about what I say based on this disclosure. Candidates I would call friends (people with whom I have shared a beer or other informal social time) include Jonathan Cote and Jaimie McEvoy on council and Jonina Campbell and MaryAnn Mortensen on school board. I am friendly (though not close) with John Ashdown, who was one of the early co-organizers for the inaugural Summerfest event, as well as James Crosty and Wayne Wright, who were my Quayside neighbours when I first moved to New Westminster. I have also had several friendly conversations with Betty McIntosh and incumbent trustee Lisa Graham. To be clear, being “friendly” with someone doesn’t automatically mean I would vote for or endorse him or her. I don’t agree politically with all my friends – it takes the fun out of talking politics if everyone agrees on everything!

Now, on to the all-candidates meeting report. I took a lot of notes at the all-candidates’ meeting – and in fact, was berated for it by a fellow citizen who accused me of being a City shill (and, when I said I was blogging, demanded I tell him who I was blogging for - as though it couldn’t possibly be for my own fun). This was the same guy who kept asking long-winded leading questions and then shouted down any candidate who dared try to answer them. All the politicos took it in stride. This won’t be the first, or the last time they will be loudly attacked by someone who takes advantage of a public question period to share an angry rant.

Here are some of the quotes, observations and paraphrased comments that stuck out for me for each of the candidates. They are in no particular order.

Mayoral candidates

“No mayor walks by himself.” – Incumbent Wayne Wright, who said that he feels the current council works very well together, evidenced by the fact that there have been only two tied votes in the last six years. He appealed to voters to choose a leader and six to go with him. Wayne is running on his record, of course, and used the mic to remind everyone about the many changes he’s brought about during his term, particularly the transformation of Queensborough (since the all-candidates meeting was hosted by that residents association).

“Sports and music are ways to bring people together” – Francois Nantel, an affable Quebecker, mentioned several times that social events are important to build community. The mayoral dark horse suggested the creation of a mayors’ slo-pitch league to encourage more citizen involvement. He also said that he was unaware of any music festivals that were hosted in New Westminster, which was a surprise. There are several, including the 12th St. Festival, organized by council candidate John Ashdown.

“I’m neither an asteroid nor a star, just a guy with his feet planted firmly on the ground.” – Vance McFayden positioned himself as a pragmatic, middle-of-the-road populist, promising that he’d initiate a program of four open town halls per year where citizens could discuss the issues that matter to them with mayor & council. He told me prior to the debate that he was a good choice because he had “no ties.” I think he was referring to Wayne’s well-known connections to developers, and perhaps hinting that the other front-runner, James Crosty (who was absent) had his own “ties” to be wary of. The surprise mayoral contender wore a giant photo button on his lapel with a picture of his father – apparently a family tradition to celebrate the life of someone who has recently passed (Vance’s  elderly Dad died on Sunday, and it is the reason why Vance didn’t announce his candidacy earlier).

As I mentioned, James Crosty was absent, but he sent several volunteers to distribute flyers bearing his apology and an explanation: he was at a residents’ meeting in uptown New West that he said he committed to two months ago. James has been visiting all the local residents’ associations to introduce himself and shake hands (I ran into him at the last West End residents’ meeting a month ago), as well as attending citizen-organized chats upon request. James has been the most visible challenger so far, having started his “citizen advocate” campaign months ahead of the official announcement that he was seeking the mayor’s chair. I was surprised that he did  not show, prior engagement or no.

Council candidates

“Ladies and gentlemen, I shall be short because the chairs are hard…” - Crusty council candidate James Bell appeared frail but peppered the evening with irreverent one-liners.  Quite genteel in our conversation following the debate, he was fiercely outspoken on a few issues, specifically commenting on the hazard to pedestrians and cars of open ditches in Queensborough. His final remark was, “Ladies & gentlemen I want to thank you for enduring these hard seats while you were subjected to word hypnosis.” James is also running for school trustee.

“When I got into city politics it was to answer the question, ‘can compassion and politics go together?’ The answer is yes, I believe they can.” – Incumbent councillor Jaimie McEvoy, whose day job is the director of the Hospitality Project in New Westminster, is an outspoken advocate for New Westminster’s most disadvantaged residents. He has a closer view of the impacts of poverty than most, on the front lines of one the largest food bank in the Lower Mainland, serving 3,000 people every month. Thoughtful and self-effacing in a one-to-one conversation, I was surprised to find that Jamie is a hell of a debater. I’ve never seen him in action before.

“My name is Chuck Puchmayr, and … I’m back!” - Former MLA Chuck Puchmayr introduced himself with a note of surprise, acknowledging his last-minute declaration of intent to run for council. He delayed his entry into the race until he got a bill of clean health from his doctor after his recent battle with cancer. Chuck is a polished politician and expertly reminded all of his successes as MLA and councillor as he responded to questions. Chuck’s got a cheeky sense of humour, as seen in his choice of URL: politicallycorrect.ca.

“I want to help build a better communication between the city of New Westminster and the people of New West. That is, your concerns and issues, we want them to be properly answered.” – A self-described “rookie” politician, Gerry Liu apologized several times for his lack of polish. Polish or no, he has heart.

“Development Cost Charges should be transparent so that citizens can see how the money is spent” – Harpreet Singh Sihota echoed a sentiment that ran strong in Queensborough. Many in the audience demanded more transparency in terms of how the money paid to the City by developers is spent. Some suspected that money levied in Queensborough was funneled towards improvements uptown, however all incumbent councillors said unequivocally that all DCCs collected in Queensborough are spent in Queensborough, pointing to water and sewer upgrades, new parks, the rec centre expansion and upcoming Ewen St. upgrades as examples of how this money has been spent.

“We’re one of the only cities that allows open delegation to council meetings. It’s risky, but you know what, we want to hear from the citizens of this city.” - Incumbent Lorrie Williams’ plain-spoken reply  to a question about how citizens can voice their opinions to the City. A councillor for nine years, Lorrie was asked several times to defend recent council performance. She said this council had accomplished a lot, though it wasn’t enough for some critics in the audience. Lorrie pointed out, with the voice of experience, “Things take longer than you think.”

“It’s important that we have a city hall that cares.” – Jonathan Cote spoke about the social and environmental issues he is so passionate about. He mentioned there has been a 45% decline in the homeless population in New Westminster since establishing more shelters in New West.

“I will bring balance back to council.” – Veteran former councillor Cal Donnelly, who has served under five mayors, appealed to voters to bring him back to council. Cal was the only politician to include a QR code and a link to a Surveymonkey survey on his election flyer, though, oddly, not an official website.

“One of the most important things we’ve done in the last three years is the official apology to the Chinese community,” – Bill Harper, responding to a question about multiculturalism and inclusiveness in New Westminster, mentioned the apology for the city’s racist past was very meaningful for many Chinese-Canadians. Harper also mentioned that the controversial DCCs mentioned earlier used to be among the lowest in the region at $750/unit. Council has raised the fee to $6,500 per unit, which is closer to the middle of the pack.

“We need our fun. You can’t live in a city where there is no fun.” – Paul Mulangu, who recently made headlines for chaining himself to a door and launching a hunger strike to protest funding cuts to his Centre of Integration for African Immigrants, focused on the need to encourage more multiculturalism and culture in New West.

“It’s not up to City Hall to tell people what is good for them, it’s up to people to tello City Hall what they want and need.” – Former Arts Council Chair Susan Wandell, speaking about the importance of citizen involvement.

“This city is doing its share for the region.”  - Betty McIntosh pointed out that because some neighbouring municipalities do not have homeless shelters and other services for the poor, New Westminster is shouldering more than its share of the responsibility for their care. She mentioned that New Westminster has 1,900 subsidized housing units – a lot for a population of about 60,000 people.

“Every councillor has personal phone numbers. If you need a private meeting, call us and we will come.”  - Bob Osterman and the other incumbent councillors tried to stress how open they are for citizens to share their concerns. Communication and transparency in city dealings was a recurring concern voiced by citizens in their questions for the candidates.

Gavin Palmer was also in attendance, however I didn’t catch any quotable lines from him. He is an outspoken Queensborough advocate.

Several council candidates were no-shows, including:

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95 kg of trash collected at Queensborough shoreline cleanup

This is a guest post by Karla Olson, site director of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup event that happened in Queensborough last Sunday.

Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

On Sunday, September 25, the Carter Foreshore Park and the South Dyke Road from Gifford Street to Boundary Road in Queensborough were targeted for cleanup by 28 people who participated in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Even though downpours occurred just before and after, the event was rain free.

Participants came from Delta, Surrey, New Westminster and Vancouver. Local participants included NWSS teachers Axel Krause and Luke Mayba and several of their NWSS environmental club students, Councillors Jonathan Cote and Bill Harper, and NWEP Directors Andrew Murray, Marcel Pitre, and Andrew Feltham (who was also the Invasive Plant-Pull Leader).

Councillor Bill Harper, Rupinder Kaur and Amy Dhatt. Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

Councillor Bill Harper, Rupinder Kaur and Amy Dhatt. Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

At first glance, participants wondered what garbage could be found. After 2 hours, starting the list with some of the more unusual items, they found a set of house keys still attached to a backpack, 1 chair, lots of caution tape, a door knob, 3 knickknack statues, a bucket full of hardened cement, a nail clipper, paint cans and lots of garbage: 93 plastic bags, 40 glass beverage bottles, 66 pop cans, 91 food wrappers, 4 bleach containers, 17 buoys, 2 fishing lines, 8 oil bottles, 2 tires, 50 large pieces of Styrofoam, and the number one littered item: 157 cigarette butts found concentrated around the lovely sitting and viewing areas that the City recently put in.

Collecting approximately 95 kg of litter was a bittersweet moment for participants.

Marion Orser and Councillor Jonathan Cote. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

Marion Orser and Councillor Jonathan Cote. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

“I was surprised and disappointed to see how much garbage we actually found,” said Jonathan Cote, Councillor for New Westminster. “We saw everything from paint cans to furniture. Our riverfront is a sensitive environment and we cannot allow it to become a dumping site.”

Cleanups can be difficult because success can really feel like defeat for the participants. Every person experienced it. When they returned to the gathering area with their bag of collected garbage, they all had big smiles on their faces until the moment they saw the amount of garbage that others had also collected. It was a difficult moment to witness this loss of joy. But no one person could have achieved what we did that day. Seeing the achievement of the group effort and realizing that people can change things makes all the difference.

“It was inspiring to see the diversity of those who participated as well as how many young people showed up. Collectively, in the space of a few hours, a real difference was made and demonstrates what is possible,” said New Westminster Environmental Partners Director Andrew Murray.

Right from the start when people showed up, they could see that the City of New Westminster had loaned us gloves, some tools to collect the garbage, and that they were coming the next day to pick it up made people not only feel better, but supported. To help improve the positive impact we also planned an invasive plant removal at the same time.

“I’ve done many Shoreline Clear Ups before and that was the best attended, most motivated volunteers, and most productive I’ve been to. I really liked that we did the invasives removal,” said invasive plant-pull leader Andrew Feltham. “A nice change from picking up other people’s garbage!”

For 2 hours, participants pulled, dug, and carefully collected every part of the invasive Japanese Knotweed from one area in front of the Suzuki Street viewpoint walkout. So invasive is this plant that it can re-grow if even the smallest stem part is left on the ground. It is for this reason, 6 bags of Knotweed were slated for safe disposal as garbage pickup. Other volunteers freed a nearby Douglas fir from being strangled and possibly toppled by English Ivy, resulting in 4 bags of organic yard waste.

New Westminster can be proud.

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New West volunteers needed for Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup this weekend

Two plastic pop bottles washed onto the bank of the Fraser River in Queensborough. Photo courtesy NWEP.

Two plastic pop bottles washed onto the bank of the Fraser River in Queensborough. Photo courtesy NWEP.

When I was young and living in Alberta in the 1980’s, I belonged to the Dairy 4-H Club. One of our big projects every year was Highway Clean-up. We picked up garbage on the side of the Highway for probably about 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon. It was amazing to see the amount of garbage that littered the side of the road.

Fast forward to 2011. Have we as humans learned our lesson about littering? It seems that we as a collective whole have not. That is why The Vancouver Aquarium partnered with TD Canada Trust and started the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up, happening this weekend in New Westminster and beyond.

Every year tons of garbage collects on the vast shore lines of Canada and across the world. Marine life eat cigarette butts and get caught in plastic pop rings. Also, plastic never fully decomposes in the water, it breaks down into minute particles, which are then swallowed by fish, and then we consume the fish. We are literally eating our own garbage.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems. This year, with the City of New Westminster, the New West Environmental Partners (NWEP) has committed to taking care of two sections along the Fraser River: the Carter Foreshore Park and the South Dyke Road. There is also a group working on the Central Valley Greenway in Sapperton.

As a volunteer, you can take part in the shoreline cleanup along with an invasive plant pull to help take care of our portion of the Fraser River. The Cleanup is about more than just picking up garbage. An important part is collecting data on the numbers and types of garbage found. As a volunteer, you will see for yourself the types of litter people throw out and which have the highest amounts. Having this data helps people to understand the behaviours that lead to littering and find ways to get people to stop.

Let’s do the environment and ourselves a favour and spend one day picking up garbage along the shoreline. The event runs this weekend, but it’s not too late to sign up.

Please visit: http://shorelinecleanup.ca. There is a search function; just type in New Westminster. There are a few different New West locations that are available for you to sign up with:

On Sunday, September 25, the tide will be low, making it perfect for an hour or two of shoreline clean-up. The City is providing bags and will make sure that the collected trash and invasive plants will be properly taken away and disposed of. All you need to do is show up and make sure you are dressed for the weather and for being outside—boots/shoes that you don’t mind getting a little muddy and pants and long-sleeved shirts/jackets to protect yourself from reeds and tree branches. Participants under age 19 must bring a signed waiver to participate.

Let’s put on our rain boots and gloves for Mother Nature!

Event Details:

  • What: The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup – New Westminster
  • Date: Sunday, September 25
  • Start Time: 9:30AM
  • Meeting Location: walkout at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster
  • Wear: boots/shoes that can get muddy, long pants, gloves
  • Tools for the Invasive Pull: shovels, pitch forks, pruning shears, hedge clippers—remember to label/mark your tools for identification
  • Good to Have: water, snacks, etc to
  • Participants under 19 must attend with their parent or guardian or bring a signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.
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Megan’s Top 10 Reasons Why New West is Awesome

This is a guest post by Megan Sargent, a recent tranplant from Ontario via Prairies for a nine-year stop on her way to the West Coast.

The renovated River Market will be a treat when it opens. Photo: Briana Tomkinson.

The renovated River Market will be a treat when it opens. Photo: Briana Tomkinson.

1. The Quay/Boardwalk

The Quay is being redone! No longer ugly and mostly empty, it’s got a shiny new renovation and is set to open very soon. The Boardwalk along the Fraser River is great for running, walking, holding hands, and watching Sea Lions and Harbour Seals in the water (it’s true! I saw three of them playing around by the Quay two weeks ago), and watching the tugboats.

2. The mall at New West Station.

In the process of being done right now. This mall will have a movie theatre attached to the SkyTrain station! How awesome is that?

3. New West is close to everything.

The SkyTrain. Just 27min to downtown. Bonuses: 85% of the time you get a seat and 100% of the time you don’t have to transfer at Commercial.
New West has fast connections to the 99, highway 1, etc. Making it fast and easy to get to Delta, Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Vancouver, Richmond -basically anywhere in the Lower Mainland.

4. Rent is cheap.

Rent is a whole lot cheaper than Downtown Vancouver. I recently saw an ad for a two-level loft condo with water and mountain views on the Quay for $1200 a month.

5. New West has a lot of bars and restaurants.

Seriously. I think the per capita of bars to people in New West is astronomical. And not scuzzy bars either (although we have those too! Hey, everyone needs those sometimes).

There are loads of sushi places in New West, plus there are cool restaurants like The Heritage Grill, which has live music every night. And the pubs: River’s Reach, The Terminal, etc. And we have a martini bar. Who needs Yaletown and Yaletown priced drinks?

Plus we have “Fever” the nightclub, if you’re into that sort of thing.

6. New West has lots of great recreation spots.

  • There is a Bikram’s yoga studio right across the street from Columbia Skytrain station.
  • Queen’s Park!
  • There are cheap lacrosse games to go to.
  • There is $1 skating on Wed nights at Moody Park Arena
  • The Quay boardwalk
  • The New Westminster Secondary School District has lots of great adult programs. They have tons of stuff like photography classes, Yoga, Women’s Floor Hockey, cooking classes, and Tai Chi (which I’m taking right now) and they’re cheap!
  • There are putting in a new waterfront park along Front Street, which will have beach volley ball courts (so I’m told), if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • There are at least 3 off-leash dog parks that I know about (and I don’t have a dog) .

7. New West if full of awesome Heritage Houses

A lot of times I just go for walks to see all the amazing houses and architecture around.

8. New West is FULL of great breakfast/brunch places.

My personal favourite right now is Couzies. But there are lots of great brunch options and coffee shops.

9. New West has great shopping.

What? I know what you’re thinking, but it’s true! There is Army & Navy, plus lots of funky independent stores and if those don’t float your boat there are the outlet stores in Queensborough.

10. New West has a strong sense of community.

We are fun people to hang out with. Enough said.


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Poplar Island: A History as Thick and Colorful as the Trees

Poplar Island and the original trees before 1890 as New Westminster grows in the background (NWPL-1912 Web Database)

Poplar Island and the original trees before 1890 as New Westminster grows in the background (NWPL-1912 Web Database)

People looking down to the Fraser River from the West End and enjoying beautiful views from the River Walk at Port Royal or the Esplanade at Westminster Quay always notice the cottonwood trees growing tall and wild on Poplar Island. It appears untouched by anyone, but it actually has a long history. Many things, people and struggles have lived for 150 years on or about the unique island.

150 years ago, when the Royal Engineers first arrived in what was to become New Westminster, they found a strong community that had successfully been living here for thousands of years.  To establish the new colonial capital Col. Richard Moody chose to segregate these people, known as the “New Westminster Indian Band” by Col. Moody and now the “Qayqayt”, to one of 3 places called “rancheries” . One of the rancheries was located on a small island on the North Arm of the Fraser River just downstream of the new community. Col. Moody named it Poplar Island for the trees that grew on it. The Colonial Government maintained this and many other rancheries as reservations until B.C. joined Canada in 1871.  The reservations were then turned over to the administration of the Federal Dominion of Canada.

Unfortunately, with the European settlers in B.C. (and throughout North America) came diseases such as smallpox causing several epidemics that affected the native population. As settlement spread up the Fraser River an epidemic occurred in 1889. Because it was not connected to any other part of New Westminster, Poplar Island was chosen as a place to quarantine smallpox victims.   In July, New Westminster Mayor John Hendry reported to council that “prompt steps had been taken to prevent the spread” and that a “good hospital had been created on Poplar Island to which patients as far as known had been removed” (City Minutes-July, 1889). $100 was spent to build the hospital.  It is believed that many native people from around Vancouver were transported to Poplar Island during the epidemic and many may have been buried there. Because of its association with smallpox, most residents of New Westminster looked sadly upon Poplar Island and it was ignored and became uninhabited for a number of years.

The War Comox being launched from Poplar Island by the Samson III in April of 1918. The War Edenshaw, War Kitimat and War Ewen were also built on Poplar Island (from Samson V Museum Collection)

The War Comox being launched from Poplar Island by the Samson III in April of 1918. The War Edenshaw, War Kitimat and War Ewen were also built on Poplar Island (from Samson V Museum Collection)

During the First World War, a place was needed to build War Ships in New Westminster. Most of the waterfront was already used for mills and shipping, so New Westminster Construction and Engineering was founded in 1917 and within a month, they had totally cleared Poplar Island, built a rough foot bridge across from the foot of 14th Street and built a working shipyard for the Imperial Munitions Board. Four warships were built in the next year and launched from Poplar Island. About 600 workers earned $4-10 daily and built some more coal carriers for France shortly after the war. Because the island easily flooded, not much more work was done to continue industrializing it. From Port Royal and the Quay today, part of the dock where the ships were all launched from can still be seen at the Eastern end of Poplar Island.

A Fisheries warden lived on the island but in 1940, the city zoned Poplar Island for industrial use and the city bought it in 1945. Not many ideas came up, so in 1948 the city sold the entire Island for $20,000 to Rayonier Canada Forestry. For about 50 years tall trees grew back on the island as big booms of logs were anchored around it while they waited to be processed at the lumber and paper mills around Poplar Island. Much discussion about what the use of it might be and native land claims were discussed and so Western Forest Products sold the Island back to the Province of British Columbia in 1995 to be preserved.

Not much more has been done to decide how to use Poplar Island because of its history. It is now the only large Island on the North Arm of the Fraser that remains without dikes. It was suggested as a connection point for a pedestrian bridge between Port Royal and Downtown without decision a few years ago, homeless people took up residence about 5 years ago for a while and treaty negotiations have continued. Poplar Island is now mainly a place that people look upon in contrast to all the busy and rapidly changing places that surround it.

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New Westminster soon to be inundated with grocery choices

New Westminster may soon have the distinction of having the most large grocery stores per capita in the Lower Mainland.

The grocery aisle at Wal-Mart. Photo: ratterrell (via Flickr)

The grocery aisle at Wal-Mart. Photo: ratterrell (via Flickr)

Wal-Mart has applied to open a new grocery supercentre in its Queensborough store. Thrifty Foods has just been announced as an anchor tenant in Sapperton’s coming Brewery District mixed-retail/residential complex next to SkyTrain and Royal Columbian Hospital. A new Safeway is coming to the Plaza 88 development at New Westminster SkyTrain. And of course, the River Market will open this summer as a newly food-focused destination with an as-yet-unnamed anchor grocer.

Meanwhile, Save-On just opened last summer up at Sixth & Sixth near the established Safeway in Royal City Centre, and IGA continues to draw Quayside & Downtown shoppers in Columbia Square. Then there’s the Safeway on McBride, big-box stores like PriceSmart, Choices and Superstore in neighbouring Burnaby and Coquitlam, a plethora of small local mom ‘n pop produce shops, specialty bakeries and butchers, and the Royal City Farmers Market.

How many grocery choices does a small city need? New Westminster has gone for so long with only a few megastores, and now suddenly we’re being inundated with them.

Perhaps there’s something we don’t know. I’d love to see the market research behind the decisions to locate new stores here. Big chains like Wal-Mart, Save-On and Thrifty Foods don’t open new locations on a whim.

My hunch: this is one more indication that the pace of change is about to accelerate in this city. Those new condo towers are finally ready to be filled with empty nesters and young professionals priced out of downtown, and the big box stores know it. New West is about to get a lot livelier.

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Strong Start a haven for preschoolers (and their mums)

A few times a week, I pack the kids across town from our home in the West End to Strong Start over at McBride Elementary in Sapperton. Wesley love, love, LOVES to go to “school” and I love, love, LOVE that it’s both free and fun for all of us.

Wesley at play in the StrongStart sandbox. Photo: Briana Tomkinson.

Wesley at play in the StrongStart sandbox. Photo: Briana Tomkinson.

Strong Start is a free, provincially funded, parent-participation preschool prep program for babies and children under five. It’s a great way for parents and caregivers to get the kids out of the house and socializing with other children while also getting preschoolers a small taste of school routine.

There are currently two Strong Start centres in New Westminster: McBride in Sapperton(9am-12pm Monday-Friday)  and Queen Elizabeth Elementary in Queensborough (9am-12pm Monday & Friday; Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 4-7pm). A third centre is planned to open in the West End at the end of March, at Connaught Heights Elementary (drop-in times haven’t yet been announced).

A typical Strong Start day begins and ends with free play in a room full of toys, art supplies, books and costumes. Sandwiched in the middle is a simple “school” routine: clean-up, snack, gym, and circle time.

I can’t say enough about how awesome it is. I can’t even pick a favourite activity. My son adores the free play, but I think the snack/gym/circle routine is really cool and good for him to experience.

The snacks are healthy and yummy, typically including fresh fruit pieces, cheerios and fishy crackers with water to drink. Gym is a lifesaver during the cold and rainy winter months. Parents and kids trek over to the school gymnasium and the little ones run wild with bouncy balls, hockey sticks, wiffle balls and hula hoops. And during circle time, Wesley not only gets to hear a story and play some silly circle games, but I also get to learn a few new tunes & tricks to deploy when he gets too squirrelly at home.

I also appreciate that the Strong Start teachers have no fear of messy activities. My son can choose to be up to his elbows in flour, mash shaving cream all over a table, shake glitter all over a picture, mush around a goopy cornstarch-powered paste or cut construction paper into teeny-tiny pieces – all things I’d been a little afraid to try at home!

Plus, while all this is going on, parents, grandparents and babysitters can enjoy coffee or tea and commiserate about the crazy things small children do. Of all the kid activities I’ve tried, Strong Start has been the best environment for meeting other local parents. The only downside is that the program is so good that it’s very popular (and therefore can get so busy that it can be overwhelming).

I’ve got to give the B.C. Government, our local school district and the others behind this program full props. It’s amazing, and I’m so happy to see it expanding here in New West. In my opinion, it would be a worthy addition to every neighbourhood school. Then, kids could actually attend the Strong Start at the school they will enter in kindergarten, which could go a long way to relieving kids’ (and parents’) anxiety on the first full day of school.

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Knock on wood: no flood this year

Good news for Quayside and Queensborough: the Fraser River spring runoff has peaked and is now receding. In plain English: we are unlikely to see a repeat of the 2007 floodwatch that saw Quayside sandbagged and residents put on evacuation alert.

Sunrise on New West Quay in May 2007. Photo by Intelligent Calcium

Sunrise on New West Quay in May 2007. Photo by Intelligent Calcium

The City of New West Office of Emergency Management sent out a two-paragraph media release about it today based on information from the B.C. Ministry of Environment River Forecast Centre: given current snow conditions in the mountains, there is a very low probability for water levels to rise again this year.

Having been nine months pregnant and living on Quayside during the 2007 scare, I am very happy to hear it! I remember having vivid dreams of going into labour during an emergency evacuation, or discovering post-birth that I couldn’t go back home. This may have been when I dreamed I had to put Baby to sleep in a shoebox.

Being proactive folks, the emergency management folks used the second paragraph of the release to remind us all of our duty to prepare a family emergency plan and 72-hour survival kit in case of floods, earthquake, power outages, severe storms and other disasters. They’ve even compiled a helpful checklist for procrastinators on the city’s website.

Speaking of procrastinators, now that we’re expecting baby #2, maybe we should finally get on that emergency kit – if only to limit the scope of my progesterone-fueled nightmares.

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Port Royal gets controversial height variance

Despite vocal opposition from Quayside residents concerned about the impact on their views, city council has approved the request by Port Royal developer Aragon Properties to build a taller tower in Queensborough.

On Monday city council voted 5-2 in favour of a height variance for the Queensborough tower, which will allow the developer to add 28 more feet to the highrise.

Coun. Bob Osterman and Bill Harper opposed the variance.

Source: Port Royal tower to be taller | New Westminster News Leader

As The Record’s Theresa McManus reports, the decision illustrates that election endorsements don’t always translate into influence:

Allegations that city councillors who are endorsed by the New Westminster District and Labour Council or the Voice New Westminster electors group didn’t hold any weight in council’s consideration of a development variance for the Aragon Group’s proposed highrise at Port Royal.

Coun. Bill Harper, who was endorsed by the labour council, opposed the variance. Councillors Jonathan Cote, Jaimie McEvoy and Lorrie Williams, also endorsed by the New Westminster District and Labour Council, supported the variance

Councilors Bob Osterman and Betty McIntosh, members of the Voice New Westminster slate, were on opposing sides of the vote – a fact that made McIntosh smile. McIntosh supported the variance, while Osterman was opposed.

Source: Independent Thinkers | Only In New West (Royal City Record)

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Diesel spill on the Fraser River

There’s an ugly “sheen” on the Fraser right now, and a strong smell, caused by a burst pipe at a CN rail yard in Surrey. The spill was contained by cleanup crews from several environmental organizations. The diesel may have made its way downriver as far as Queensborough.

Yoss Leclerc, harbour master with Port Metro Vancouver, said the diesel came from a CN rail yard in Surrey, where a land-based pipe ruptured and spilled diesel into the river. The pipe ruptured Monday afternoon and was stopped within an hour.

“There was a sheen on the river,” said Leclerc about the spill that was detected by a Port Metro Vancouver patrol boat. “The crew was trying to figure out the source.”

According to Leclerc, the patrol boat reported the spill to the Coast Guard. Other agencies, such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada, were also informed.

“There was no report of affected wildlife or anything like that,” Leclerc said. “Nothing was found.”

Two environmental response organizations attended the scene to clean up the spill.

- More: Diesel oil hits Fraser River | Royal City Record 

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No school in Grimston, school board decides

Grimston Park will be protected space, and will not be considered as a future school site according to last night’s school board vote. This is great for the West End, who would have lost its only large park, but leaves New West in a bit of a pickle. New schools must be built, but where? To further complicate matters, our school district is facing a $2 million budget shortfall. We have neither time, nor money, nor resources. So what to do?

Some creative thinking is called for! Some of the ideas I’ve heard kicked around include:

  • Sending some New West kids to Burnaby schools (working with that city’s school authorities, of course … though attending by stealth would be funnier … I’m picturing balaclava-clad kids scurrying across Tenth every morning, hiding behind bushes and trees like you’d see in some Merrie Melodies cartoon … maybe that’s just funny to me)
  • Building a new high school in Queensborough, where there’s a little more room to breathe
  • Building multi-storey elementary schools instead of single-storey
  • Building parking lots underground in order to build on smaller lots (not currently funded by the province, but that should change IMHO)

Any other ideas? At this point I’m wondering if I should be planning to homeschool!

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