Category Archives: Sapperton

Learning to Sew in New Westminster

At some point last fall I got the itch to start sewing.

I began dreaming about crafting my own clothes, mending existing garments and having the overall knowledge to begin a sewing project. Without any previous sewing experience, I got anxious and worried who to ask to teach me or to lend me their machine to practice on. I was prepared to self-teach and hope for the best.

But then, thanks to Google, I discovered Sew Good, a home-based business in Sapperton that offers a range of sewing classes for beginners like me. After the pre-requisite search for online reviews (all positive and encouraging), I signed up for an Intro Beginners class in February and committed to four three-hour evening sessions. My first project was a 6-panel, elastic waist skirt. Fancy.

The owner-operator, Carley Struve, is a friendly and extremely patient instructor who put me at ease instantly.  Her basement is retro-fitted into a sewing studio with four newer Janome electronic sewing machines, cutting tables, ironing boards and irons, and an assortment of other sewing paraphernalia. The small class sizes enables a lot of one-on-one time with Carley and the opportunity to converse with the other students while making sense of patterns, fabric choice, threading machines, etc.

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I loved learning how to sew in a supportive and fun environment. I enjoyed the camaraderie and shared experiences with the gals I was sewing with, but best of all was that I was doing it so close to home and not stuck in my car traveling across the Lower Mainland. However, some people don’t mind driving; I was the only student in all three of the classes I have taken in the past three months who has lived in New Westminster. I was really surprised to hear that people were traveling from other cities in the Greater Vancouver area to attend these classes. I think that says a lot for the quality of sewing classes offered at SewGood.

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I would consider myself a confident beginner sewer now and I am tackling projects at home on my new sewing machine (a mid-range Husqvarna, if you must know!), but I am still enrolled in classes at SewGood because:

  1. I like learning with other people; contributing ideas and questions within a group reinforces the information
  2. The projects all involve new technical aspects that I likely would have not taught myself
  3. It’s a night out once a week that I look forward to (and it’s a quick 5 minute drive)

I think Sew Good is a great place to learn to sew and to continue your sewing education. The SewGood Facebook page is kept current and includes inspiring photos of students projects and class updates.

Here’s hoping you begin or continue your sewing journey with as much pleasure as I have had.

 

Note: Andra was not asked to write this article, nor did SewGood compensate her in any way. 

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Shop owner and brew enthusiast, Curtis Van Marck

Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies a welcome addition to Sapperton

There is a significant amount of excitement at my house these days because no longer will my husband have to head to Vancouver to pick up beer making supplies (one of the better known and more popular suppliers in the region has set up shop on Hastings, just east of Main) to knock off a batch of basement brew. Even more exciting is that just-opened-today local business, Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies,  has opted to find space in Sapperton – within walking distance of our house. This bodes well for those doh! moments in home brewing when you realize you have the wrong kind of yeast or not enough hops, or not enough growlers to bottle the batch (although judging from the glass collection under my stairs, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon).

Home brewing has become pretty huge in our house lately. Ross and his friends have started out big, choosing to go all-grain right off the bat, meaning, they are actually boiling up the grains rather than mixing extracts up. It’s akin to starting with grapes when you make wine rather than buying a kit with powders or extracts you mix together. Purists argue it is better beer, and also more controllable or customizable. Once every few weeks, our basement and laundry room are transformed into full-on nano brewery, and I suspect it is only a matter of time before more permanent brewing installations will be suggested for that empty corner of the basement.

Today I popped into Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies to see what owner Curtis Van Marck, had to offer on his first official day in business. Curtis hails from Edmonton by way of East Van, and chose New Westminster as the location for his business because of a large home brewing population in the suburbs, and because of its proximity to the Skytrain. And while I can’t imagine personally hauling 16 pounds of grains to or on the train, the proximity to a Modo car sharing car at Sapperton station is definitely attractive for those who opt not to own their own car.

Van Marck has lined his shop (located at 101-455 E Columbia Street) with tubs of grains, a variety of yeasts, and assorted other supplies like sanitizer, bottle racks, bungs, carboys, and mash tuns. Don’t know what any of that is? It’s okay to ask. On his site Curtis offers some advice and how-to’s to get you going, in-store, he offers the supplies and gear to make it happen (plus a shelf for us wine drinkers and wannabe wine brewers, though that’s not the focus of the shop). Fun feature? A bike powered grain mill.

While inventory is still trickling in, he is now up and running every day except Tuesdays (breaking rank on the long standing closed-on-Mondays-New-Westminster-ism that drives me bonkers) and maintains the following hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays: 10-6, Thursdays he is open later to accomodate those that plan ahead for weekend brews from 10-8, and Sundays 11-5.

You can find Barley’s online, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

(If you are into homebrewing in New West, you can also check out the Brew Westminster Google Group (you need to ask to join to cut down on spammers) and use #brewwestminster on Twitter.)

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The shops I wish we had in New West

If New West's fairy godmother offered to fast-track a few new shops, here's what I'd wish for ... (Photo: suttonhoo on Flickr)

If New West’s fairy godmother offered to fast-track a few new shops, here’s what I’d wish for … (Photo: suttonhoo on Flickr)

I have many favourite boutiques and restaurants in New West, and it seems to me there are more opening all the time. But if I had a fairy godmother who would fast-track a few new businesses for me, here is what I would wish for:

A truly great coffee shop
New West does not lack for coffee shops, but it does lack for great coffee. A JJ Bean would be awesome, or better yet, something like Raw Canvas in Yaletown, which combines great coffee with a great creative space (and turns into a wine bar / lounge at night!). I want it down on Columbia Street, which just seems like the right place for a cool cafe.

An indoor play space for kids (that is also comfortable for parents)
While restaurants and cafes with adjacent play areas are popular in other parts of the city (Kinder Cafe in Coquitlam, Rocky Mountain Flatbread on Main, Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial), there isn’t anything in New West or nearby. There are also large indoor active play areas, Koko’s Activity Centre in Port Moody, Crash Crawly’s in Coquitlam and Jungle Jac’s in Pitt Meadows, but all of these are awful for parents – and far away to boot. I would love to see a fun place where kids can play on a rainy day and parents can sit in a comfortable chair and chat with each other over good quality coffee and snacks. Bonus points if the food is healthier / more interesting than just hot dogs and pizza. I had thought that the space where Dynamic Health and Fitness is now in Royal City Centre would have made a great large indoor play space, but River Market would be another good bet for a mid-sized space. A restaurant with a small play area could be done anytime by any of our existing restaurants. Yes, it’s fewer tables, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve overheard local parents (mostly moms) pining for such a space in New West.

A hip greasy spoon diner
Back when Will and I lived downtown (years ago!), we’d often head out to The Templeton for a hearty, hip breakfast on Granville St. This weekend when we were considering where to go in New West for breakfast, there was nowhere that quite fit the bill: independents like the Coming Home Cafe and The Hideout Cafe were likely to be closed (it was Remembrance Day) and we were left with various chain restaurants or the greasiest of greasy spoons (cheap, but no atmosphere and mediocre food). We ended up at The Boathouse for brunch, which was good in its own way, but we spent the meal daydreaming about what a great Columbia St. eatery would be like. Re-Up/Fathom sometimes has brunch on the weekends, and it is very good. Maybe the owners could be convinced to open a breakfast joint on Columbia next?

A brew pub
Last night Twitter erupted in disappointment when word got out that Brown’s Social House would be the pub tenant at the Brewery District in Sapperton. New West has a nascent craft beer community, including some intrepid home-brewers, and a local brew pub was on their wish list. I’m sure Brown’s will become a popular destination for a certain type of night out, but for now Hops remains the beer geek’s pub of choice in New West. But if there are any brew pub entrepreneurs out there reading this: Sapperton wants YOU.

A gift shop for men
We’ve got Brick and Mortar Living, Lofty Living, Cadeaux and Sonse Design (among others) where you can find a lovely little something for a woman, but men are much harder to shop for. I’d love to see someone open a Brick and Mortar-style boutique with little things for men to covet and women to gift. Ideally it would tap into the Art of Manliness movement – most men’s gift stores I’ve seen are full of unimaginative, uninspired garbage. In my opinion, this sort of store would do well on Columbia St., to tap into the wedding market and give brides something really nice to buy for their husbands, or grooms to select for their groomsmen.

An independent toy store
Yes, we had one of those (two if you count the oddly named & situated Kids Kloset), but since Pedagogy Toys closed, there’s been nowhere to go locally to buy gifts for kids. I love shopping at toy stores, and I would love to see someone give an independent toy store another go. I think a toy store would do well uptown. There are lots of parents and grandparents out and about during the day, heading to Moody Park and the Library, and I could see a lot of walk-by traffic from folks in the area to do banking, grocery shopping or other errands. A toy store in the vein of the Village Toy Shop in Port Moody would be perfect.

A neighbourhood coffee shop on 12th St
Poor, poor 12th St. It has struggled for so long and is in quite the slump right now. The hill really limits how far people will walk the street, especially without a chain of awesomeness to draw you up, one store at a time. Amber’s Choice is a nice cafe at the top of the hill, but if you’re around 6th Ave or below, it’s a long way to hike for a coffee and a muffin. John Ashdown’s old cafe, Village Coffee Lounge, was in a perfect spot for neighbourhood customers, and as a resident of the West End I certainly feel its absence. I’d love to see more tightly clustered retail on 12th St., particularly around the nexus of 12th St and 6th Ave, anchored by a great community cafe.

A large mixed-use development at 22nd St. SkyTrain
Here’s the biggest item on my wish list. I want to see 22nd St. SkyTrain station built up. Last year, three of the five or six houses immediately next to the SkyTrain were up for sale at the same time, and I was holding my breath hoping a developer would buy them – alas, not how that story turned out. Still, I think a smaller-scale Plaza 88 ‘Shops at New West Station’-type development would be great there. The proximity to downtown on the SkyTrain is awesome from that station, just 25 minutes to Waterfront and less than 20 to the edge of downtown. The price per square foot vs. travel time to downtown work would be ideal for many folks. Plus, it would provide some walkable and useful businesses for the existing local residents in the area – and potentially lift the fortunes of some of the 20th St businesses as well (which suffer from the same issues as 12th St).

There’s more of course. I’d love to see more wearable street fashion, not just bridal, and more of a visible arts presence. I miss having an art supply store on the street (years ago Full Spectrum Art Supply bowed to the bridal market and turned into Paper Poet, a wedding invitation & papercraft store), and I often wish for an independent bookstore of the type I enjoy in La Conner, WA (The Next Chapter, check it out if you are ever in the area. Fireplace, comfy chairs, decent coffee and an expertly curated selection of titles).

But that’s me. What would you like to see?

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The loud side of civic engagement: Sapperton speaks out on EFry

Sapperton residents posted signs to demonstrate opposition to the Elizabeth Fry Society rezoning application. Photo: Will Tomkinson
Sapperton residents posted signs to demonstrate opposition to the Elizabeth Fry Society rezoning application. Photo: Will Tomkinson

United We Roar

An outside observer could be forgiven for thinking that New Westminster is rife with problems and dissent. Each day we hear of another action group bringing attention to an unwanted project or program or another group insisting that the community is in dire need of another service, amenity, policy or facility. So many of our eyes are focussed on glossy presentation boards in public forums, riotous Twitter battles , new blog entries and comments, visceral letters to the editor and reports and editorials in our local paper. Punching well above our weight, local councillors, trustees, resident’s association members and concerned citizens appear in regional and even national media on a regular basis, broadcasting the message that New Westminster is indeed grappling with weighty, weighty matters.

But is this the case? Is our city riven by conflict and acrimony? Torn between policy alternatives? So perpetually impaled on the horns of a dilemma that no amount of consultation, committee meetings or survey results can hope to bridge our collective chasms? No, I suggest that this is not the case. I suggest that, in fact, our community is more cohesive and productive than is usually expected in a plural, urban city. Our public debates are just the evidence of our well developed civic polity.

What we see, daily, exasperatingly, is the result of thousands of New Westminster residents expressing their opinions on topics that they plainly care about and about which they have obviously done some research. While some Residents’ Associations are an outspoken organ of public opinion and others languish in irrelevancy, what is true across the Royal City is that citizens, whether united in groups or standing up as individuals, care about what happens in their town and are prepared to express their opinions and act on their beliefs. What we hear and see, however, resembles constant strife as the victories and blessings of our town are not so vocally celebrated.

The residents of the great and dynamic community of Queensborough are unlikely to fill a blog post with thanks for an expanded community centre, additional police resources and some of the best playgrounds and schools in the city. Understandably, you will hear more about Queensborough as a forgotten or neglected neighbourhood with bridge traffic, poor pedestrian mobility and threatened by flooding and rapacious land developers.

West End and Connaught residents could be boasting about an inspired rebuild of the Grimston Park playground, the muscular housing and renovation boom or the significant upgrade of the civic plumbing (yawn). No, locals in this neighbourhood instead mention the complete lack of civic facilities in this third of the city, traffic on 20th St and where exactly their kids are supposed to go to school when Tweeds goes to the K-5 model.

Over in Kelvin and Uptown, do residents praise local improvements to Moody Park and the replacement of the Kiwanis pool? Do they thank City Hall for standing up against bad landlords and for the maintenance of rental housing inventory? No, but this is no surprise. Citizens here are more likely to bring up the speed of traffic next to the park, unruly behavior during the day in the commercial area near 6th 6th and in the evenings, in Moody Park. Businesses here bring up the unending road and sewer work and the absence of attention paid to the uptown merchants.

Ahh, Queens Park; a neighborhood apart. Or is it? Do they not also have their triumphs and trials? Other neighbourhoods may point out (quickly, to a fault) that this is a neighbourhood of posh homes, boasting excellent city landscaping, the best elementary school in the region, a collection of parks – one of which is so splendid, so truly regal that its very name, QUEEN’S Park evokes the image of the great and dour Empress Victoria lording over the rest of the city, scepter in hand. But let’s all be honest, in addition to having to put up with the endless insufferable comments about how cosseted QP is (it’s not) , residents of this small section of the city have to be on constant guard against the unending and creative ways city and other levels of government remove money from their upper-middle-class wallets.

Glenbrook, a neighbourhood so awesome it needed the Real Estate community to develop a name for it, shares with Massey-Victory Heights the benefit of being filled with family-friendly tree-lined streets, larger lots and good schools (some of them quite new), but what of the increasing traffic burden of McBride, 8th and 10th? Will condos and townhouses encroach? Canada Games Pool: really – is that the best we can do for a pool?

Downtown, Fraserview and Quayside, you can comment below. The article is already too long.

The Little Neighbourhood that Could, or Could it?

I think you get the picture: from an informed and engaged population, you get a chorus, a cacophony of grasping, needing, pleading outrage. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You may have noticed that in this list of neighbourhoods, I have not yet mentioned Sapperton. Sure the same pattern exists here as in other zones but recently, Sapperton’s reality shows us a new aspect of the relationship between neighbourhoods and the City, and illustrates the limits of a cohesive, informed and engaged group of citizens.

Along with the rest of our city, Sapperton is enjoying a rebirth of sorts. Improvement to the East Columbia St. commercial district is noticeable and retail turnover seems to have slowed. Townhouses and towers have added new vitality to commerce and the streetscape. The Brewery District has sprung to life with some great potential and the best large-format grocery store in the city (IMHO). The local small elementary school has been rescued, (for good this time) and is nestled against a well-tended park with an updated playground. Walk the leafy streets and you will see neighbours chatting on the sidewalks in front of neat, even, manicured single family homes on small lots, practically high-fiving one another at how tidy and livable their neighbourhoods have become. And yet when these same people unanimously presented an informed and reasoned defence of their neighbourhood, they failed to receive the consideration, let alone the support of their City and City Council.

Now sure, I am often told that I often view city affairs with ‘rose coloured glasses’ and I have often disagreed with those who seem to manufacture outrage where none is warranted, but in this instance, I see a clear instance where the needs, wishes and welfare of New Westminster have been set aside; where a united stance has not been enough and the spirit of compromise and engagement has been met with a deaf ear. I this instance, I am speaking about the recent approval by council to amend the Official Community Plan (OCP) for the sole purpose of (possibly) rezoning one residential lot to allow the Elizabeth Fry Society (EFry) to construct a facility as an institution, allowing them to expand their services to at-risk women and families in the Lower Mainland.

In other neighbourhoods, recent programs and proposals in New West have also stirred the ever-vigilant population to action. When the West End’s only park was slated to be replaced with an elementary school, the community responded and the park was saved. When TransLink threatened to build the United Boulevard Extension, removing a whole block of homes and adding to the traffic misery of New Westminsterites, city and Council, almost with one voice, said hell no! Now it’s a similar story with the Pattullo Bridge: the city is against a six-lane option, and Council seems to be in the same corner. But if a united voice is an important factor to stop an unpopular or ill-advised program in these cases, why is it ignored in the case of EFry?

Certainly one argument has been that the “social good” EFry delivers in the lives of women in the region shows both a societal and humanitarian benefit greater than the objections brought against the expansion. But surely this argument was also used in the above three examples also: Grimston school, UBE and the six-lane crossing. In these cases a united, engaged constituency trumped the argument of “social good” when applied to the region. more accurately, the community put one set of “social goods” against another and won (in two cases, one is still pending).

A second argument posed by the residents is that their community, and New Westminster as a city, already has a significant number of social housing assets in the city, many specifically used as women’s shelters, women and children assisted living and so on. With so many of these facilities within this small city, this has become a distinctive feature. For all of our revitalization, renovation, and development, it has been said to me that the nature of New Westminster’s relationship with outreach and services makes it the halfway-house of the Lower Mainland: the redemptive, rehabilitative space between Surrey and Burnaby (metaphorically). Still, we are a generous city, willing to shoulder some of the burden shuffled off by our neighbours.

Sapperton residents particularly, during delegations to council prior to the OCP vote, cited the fact that their community is ringed by these services and facilities, many of which are not mapped, documented or referred to for the protection of their clients. This fact was brought up not to say that no new facilities should be built, nor that some should be closed, but rather that the saturation of social services counters the argument of NIMBYim. Sapperton, the residents contended, welcomed its supported housing neighbours, but suspending parking, zoning and the OCP for one property on a residential street is a clear and unacceptable threat to their streetscape, especially when other options exist for EFry.

In a nutshell, EFry intends to purchase this lot and house and develop a multistorey administration and services building to support the work this national women’s charity society is known for. Consequently, areas in the EFry “Blue Building” would be freed for more long-term supported living space. The new building will also house “long-term housing” for women with children (in 375 sq foot suites I am told). For EFry, the rezoning of this low-cost residential lot and repurposing of their parking lot is the best case and cheapest option in a city willing to change zoning and parking regulations to support the EFry program.

Representing Whom?

For the South Sapperton neighbourhood, there are no second chances, no Plan B, no alternative method of resolving their concerns. For EFry though, they seem to have options. On East Columbia, immediately adjacent to the EFry blue building is a poorly utilized commercial lot. Next to that lot is a vacant one. Also, if it is true that the new construction will be for the purposes of administration, the office space being built in the Brewery District would be both close and require less capital outlay. EFry could also, and correct me if I am wrong, simply buy the lot in question and renovate/rebuild within the existing zoning, running residential services or day-care facilities as is done in dozens of houses throughout New Westminster.

Why EFry wishes to pursue their course in the face of workable options and near-unanimous local opposition is a mystery for me. It is possible that they are so convinced of their vision and services that their directorship believes they override the inconvenience of seeking compromise and neighbourliness. From my vantage point, the EFry leadership may view the concerns of a “privileged” property owning middle class invalid in the face of their work, a vocation to which they have devoted their lives and perhaps their credulity. In the same way, the EFry support on council insist that “they know best” and demonstrate a level of paternalism in that, “The people who don’t realize the advantage of having those services available in their community aren’t doing enough research,” as expressed by Councillor Puchmayr, one of three council members in favour of the proposal (vote was 3-1 with one councillor recused and another in the Mayor’s Chair for the evening).

Time after time, our council has stood up for the rights of residents to defend the livability of our neighbourhoods. To close their ears to the overwhelming opposition of Sapperton residents to this project will erode confidence in the integrity of this council as advocates for the citizens of New Westminster. It is the mandate of council to see the bigger picture beyond neighbourhood concerns, but councillors also have a responsibility to hear and respond to the concerns residents have brought forward.

  • What will council do to limit the further impact of this and similar service organizations on the residents in the city, who through no fault of their own, have decided to raise their middle class families in this city?
  • What will be done to ensure that the citizens of Sapperton receive no further negative impact to the parking problem in their neighbourhood from the construction of a new tower and the removal of an existing parking lot?
  • What will council do to explain why the compassionate, reasoned, civil opinions of the locals in Sapperton should be put aside, essentially with no response, in favour of the goals of the EFry Society?
  • Why are the many possible alternatives for EFry, none of which raise the ire or fears of the community, not being considered or advocated by councillors, city staff or the EFry leadership?
  • Why, when popular, near unanimous defence of livability can halt building on parkland, regional transit initiatives or (hopefully) the building of a six-lane Pattullo bridge, can it not even be considered as reason for pause on this subject?
  • And finally, what is it that is motivating council, and possibly staff, to ignore the citizens, ignore the OCP, ignore parking and zoning laws and their own re-election possibilities, to back this proposal when clear alternative exist, even in a city overpopulated by similar facilities. What makes EFry so special?

Perhaps we will learn the answers to these questions in the coming months. Perhaps the program will stall at the rezoning level. Perhaps the people of New West will form a trust and buy the lot themselves and “put their money” where their neighbourhood is. We will see. I welcome civil and on-topic comments in the section below.

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Best playgrounds in New West: what are your favourites?

This Saturday, June 16, the new Westminster Pier Park will open with a celebration from 11 am to 3 pm. There will be lots of fun, family-friendly activities, food and live music.

The upcoming event makes me marvel at how lucky we are in New Westminster when it comes to outdoor play areas. The new Pier Park will feature two playgrounds, a concession, washrooms and playing fields, all in a beautiful waterfront setting. But it’s just the latest addition to many fantastic playgrounds around the city. Here’s the highlight reel of some others:

Moody Park

Located in Uptown, Moody Park has a playground, spray park, outdoor pool, tennis courts and playing fields. There are also washrooms and picnic benches along with lots of shade.

Why I love it: the location makes it the ideal place to stop off while running errands with the kids. Royal City Centre is right across the street and there are many eateries, businesses and shopping outlets — not to mention the public library — in the area.

Hume Park

Hume Park, located in Sapperton, was recently renovated. It features a large playground for school-aged kids with a separate area just for the little guys. The playground is nestled between an off-leash dog park (with plenty of trees and benches), an outdoor swimming pool and a spray park. There are also picnic benches, playing fields, washrooms, tennis courts and plenty of trees for shade.

Why I love it: the large play structure has a wide variety of challenges for older kids (it struck me as a decided response to recent criticisms that today’s playgrounds are too safe.) But my three-year-old was able to enjoy it as well. His younger brother, meanwhile, was happy puttering away in the toddler area, undisturbed by older kids.

Grimston Park

The West End’s Grimston Park has a recently rebuilt playground, a wading pool, tennis courts, washrooms and playing fields. The wading pool is open from noon – 4 pm, July to Labour Day, and has a lifeguard on duty during those times.

Why I love it: the climbing structure is very well designed. My two-year old can easily climb all the way to the top by himself (the look of triumph on his face after he completes this feat is priceless!) In fact, there is no part of the playground that’s not accessible to him. And yet, the school-age kids we see there are able to use the equipment in a way that challenges them as well. It allows all ages to play together.

Queen’s Park

Located in the heart of the city, New Westminster’s biggest park has one playground for little kids and another for the older ones. There’s also a spray park, a concession stand and washrooms, located among trees, picnic benches, grassy areas and flowers. But the highlight, from Victoria Day to Labour Day, is a petting farm filled with critters willing to have little hands tug at their ears.

Why I love it: the petting farm is fantastic with a variety of animals and knowledgeable volunteers, and it’s free (with a donation box at the exit.) The parking is abundant and free. And the size of the park makes the sights and sounds of the city fade away, letting me relax.

I lived in Vancouver for years before moving to New Westminster in 2008 and I’m hard-pressed to think of even one outdoor play space for kids that’s comparable to the playgrounds that New West offers.

What’s your favourite playground in New Westminster and why? Do you enjoy one of the ones I’ve listed here or did I miss a fabulous one that you want to share with everyone? Let’s hear it in the comments!

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Volunteers needed to help remove invasive plants from Hume Park this Saturday

In my ignorant pre-gardening days, I extended my politically correct Canadian sensitivity training to the world of flora and fauna. I admired the spunk of dandelions growing in the crack between the sidewalk and the curb, the beauty of the morning glories twining in the hedge and the hardiness of blackberry bushes crowding parked cars in the back lane. I felt guilty pulling weeds. After all, didn’t they have just as much right to life as any other plant?

Then I planted mint in my garden. I love mint, so I was pleased to see how fast it grew! Until it began to take over. Along with the dandelions and morning glory. Thankfully, we have no blackberries!

So, now I know, not every plant that can grow in a place should grow there.

A couple of weeks ago, on April 14, the City of New Westminster began work with a crew of volunteers to help re-habitat Lower Hume Park by replacing invasive species with native species. A second rain or shine work bee is planned for this Saturday, April 28th, and they’ve put out a call for more volunteers to help.

Invasive plants are spread through illegal dumping of garden waste and seeds or dispersal by wildlife and wind, causing ecological destruction. This project will help prevent and control the spread of invasive plants while protecting the ecological integrity of our parks. Good boots, comfortable clothing and registration (at the office) are required.

What to know if you want to go:

  • WHEN: Saturday April 28th (Rain or Shine)
  • TIME: 1pm – 4pm
  • WHERE: Lower Hume Park, New Westminster
  • WHAT: Celebrate Earth Day: Invasive Plant Removal and Native Replanting. In Intergenerational Event
  • WHO: New Westminster residents age 13+
  • REGISTRATION: Call 604-519-1066 Pre registration is mandatory. This is a free event.
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The Hungry Hound appeals to Sapperton pet lovers

Inside the Hungry Hound

Inside the Hungry Hound

Everyone has their shopping weakness, and mine is a well stocked pet boutique. Not the kind selling doggie strollers and puppy sweaters – although my pit bull does look cute in pink – but a place with knowledgeable staff, natural foods, and well-made equipment and toys.

I meant to pop into Sapperton’s The Hungry Hound and simply take a look around, but I walked out with armfuls of stuff, a three-figure receipt, and absolutely no buyer’s remorse.

The Hungry Hound is a small store, managed by knowledgeable staff who have backgrounds in grooming, training and handling. They clearly love animals and are invested in their products. Every customer gets personalized attention and service, along with cookies and cuddles for any furry counterparts.

The store stocks only high-quality items for dogs, cats, birds and bunnies. The store is limited by its size so selection is not overwhelming but everything in stock is clearly chosen with care. The toys are reputable, durable brands like Tuffy’s, Chuckit!, West Paw and Kong. Food and treats include corn-free, wheat-free, whole food and single-protein options – just the thing for scrupulous pet owners or dogs with special dietary needs.

I spotted several local companies and specialty items, including supplements, training gear and medical equipment. Again, it’s a small store so it can’t be everything for everyone, but the selection covers the basics and the staff will work with you to find the right product, whether that means bringing your dog into the store for a fitting, returning a used item, or placing a special order.

Chica enjoys her new dinosaur toy from The Hungry Hound

Chica enjoys her new dinosaur toy from The Hungry Hound

When I learned about the buy-one-get-one and other sales for the holiday season, I abandoned my chitchat and started scooping up ChuckIts, bully sticks, and dehydrated sweet potatoes. At 50% off I even succumbed to a massive Tuffy dinosaur as an early Christmas present for my resident four-legger (you’re welcome, Chica).

Sapperton residents are faithful to The Hungry Hound, and it’s easy to see the appeal. It’s great for the pet guardian, especially one looking for good deals this time of year. It would also be an excellent resource if you’re shopping for a pet fanatic but not sure where to start. Either way, the folks at The Hungry Hound will hook you up.

The Hungry Hound
102 – 455 East Columbia
New Westminster, BC
778-397-3877
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Cadeaux Gifts: Impressive selection, quality finds, and reasonable prices

Cadeaux

Cadeaux

I have been known to make late night trips to large chain stores to buy necessities. Diapers, toilet paper, or an air freshener to mask the aroma from the ‘treat’ my kids left in the backseat and I still can’t find. Desperation and ‘open-till-midnight’ hours have forced my hand once or twice, but when it comes to gift giving I prefer to spend my time and money on a unique item selected from a unique shop.

I enjoy the process of Christmas shopping in particular. I meticulously make a list of recipients. I jot down a few items I have heard them mention, a bracelet perhaps, or a few words to describe them and their style such as conservative, flirty, and even impossible! I feel prepared; armed and ready to purchase thoughtful gifts. I used to head downtown, in the hopes I would find success amidst the plethora of boutique shops. I am ashamed to admit that I previously overlooked New West as a suitable shopping destination.

Now that I have lived in New West, and more importantly shopped here, I have become very attached to a few impressive boutique shops that rival and surpass many I have seen downtown!

One shop that never ceases to impress and entice me is Cadeaux Gifts in Sapperton. It is “a trendy boutique and gift store providing the best in essential indulgences” and is easily one of the Lower Mainland’s best-kept secrets.

They incorporate an ‘everything for everybody’ element into the shop and carry an extensive mix of unique items. There are home embellishments from entry mats to clocks; luxurious bath and beauty indulgences for head-to-toe pampering; stunning holiday decorations; and fashion must haves like handbags, scarves, and a jewelry collection to tempt every taste and style. This is just the proverbial tip-of-the-iceberg too. I have devoted many mornings to a leisurely stroll through the store, and I always find something new to gift or covet for myself.

While chatting with the shop’s owner and staff, I have learned that many of the irresistible items I have eyed (and drooled) over so many times are made by local companies and artisans. One local artist they seemed particularly proud to highlight is Karen Telio and her stunning collection of jewelry. Her pieces range from bold to subtle, trendy to traditional, and every adjective in between. It’s no exaggeration to say you could easily check a few special women off your shopping list after a glance in this jewelry cabinet (which is just one of many!)

Though I think more than any particular artisan, product, or display, what impresses me most is the affordability and quality of the items. As a mother of two, and a new homeowner, my pockets seem painfully less deep this year. I have yet to feel overwhelmed by sticker shock while perusing Cadeaux’s collection, and have always been impressed by the quality of items. While most of the store is stocked with unique and eye-catching goodies, I did see a few items that I have seen carried downtown at other boutiques. The difference being that Cadeaux isn’t competing with several similar boutiques on the street and is able to offer us many of the same items found downtown at significantly lower prices.

Impressive selection, reasonable prices, and quality items! What more can you ask for? How about impeccable customer service? The staff at Cadeaux always welcomes you with a smile, offers help without being pushy, and really listen to what you want and need. It’s like having a personal shopper at your side. In fact, they are so invested in your shopping experience being fun, stress free and successful that they actually offer personal shopping assistance. Their website boasts “Give us a call and book your own personal shopping session. Our staff will happily talk you through our store, and find the best gifts for the special people on your list, and make your shopping experience that much happier!”

Its cliché, but I dare you to shop Cadeaux and leave with nothing! Make sure to give yourself ample time to dawdle, sample, try on, and enjoy the shops bounty. Better yet, plan your introductory shopping trip for Thursday, December 8, 2011 from 5pm to 9pm. Cadeaux is hosting a ‘Christmas Shopping Spectacular’ and donating 10% of the evening’s proceeds to the Music Program of New Westminster Secondary School. The donation will help up-and-coming student musicians with their trip to the national, invitation-only MusicFest Canada festival in Ottawa this spring.

Shopping Cadeaux means supporting our neighborhood’s economy, a New Westminster shop, local artisans and entrepreneurs, and budding talent from our community. On top of that, you walk away with unique, quality gifts and maybe even a few new things to add to your own wish list.

You can find Cadeaux at 467 E. Columbia St. in Sapperton. The store is open Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday from 12-5pm.

Here’s a gallery with some photos of their store.

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Piccolo Gifts brings the world to Sapperton

 

Nesting dolls on the shelf at Piccolo. Photo: April Fahr.

Nesting dolls on the shelf at Piccolo. Photo: April Fahr.

Piccolo World Gifts is a small Sapperton storefront with a global worldview. Inside, you’ll find an assortment of bright, beautiful, and sometimes random treasures from around the world. It’s interesting enough on its own, but chatting with store owner Nancy Patrick brings a whole new appreciation to her collection.

Patrick is a highly accomplished business consultant with two PhDs and an impressive resume. Her travels have taken her around the world and she’s always managed to combine her business travel with exploration into other cultures’ art, artifacts, and collectibles. She sources her inventory directly from its country of origin and displays it by region, with each section flanked by artwork and coffee table books for context.

Stamps displayed at Piccolo World Gifts. Photo: April Fahr.

Stamps displayed at Piccolo World Gifts. Photo: April Fahr.

Committed to making exotic items accessible, Patrick works to keep prices reasonable and enjoys working one-on-one with customers to find a unique gift, whatever their price point. If you are shopping for anyone who’s known a home outside Canada, you’ll find something here that will resonate with them: ceramics, masks, sculpture, pottery, jewellery, accessories, and art abound from China, the Carribbean, Russia, Europe and a dozen other diverse regions.

Piccolo has one of the most comprehensive stamp and coin inventories around, whether you have a serious collector on your shopping list or (like me) you just enjoy the stunning presentation of the mounted collections.

Curios from Australia and the South Pacific. Photo: April Fahr.

Curios from Australia and the South Pacific. Photo: April Fahr.

Take advantage of the current holiday sales with 20-50% off items in-store, or combine your shopping trip with a visit to the in-store Piccolo Tea House, open December 2.

You can find Piccolo World Gifts at 420 East Columbia Street. The store is open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm.

 

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A royal love affair

“A poet never takes notes. You never take notes in a love affair.” – Robert Frost

A bridge in fog. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

A bridge in fog. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

I’ve been a frequent viewer of Tenth to Fraser for some time now, looking over all the great articles focused around this town, which I have now lived in for over ten years. My partner’s family was born and raised here, in this city of heritage, this city of culture. It has always been in the back of mind that I was having an affair unlike many affairs. This was a strong, if not overpowering, love for a city that gets a bad reputation and is often overlooked.

The negative image of our beautiful city has begun to bubble up inside of me, inspiring me to put on display the inner beauty and character that the Royal City emanates from the century old buildings and remarkable landscapes. Of course, something this grand in scope cannot be completed in a single post, so I will bring this to you in segments. Each will look at a different aspect of New Westminster.

City By The River

The alarm didn’t go off. I rolled my head to the side and squinted at the clock. 7am. Why am I up at 7am? I began to stretch, my muscles screaming with rage, and walked over to the window. For a moment my brain tried to piece together what it saw, which was next to nothing. My usual crowded view of the SkyTrain bridge was obscured by thick fog tinged with a golden yellow from the emerging sun. My mind tried to rush the waking process, urgently telling the rest of my body that it needed to jump into action. I threw clothes on, grabbed my camera and rushed out the door. My first destination was the top of the Front Street parkade where I could get a better view. I anxiously waited for the elevator on the third floor of my building, thinking about how I would capture the fog. I descended to the basement and got in the car. I start the engine and slide into reverse, apologizing to the car as we rolled backwards. “I’m sorry girl, I know I should warm you up first.”

I was off down Royal Avenue on route to the parkade, mentally calculating plans of attack. Aperture and shutter speeds came to mind. Composition interrupted. It all had to be pushed aside. I was there, my car parked at an angle in the middle of the top level. I looked out the window in the direction of the bridges, which were covered in a thick formation of fog. My body shook with pure adrenaline. I jumped out of my seat, camera in hand, everything quickly dissolving from thought. I rushed to the edge of the parkade and looked down to see a tug pulling a hefty load of wood up the river towards the east. My head shook from side to side surveying the situation, looking for a new shooting location.

A tug hard at work on the Fraser. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

A tug hard at work on the Fraser. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

As I looked below, the new pier project came to mind. My eyes scanned the scattered mess that has characterized the river side for many years and I smiled at the thought of change. Quickly jumping back into my car, I took off towards the rail bridge that crosses to the other side of the river. There I knew I would find a pair of tug companies where I could park and find a suitable shooting angle – hopefully before the boat reached my location.

I drove to my destination, heart racing and hands shaking with excitement. I felt like Speed Racer in the classic cartoon, with rays of light flashing past my eyes as I sped down the iconic Front Street – well known to any movie aficionado for its dreary back alley look that I love so much. It’s just another example of the character that pours out of every corner of this fair city.

Arriving in the boat company lot, shots and settings still running through my head, I left the car running and rushed out to begin sighting my shot. I looked through the viewfinder of my Rebel XSi at the eerie sky-train bridge emerging from a thick fog as if it were a highway to the heavens.

I snapped away, not content to wait for my ideal shot to arrive. Down the river I saw the tug making its way up to me. My lens bounced from perspective to perspective, grabbing every possible composition that I could think of on the fly. As the tug boat arrived, I repeated my process and got a plethora of angles. Soon the boat had disappeared from view, leaving me behind to look through the display screen at my success.

Fraser Cemetery. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

Fraser Cemetery. Photo: Brad Watson-Davelaar

I decided I had taken a decent number of photos and started the drive home, talking my girlfriend’s ear off about how much I love this city. Babbling like a gleeful little girl, I made my way down Richmond Street and looked to my left side. I couldn’t help but notice the fog blanketing Fraser Cemetery. Mid-conversation, I reared off to the side of the road with yet another target in mind. The thick cloud hugging the plots and head stones demonstrated the beauty that can still exist in a place meant for eternal rest. I had to be careful where I stepped, so as to avoid disrespecting the deceased, as I made my way through the cemetery, capturing one beautiful image after another.

I finished up and left behind the misty graveyard, no doubt any photographer’s bucket shot. As I made my way home I knew what I had to do. I had to share my love for a city forgotten.

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The smile’s in the aisle: Thrifty Foods comes to New West

The new Thrifty's. Photo: Erin Jeffery.

The new Thrifty's. Photo: Erin Jeffery.

I have a confession. I have a Thrifty Foods problem. I grew up in Mill Bay BC (home of one of the first Thrifty Foods) so it holds a special place in my heart. I dream about the cheese scones and I wax philosophically about the marinated meats. It’s grocery nirvana. The first time I brought my husband home to the island, I told him we HAD to go to Thrifty Foods.

“Its just a grocery store, “ he said, “ I hate grocery stores”

“Not this one”, I smugged, “It’s special. It’s the happiest place on earth…it’s the Disney of grocery stores!”

He was not impressed. But he did like the scones.

As I was waiting to cross the street to check out the new store that opened today in Sapperton, I excitedly texted the aforementioned husband.

“The new Thrifty’s in Sapperton is open 24 hours seven days a week! HOORAY!”

“Oh great”, he responded “ I’ll never see you again”.

Islanders are passionate about Thrifty’s. Its a community grocery store that is more locally and sustainably focused than other big grocery chains. The outer perimeter of the store is filled with BC produce, local artisan baked goods and sweets, ocean wise seafood and, of course, Island Farms dairy products (yum). Grocery items in the centre of the store range from well known brands to locally canned preserves to Thrifty’s own label. Price wise, they are comparable on most things, but they do tend to be a bit higher priced for butcher items. The quality and selection is beyond compare. Think Whole foods without the big price tag.

Have I mentioned the scones?

The best thing for me about Thrifty’s has always been its staff. They are almost freakishly friendly.. Today, I had a cookie handed to me by one of the managers from my ‘hometown store’ who just came over to help. He had a friendly smile and nod (and cookie) for everyone who passed his way, chatting with them about the new store and how happy they were to be in New Westminster. I later was in the cereal aisle looking for oatmeal when out of nowhere, a helpful Thrifty-er explained the multiples pricing structure. Then thanked me for hanging out at their new store.

I think they might put something in the cookies…

I do wish that the outer perimeter was a bit wider to allow for carts and strollers to navigate through easier. The grocery aisles were nice and wide, but I did get in a traffic jam at the scones…they really are that good. I’d also recommend walking or taking the train if possible. Not only is it better for our planet, but the parking lot underneath the store is $5 an hour for parking. They do validate, but it’s still a bit steep. And with only one machine to pay for parking at, it can also get a wee bit busy.

All in all, I think this store is going to be a great addition to the New Westminster community. They already have scads of events coming up partnering with the Royal Columbia Hospital Foundation, and the store is sure to be a welcome addition to an area that doesn’t have many grocery stores in easy access.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I hear a scone calling my name…

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Women ‘Kick the *&%! Out of Cancer’ at 30 Minute Hit

New Westminster women are raising money for cancer, one 'hit' at a time.

New Westminster women are raising money for cancer, one 'hit' at a time. Women at 30 Minute Hit locations in North America are fundraising for cancer research. There is also an upcoming pub night fundraiser, 4-7pm on Sunday October 23rd, 2011 at The Dublin Castle. For a mere $20.00 (all proceeds donated) you get a juicy burger, crispy fries, and your choice of a beer/wine/highball.

For the ladies at New Westminster’s 30 Minute Hit the process of kicking, punching, kneeing, and helping fight cancer has been just as liberating and empowering as you might imagine.

A group of dedicated women from each of the twenty-three North American 30-Minute-Hit locations is participating in the KICK THE *&%! OUT OF CANCER event. They have pledged to “hit” (complete the kickboxing workout) a certain number of times during the month of October in exchange for donations to the British Columbian Cancer Foundation! They are collecting these donations from their friends, family, coworkers and people on the street while they’re kicking and punching their hearts out. The event is called “30-Minute-Hit, Kicking the *&%! Out of Cancer” and as Stacey Firth, one of the co-owners of the New Westminster Hit location, quips “the name makes total sense when you remember we are a kickboxing gym!”

Stacey Firth’s New Westminster location signed on to participate in the event, and a group of more than 52 women have come together to support a cause near and dear to their hearts. Stacey beams with pride as she recounts how her ‘Hitters’ have come together. “Its super special when you think about it. A group of women fighting for each other, fighting for any and every women affected by cancer. It’s so cool to look out at the workout floor and see it full of girls sporting their pink team t-shirts and working so hard to reach their goals. I took the time to read through each of their stories on their personal fundraising pages and I was so touched. It’s just really wonderful.”

This event goes beyond just the basic intention of fundraising though. It motivates and encourages the women participating to be healthier versions of themselves. It provides them with a proverbial kick-in-the-butt to take their health more seriously.

The medical community unanimously agrees that daily physical activity is vital for over all heath. There is also compelling research that shows 30 minutes of activity 3 times a week (or more) significantly reduces the risk of ovarian, breast, and uterine cancers (as well as colon and prostate). The 30-Minute-Hit kickboxing circuit supports these activity goals, and the 30-Minute-Hit lifestyle keeps you coming back for more! Stacey boasts “30-Minute-Hit is not only a fantastic workout in 30 minutes, it’s a community. Women come together, get to know each other, and become strong empowered women together. In 30 minutes, they work up a sweat like nowhere else but they also get to shut out the world and put themselves and their health first! Anyone can find 30 minutes in their day to get a GREAT workout in, meet amazing women and become part of something special. Health should not be an option.”

The Minister of Health projects more than 23,000 British Columbians will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year with more than 40% of these diagnosed patients being women. By 2024 it is estimated that there will be more than 33,000 new diagnosis made yearly. A terrifying prospect indeed, but one we have the power to change.

Support the New Westminster ‘Hitters’ by donating and helping them KICKTHE *&%! OUT OF CANCER. Their fundraising goal of $5,000 was quickly met and they have increased their goal to $10,000. To date they have raised $8,817.13 though online donations, and over $600.00 with their additional fundraising efforts for a total of more than $9,400.00.

To help in the fight against cancer, and to support the commitment of local New Westminster’s you have two options.

First of all, you can donate online. Or, for a more delicious option, you can purchase a ticket for the upcoming pub night fundraiser, 4-7pm on Sunday October 23rd, 2011 at The Dublin Castle. For a mere $20.00 (all proceeds donated) you get a juicy burger, crispy fries, and your choice of a beer/wine/highball. There will also be a toonie-toss and 50-50 draw for you pub night traditionalists. The Dublin Castle Pub is located at 101 – 319 Governors Court New West (the old Penitentiary). If you haven’t been to the Dublin Castle Pub yet, this fundraiser gives you the opportunity to support two local businesses and fill up your Karma-bank two fold!

For tickets Call 604-521-5913 or email
newwestminster@30minutehit.com. Tickets will also be available at the door. On Facebook? Check out the event at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=280317065326845.

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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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Sapper Flap Jack Saturday: September 10th

On September 10th, 1898, New Westminster was very nearly destroyed by what is now referred to as “The Great Fire”. Pictures show a city completely ravaged; the devastation razed most of the city’s buildings.

 

Photo courtesy New Westminster Public Library, accession # 3123 New Westminster after the great fire. The view looks down Columbia Street. Street running left to right (right-hand side near foreground) is Church Street. Building at right next to Church with the arch is the YMCA. Cluster of buildings beyond this would be the Public Library, Firehall and the Post Office. Beyond that cluster of buildings Sixth Street runs down to Columbia Street. At the top of the hill are the ruins of the Court House. The aforementioned is all on the north side of the street. Photographer: possibly S.J. Thompson. Source: Suzanne Spohn

Maps of the city show us just how bad it was. The circled area was just… gone.

 

Photo Courtesy New Westminster Public Library.

 

City residents banded together and rebuilt most of the city in less than two years. (Imagine that happening in this day and age?) I am sure many residents of Sapperton pitched in, housed their friends, and generally made themselves useful.

On Saturday, September 10th (the same day and date of the Great Fire), New West Fire Fighters will be flipping the pancakes and cooking ham for Sapperton Old Age Pensioners Association. Sapper Flap Jack Saturday is from 8:30 am to 12 noon. Melitta will be supplying the coffee. Cost is $5.00 per person, children 9 and under free. Tickets at the door or call 604 – 522-0280.

Have you been to Sapperton Hall? If you attended the UBE sessions or live on this side of town and voted, you probably have. Tucked 1/4 block up from RCH’s Emergency entrance at 318 Keary Street, Sapperton Hall is a great little meeting place. Since April this year, it has been undergoing about $60,000 worth of upgrades. New high efficiency furnaces, new high capacity high efficiency hot water tank, repainting the interior walls of the lower floor, installing new thermal windows on the lower floor, adding a new handicap accessible washroom and increasing and updating the women’s washroom upstairs. They are now working on improving the electrical in the kitchen and installing a new hood over the stoves. Sapperton Hall, opened in 1962, has 10,000 sq. ft. on two floors. The upstairs has a beautiful hardwood floor and about 4,000 sq. ft. of open area plus a small stage. The lower floor has a lino floor and a good sized kitchen facility. There is also an elevator lift to assist wheelchairs or people with mobility challenges.

For more info, contact: Vic Leach, V.P., Sapperton O.A. Pensioners Assoc. Ph: 604 – 525-1829 or Sapperton Hall 604 – 522-0280

 

 

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Reminder: last UBE consultation session this Thursday

This is a guest post by Reena Meijer Drees. Reena blogs about car(e)-free living in New Westminster at http://carefreenewwest.blogspot.com/.

I’ve been dutifully attending TransLink’s consultation sessions for the UBE. We’ve seen 3 so far, and the last one will be held this Thursday evening at 7 pm at the Sapperton Pensioner’s Hall at 318 Keary St, just up from Columbia. Translink will be “reporting out”, summarizing what they’ve heard from the community over the weeks of discussion. I’d encourage all citizens to come out to see what TransLink is planning to bring to New Westminster. As for me, I must admit that my attendance at these sessions has left me feeling like I’ve been pushed into owning something I really don’t want.

There has been a good turnout for these events so far, with six fully populated “breakout” groups around tables, each with a facilitator (third-party, not TransLink) and at least one TransLink staffer to help out with technical details. I’d guess the total community attendance to be 70 or more every time, pretty good considering some sessions have conflicted with hockey games.

At these sessions I have met only a single person from outside of New West (I think from Coquitlam somewhere). He told me he drives through New West; he was there to voice his opinion that New West was the “sphincter of the Lower Mainland” and was hoping for some relief. I asked TransLink if they had held any open houses on the UBE in Coquitlam – apparently only one, and attendance was so poor (the 25 people who attended were all from New West) that they didn’t have any more. Coquitlam council supports the UBE and they have plans for further (car-oriented) development along United Blvd. It is hard to have a meaningful discussion with other stakeholders when they don’t show up.

The mood in the room has not been very happy. Almost uniformly, residents do not like the idea of the UBE. Many are concerned about noise, about increased congestion, about the idea of an overpass blocking views. Others don’t like the emphasis on road building, which seems so diametrically opposed to Translink’s stated goals of prioritizing pedestrians, bikes, and transit…especially given that we are now experiencing bus service cuts here in New West. And some residents see this as the thin edge of the wedge for the North Fraser Perimeter Road, a series of as-yet-unfunded projects which will see Front St turn into a 4-lane truck route, and a 6-lane Patullo bringing more regional traffic through our City. The fear is that the UBE will be done, and then nothing will follow for years as TransLink’s budgets continue to suffer, leaving us with more congestion that we started with. Time and again people stood up and voiced that they wanted to see the entire NFPR discussed and a big picture plan put on the table before discussing the UBE. This was not really done – the discussions were pretty quickly guided into specifics about where roads should go and what mitigation features we wanted.

TransLink asked for community ideas for the connection, and created long lists of what residents saw as the problems around the current intersection. From this they created a short list of possible configurations to explore. There were two suggestions from the community, called “option E” and “option C”. Option C consists of simply closing the level crossing at Braid and Brunette and eliminating the possibility of access to the Industrial land this way. Since the lights spend about 30% of their time letting the small amount of traffic coming out of the lands, remoiving access would improve traffic flow along Brunette. It would eliminate the backups that happen when turning traffic has to wait for a train. It would stop at least one train whistle. This option was rejected by TransLink with very few reasons given. Option E, the other suggestion from the residents, was to make the road from United connect with Brunette at a new intersection to be located near the overpass over HWY1. This would move the connection and its associated congestion out of New Westminster. Translink’s objection to this idea is that it creates too many intersections in a short distance. I would be surprised if this idea were still on the list.

The only idea that passes muster with TransLink is that of a large, 4-lane overpass over the “dip” in the Skytrain between Sapperton and Braid stations. The road would flow into Brunette without an intersection – no expropriation of property this time. There are lots of details availble and lots of mitigation discussed. But I can guarantee that the consensus in the Pensioner’s Hall is that this – “option B” – is unacceptable.

TransLink has stated throughout the sessions that “doing nothing” remains an option. We will see if they recommend this course of action, which I’d hazard is the top choice of most residents. Please attend if you can, so that if TransLink attempts to make us “own” the overpass idea – the only one left standing, by their own design – we can stand up and tell them that in fact, what the community really wants is to kill the UBE and give the money to the Evergreen Line. If you can’t attend, pass your thoughts on to New West City Coucil (email: postmaster@newwestcity.ca) They need to stand up and refuse to let this monstrosity be built.

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Review: Graze Market and Deli

This is a picture of a pulled pork sandwich on plate with coleslaw filling in the bun.

Delicious.

A few times now, a number of the local twitter geeks have had a conversation online about food. Because food is the greatest common denominator. One of the places that continually gets mentioned is Graze Market and Deli and we all salivate all over our keyboards and dreamily discuss what makes an awesome pulled pork sandwich.

So what does make an awesome pulled pork sandwich? We’ll get to that.

This is the logo for Graze Market and Deli.

Graze Market and Deli opened up in Sapperton at the end of last summer. It’s a deli, a bit of a grocery, and a restaurant all in one.  Their deli features some fresh preserved meats and the bacon is amazing. Their produce selection was a little bit disappointing – but what they did have was advertised as local or organic, and was well priced. Their grocery shelves were a bit sparse – only one or two packages of each type of item and lots of empty space, but the items they did have were high quality and organic in nature. They also feature Avalon Dairy milk products as well as local and organic produce and eggs. They sell beef from their own herds, who frolic and roam in the southern interior Fraser River plateau in the Cariboo as well as free range chickens and turkeys. You can buy all cuts of meats and sausages as well.

What they lack in the grocery department, they make up for in the hot food you eat right there.

What makes their pork products stand out  - from the bacon to the pulled pork sandwiches – is that Graze Market and Deli offers pork from the good folks at Gelderman Farms, a former RCFM vendor (they’re too busy this year to make it but you can buy their stuff at Graze) that hail from Abbotsford. If you ask him, Jerry Gelderman will tell you that the key to good pork is happy pigs and he sees that they are happy porkers by feeding them a high quality vegetable based diet custom blended on the farm, no animal meat by-products in feed, no growth hormones (as per Canadian Regulations), and no therapeutic antibiotic treatment. Gelderman Farms pork supports the 100 mile diet. The biggest thing, Jerry tells me, is that the pigs are given room to run and root and generally just be pigs.

Another ingredient to a fantastic pulled pork sandwich is people who know how to cook and present food. Danny and Karen at Graze provide amazing BBQ with fresh made and generous sides like cole slaw, potato salad or slow cooker baked beans, and their BBQ sauce is homemade.  The bun they use is lovely and fresh and the price is reasonable. They also offer a selection of burgers and ribs, as well as a well made veggie burger.

Their website needs work and updating – two different phone numbers are listed and the hours are hard to find (and I think they are wrong) but Graze is a nice little gem with ample free parking in the heart of Sapperton.

Graze is located at 101-450 E. Columbia. Their number is 604-528-0101 Call ahead to make sure they are open.

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The United Boulevard Extension is back!

Straight and relatively free flowing Lougheed and Trans-Canada Hwy versus narrower, curing, traffic light filled United Blvd

Straight and relatively free flowing Lougheed and Trans-Canada Hwy versus narrower, curing, traffic light filled United Blvd

We’ve all seen the movie before. Just when the village was taking a breath, confident that after a long struggle they’d finally killed the monster… Surprise! It’s still alive!

For those who haven’t yet heard, Translink is back with a new round of consultations on the Highway Nobody Wants.  The first in a series of United Boulevard Extension workshops is this Saturday, 9:30am-12pm at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, 318 Keary Street.

More public consolation was one of New Westminster city council’s requirements for Translink when it put the brakes on the project earlier this year. So good for Translink in organizing this very comprehensive series of workshops to engage citizens on this large infrastructure project. They’re planning a series of 6 half-day workshops that will really take the public through from their concerns to visioning alternative designs.

Unfortunately, the other requirement Council put on Translink was not embraced by Translink: that the North Fraser Perimeter Road be planned and built as a whole project, not a piecemeal with the United Boulevard Extension being built years (or decades) prior to the rest. Which raises the question of why is Translink dragging it’s poor staff members to what are probably very expensive consultations for a project that simply won’t be approved by New Westminster because it still doesn’t meet their clearly-stated requirements? It seems like a fool’s errand, and a waste of money; something Translink isn’t exactly rolling in right now.

New Westminster Environmental Partners’ transportation sub-committee met last weekend to discuss the upcoming workshops, and every time we think about and discuss this project, new questions continue to pop up.

We began discussing this project as part of the bigger picture of the Gateway Project, and in relation to the King Edward Overpass project. By our count, when all these projects are completed, there will be 16 lanes of road running parallel to United Boulevard only a few hundred metres away. That’s 10 on the Trans-Canada Highway and 6 on Lougheed: an enormous increase in capacity.

It is also apparent looking at a map that these three roads are designed quite differently. Highway 1 is a straight, wide, with no traffic lights slowing vehicle free-flow (one of Translink’s stated reasons why they didn’t like “Option A” for the UBE is because it involved a traffic light). Lougheed Highway (note the word highway in it’s name) is another wide, straight road with few traffic lights. United Boulevard, on the other hand, is relatively narrow, barely wide enough for 4 lanes, and definitely not wide enough to accommodate the bicycle and pedestrian improvements Translink has promised. It’s also quite curvy, with a significant number of traffic lights, poor sight lines, and perpendicular driveways emerging on to it. It’s a local access road, not a connector road for hundreds of trucks per day. And with all the driveways emerging on to it, it would become a very dangerous road with a significant increase in car and truck traffic, unless all the businesses along United are willing to have their driveways closed off. We’ve all seen the traffic back-ups just to dump trash at Wastetech!

Wide, straight Lougheed Highway, this looks more like a truck route.

Wide, straight Lougheed Highway, this looks more like a truck route.

So why route the North Fraser Perimeter Road, a purportedly regional truck through-fare, along United Boulevard?  At this point the NFPR west of Mary Hill is just a grey line on a map, nothing’s been built. It would certainly be a lot safer and cheaper to shift that grey line to one of the two recently upgraded, wide, relatively free-flowing roads parallel to United Boulevard!

Narrower United Blvd full of driveways and traffic light, not ideal for free flowing traffic.

Narrower United Blvd full of driveways and traffic light, not ideal for free flowing traffic.

But what about Braid and Brunette?  The choke point Translink keeps telling us about?  The light causes traffic to back up (or acts as a valve for traffic in to New West some might say) and prevents it from reaching these wide, straight roads that are being built just across the border in Coquitlam. Wouldn’t, logic suggest we first try to fix the intersection?

Another observation that came out of the meeting was how this traffic light operates. When a train passes through the intersection, traffic in all directions comes to a grinding halt. You might ask “why does all the traffic stop when the train only intersects one side of Braid?” The simple answer is, for safety reasons, when a train approaches the level crossing the lights automatically go in to green for only the cars exiting the Sapperton Industrial Area, in order to clear the cars any vehicles that which are illegally blocking the crossing. Then the lights stay that way, forever, or until the train passes, whichever comes first.

Now we have identified one of the main “flow problems” at the intersection beside a very busy rail corridor: for safety reasons the cars illegally stopped on the crossing need to be cleared. However, after the crossing is clear, can we not get the traffic on Brunette flowing again? Get those cars and trucks over to the new, wide, straight freeway, rather than sitting there watching a train go past beside them.

Translink continues to say this $160-180 million project is about getting traffic flowing (except when they say it is about “goods movement”), but we contend there are cheaper, less invasive ways to do so, without even considering the previous discussion about reducing demand rather than trying to build our way out of congestion. With their ongoing tunnel vision regarding the United Boulevard Extension, it seems the only “flow problem” Translink is trying to solve here is the flow of $65 million of your Federal Tax Dollars.


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Family Place Expands to the Heights

We’ve talked about Family Place a few times here on 10th, and it’s no secret I have quite the bias for this place. I asked Marjorie Staal, Executive Director, to update me on what’s happening in their world.

“New Westminster Family Place is excited to be able to announce there is a new drop-in at F.W. Howay School, said Staal. “It is every Thursday morning from 9:15 to 11:15.”  Being at the school allows them to expand their offerings, as well. Staal says that whereas in the main drop in centre at 93 Sixth Street there isn’t room for a gymnasium, the F.W. Howay Family Place staff are now able to offer stories, crafts,  gym time and lots of toys for the children’s enjoyment. That precious gym time is something I can really appreciate and while I have also used the provincially funded Strong Start program at McBride Elementary (which does offer gym time) I have recently found Strong Start’s classroom to be too crowded. It’s really great having access to a second program that offers gym time on this side of McBride Boulevard.

The funding for Family Place’s new program is provided through the United Way of the Lower Mainland.  F.W.Howay School is tucked up behind Canada Games Pool, on Cumberland just south of 10th Avenue. It’s accessible by bus using the 154.

Satellite Map

The program runs out of the Daycare Room which is across from the office. Free coffee, free programming and free fun all in one place! It’s win win win.

The main drop in site for Family Place is located at 93 Sixth Street and runs every morning from 9:30 – 11:30 Monday to Saturday and Monday and Tuesday afternoon from 1:00 until 3:00.  Their main drop in centre also has a library of books and a toy lending library, and regularly offers parenting programs.

“All of our programs are free and we love to meet new families,” says Staal.  ”For information call 604 520-3666 or check out our website and monthly calendar at www.nwfamily.bc.ca.”

Here’s a picture tour of the new site:

From Courtney Crescent

Steps

Front doors

Enter!

Cupboards all decorated

One of the play areas

Great artwork!

Great collection of assorted books

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Kids in Motion is Awesome Fun

When we moved over to Sapperton, I spent some time and checked out all the local shops on the “strip” along E. Columbia had to offer. Since then, we’ve said bon voyage to Pedagogy (soon to reopen down at River Market) and to Karmavore (now in spacious new digs on Columbia at 6th Street). I understand from local shopper Sheila that Opulence is the next to go – although, sadly, relocation is not what’s taking them out of the area – they are closing down. We’ve also said hello to Graze Market and fallen in love with their pulled pork, and are looking forward to what fills the space where Pedagogy and Karmavore were (one of the signs says it is “Puppets and Gore” – what the heck?).

One of the constants in the strip is Kids in Motion, a kids’ dance and play creative arts studio run by Natasha Young, a bubbly, approachable and understanding business owner.

The shop is pretty non-descript on the front – tucked into a storefront between a pizza joint and the always interesting Cadeaux, with security bars and a few bulletin boards chock full of notices in the windows.  We walk past it often enough and when I walked by in the late fall last year, I noticed an ad for classes. They were 4 weeks long and offered at $45, and with an indecisive flip-flopper of a toddler who is in love with something one day and can’t bear the thought of it the next, I thought that 4 weeks was a great commitment level for us.

Bubbles are a part of the fun!

Natasha offers classes ranging in age from babies to age 8, varying in subjects from general rhythm to ballet, tap, hip-hop, or jazz, as well as parties for the younger set. The classes for the younger guys are a parent participation class. Check out the course descriptions and schedules for more info. The space is clean, bright, and very kid-friendly.

We chose a class called Rhythm Kids for kids ranging in age from 1.5-3. My son’s on the top end of that age range, but he’s never really taken classes before and since he’s not in daycare, I thought the social time with some other kids would be really beneficial.  Natasha follows the same basic format for each class, and the consistency seems to pay off with the kids as they seem to follows her instructions remarkably well. The classes are well timed at 45 minutes long. The room is filled with lots of different props – drums, pinwheels, butterfly wings, ribbon sticks, and shakers among others and almost all classes include some free time on a huge range of instruments.

Stella never stops smiling.

For most of the first two classes Kale really wasn’t happy. He hung off me and didn’t want to participate but didn’t want to leave when suggested it. But toward the end of the second class, something clicked and he was spinning, singing, clapping, banging on drums, and generally just exploring with all the other kids. By the end of class three, he was begging me to “do it again!” and on our way home from the final class he admitted, in the way that only sad toddlers can portray, he “missed Miss Natasha”. Because it had been November and December, a lot of the classes were holiday and winter themed.

I decided to sign up for the next session of classes because he’d enjoyed it so much, only this session is 10 classes long ($110). Because it’s longer and Christmas is over, we’re going to be exploring a new theme each week like bugs, things that move, animals, jungles, and other fun stuff. We’re at week three now, and Kale is so excited to see Miss Natasha when we arrive. We talk about it ALL day (before and after class), and longingly wish for the next class to come. He sings, he dances, he plays with all the props. He loves rhythm class, bunny ears and all.

Bunnies hopping through the garden.

Check out Kids in Motion at 465B E. Columbia Street in Sapperton. Call 604-970-7945 or check them out online at kids-inmotion.ca

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United Boulevard Extension: What’s next? (Part 2)

A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road? Photo: Matthew Laird

A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road? Photo: Matthew Laird

Today in part 2 of our series we ask the question: Can the North Fraser Perimeter Road, creating a four lane truck route through New Westminster even be built?

How will that work? Let’s examine the feasibility of the City’s mitigation wish list. A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road?

There have been mentions of stacking the roads – how does that fit with Provincial dangerous goods regulations? There’s a reason why dangerous goods aren’t allowed in the Massey Tunnel or Cassiar Connector.

There’s been talk of pressuring the railways to remove one of their tracks – that still only frees up one more lane of traffic, we’re still not up to four if we want to maintain access to the retail fronts along Front Street.

What about behind The Interurban and Keg, there isn’t physically enough room to put four lanes between the existing building and the railway tracks. Are they going to shave a corner off this newly restored historic building for a truck route?

All of these are questions that have to be answered in order to make the City’s dream mitigation a reality, and despite years of talking about the NFPR and Front Street with ample opportunity to address these challenges they all remain unanswered. And now we’re asking Translink to suddenly plan and fund this route as one singular project, with adequate public consultation, before the March federal deadline? Really?

2011 is going to be an important year for transportation in New Westminster; the City is updating their Master Transportation Plan, the blueprint for transportation in the City. It’s up to all of us to push the City to get off the fence on these issues. If we truly want a four lane truck route down Front Street, show us the plans on how it will work. How will they make it all fit or which businesses and residents are they willing to sacrifice to shoehorn the road in there? Or should we look at alternative ideas and end the road building paradigm? The time for vague hand waving is over, we need a solid plan on how we want to see transportation in our city evolve over the next decades, the politicians have to get off the fence and make their opinions known.

Getting out of the car mentality is hard, for 50 years this is how we’ve designed and built our cities. We’ve allowed developments where eventual transit service which must follow will be difficult and expensive. As oil prices rise, the idea of cheap living in the burbs will quickly evaporate. With climate change and peak oil the days of motordom are numbered. Even if the fabled electric car becomes a reality we’ve already seen the private car paradigm doesn’t scale. On a recent trip to Seattle it occurred to me, throughout my entire life, over 3 decades, any time I’ve been to Seattle, I-5 has always been under expansion and yet it’s still gridlock during rush hour. The simple reality is no city, anywhere, has ever built themselves out of congestion. And if we think we have the magic plan to do so, we’d be very rich selling it to cities around the world.

But what are the alternatives when it comes to the NFPR? Parallel to the NFPR are three alternative transportation corridors. The Fraser River. The rail lines. And Skytrain. Could the travel demand that Translink projects for the NFPR be satisfied by shifting some of the current and future demand towards this existing infrastructure at a savings of over over $1 billion dollars to the taxpayer?

Studies say, yes. A report on Short Sea Shipping has stated there is a good opportunity to reduce emissions and traffic by sending goods by barge. With the completion of the Evergreen Line, we’ll have the equivalent capacity of a 10 lane freeway between Coquitlam and New Westminster. And the Langley-Lougheed rapid bus the province has promised upon completion of the Port Mann Bridge again has the opportunity to remove a significant number of vehicles from the road at a much more modest cost.

The stumbling block in creating an integrated goods and people movement system is there is no single body charged with creating it. Fraser River issues are a matter for the Port Authority, Translink has admitted it’s a good idea but has no mandate to get involved. Rail transportation is a Federal issue and the domain of private railways. The NFPR and Evergreen Line are a Translink issues. The Gateway project and Highway 1 are a Provincial issue. Zoning on where we put sprawling, low-density developments and business parks are a municipal matter. There is no coordination in creating a unified development and transportation plan, and hence we have the chaos and missed opportunities we see today. In this sea of competing interests and jurisdictions its important that we have a clear vision of what works for our City and what doesn’t. Its up to us to champion a workable transportation system for our City while respecting the need to move people and goods throughout the region.

But the obvious conclusion from all of this is if New Westminster council truly believes in protecting New Westminster’s liveability and IF we’re committed to building the NFPR as one unified project, keeping a standalone UBE on life-support for the sake of some Federal dollars which are pennies in the full project price tag makes no sense. Let it go and let’s start making a real plan for the future.

We have to have the hard conversation; can we make a 4 lane truck highway fit down Front Street? If the answer is no, as I suspect it will be, the city must stop dancing on the fence about conditional support for the NFPR only if unrealistic criteria are met. Development in our downtown and waterfront have been held hostage for far too long, we either need plans on how the NFPR will fit in to downtown New Westminster or to put our foot down and say no thank you, but you’re welcome to take one of the several other modes of transportation our City is fortunate enough to have on offer.

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United Boulevard Extension: what’s next? (Part 1)

Photo: Matthew Laird

Front Street. Photo: Pat Johnstone

We won; we stopped the flood gates of the United Boulevard Extension from opening and releasing the hordes of new commuter traffic on to already chocked New Westminster streets. Or did we?

New Westminster council has asked TransLink to continue consulting, designing, and to request an extension for the Federal money committed to the project. That sounds like a green light to me; despite a lot of public posturing by mayor and council that they wouldn’t support the project they haven’t actually said no to the UBE, they’re just tinkering with the details. A, B, C, or D are out, but something else might be acceptable.

But the lingering questions which have never been answered still remain. What about Front Street? What about the Queensborough Bridge which is already backed up during rush hour halfway down Stewardson Way? Where will all this new traffic the UBE enables actually go? How will TransLink ensure a route which is supposed to be for goods movement doesn’t get clogged and gridlocked with commuter traffic? The City and TransLink have danced around these issues but never actually directly addressed them. Sadly because of policy or in some cases geography they simply can’t, which should ring loud alarm bells for residents.

To their credit council has again asked that a UBE extension be tied in to Front Street mitigation, that the NFPR shouldn’t be done piecemeal with a decade or more gap between sections such as the UBE and Front Street. Fair enough. However the key in all this is what a full project with proper mitigation will look like. This is the detail the City has never defined, there’s only been vague hand waving about plinths, tunnels, “mitigation” and a few pretty drawings. In fact in the few details that have been released there’s been conflicting plans and flip flops with issues such as the future of Front Street as a retail corridor. A detailed plan on how such a project would be designed, how it would affect the existing Front Street, how it would fit in with newer City approved projects like The Interurban, have never been shown. The last estimate I’ve heard from a source inside City Hall about 5 years ago was over half a billion dollars to get everything on the City’s wish list, a number which is obviously far larger now.

Now that TransLink has been granted a 3 month extension on the Federal money, this raises the question, why didn’t TransLink produce a complete plan when they announced they were proceeding with the UBE project last fall? New Westminster council’s December 2010 motion on the UBE reaffirms their 2007 position that Front Street mitigation must be part of the UBE project. It was a key requirement when New Westminster agreed to engage in the UBE process more than 3 years ago. If they couldn’t produce such a plan after 3 years, why should we expect them to now produce a plan in just 3 months?

Which leaves two options. Staff (both in TransLink and City) will waste hundreds of hours developing a new UBE plan which will never be approved by the City because it simply isn’t possible to plan and fund a project costing well over half billion dollar by March. Or City Council will drop the demand for Front Street mitigation as part of the UBE, approve a new UBE design and the flood gates will be opened with nowhere for the traffic to go. Which is it going to be?

But let’s talk about the realities of the entire NFPR and its funding. What will it cost and how will it be funded? The project New Westminster is demanding, when all the pieces are put together (UBE, Front Street, Columbia/Front intersection, fixing the Queensborough again) will likely come in well over a billion dollars. If you include a new Pattullo Bridge, we’re talking potentially up to $2 billion. In any projects of such magnitude (and we’re told of strategic importance for goods movement in the eyes of higher levels government) both the Federal and Provincial government would most certainly be at the table.

In the scenario of a billion dollar project, which is what New Westminster council currently demanding, whether they realize it or not, as a condition of approving the UBE, a tiny $65 million contribution by the federal government is meaningless. If council is going to stick to its guns for an all-at-once project, why get worked up about $65m? We’re talking about a much bigger pot that needs to be filled to complete the whole project. Regardless, there is only one taxpayer, whether it’s from the Federal, Provincial or Translink, it’s still our money, and we still pay the bill. The quibble is over which set of politicians get to be the bad guys in having to find the money and which get to be the good guys in cutting the ribbon. They’re playing a game involving their egos and political careers using our money.

But lets say we could come up with funding in the ball park of $2 billion, what are the physical realities of building a 4 lane truck route through New Westminster? In the second part of this article we’ll examine the limitations of building a road through the heart of the oldest City in Western Canada.

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MP Fin Donnelly on UBE: piecemeal transportation planning unfair

This is a guest post from New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody MP Fin Donnelly about the controversial United Boulevard Extension project.

Over the past month I have received numerous calls from constituents regarding the proposed United Boulevard Extension (UBE) road project, connecting Coquitlam and New Westminster.

Those from Maillardville argue that this ‘long overdue’ project will allow traffic to flow more freely out of the Brunette corridor in Coquitlam; while Sapperton residents have major concerns that the project will result in increased traffic flowing into New Westminster and the expropriation of residential and industrial land.

Transportation projects like these define communities, they become the ‘face’ of cities; but in the design stage, can be contentious because of the very nature of their impact on neighbourhoods. They also put interests at odds; pitting car driver against transit rider, industrial landowner against homeowner and neighborhood against neighborhood, and in the case of the UBE, Council against Council.

While the process used to shape these projects can be hostile, thankfully people often share the same goal of developing a liveable, sustainable community. However, regardless of where we live or our transportation mode of choice, this goal can be overshadowed when plans are implemented piece-meal.

With the UBE, the Conservative government and Translink have taken a ‘now or never’ approach threatening to pull $65 million in federal funding off the table if the project plan is not approved by December 31st 2010.

By trying to ram this through, New Westminster residents feel they are being denied meaningful consultation without assurance that other important pieces to the overall transportation corridor, like Front Street, which would steer trucks away from residential neighbourhoods, are in place. Neither have they received commitments that these concerns will be resolved before the December 31st deadline.

None of the UBE options proposed by Translink adequately serve the needs of the Sapperton residents. For this reason, New Westminster city council sent Translink back to the drawing board earlier this week.

Projects and processes such as these drive home the point that a meaningful regional transportation plan with real community engagement, adequate timelines and all relevant information, is needed.

It is unfair to expect that we can build a sustainable transportation network piecemeal.

I believe Canada needs a bold, new national transit strategy, one that adopts a far-sighted approach to urban transportation, recognizing the coming shift to a post carbon future. The trick is accommodating current transportation projects, such as the UBE, with this goal in mind.

This strategy would give top priority and funding to projects like the Evergreen Line. If we don’t have convenient, safe, clean, reliable public transit, then commuters will continue to opt for car-oriented road solutions that, at best, temporarily relieve, but eventually worsen congestion.

We must remember that decisions made today around infrastructure spending and priorities will be felt well into the future; so let’s plan, consult and spend wisely.

Fin Donnelly
Member of Parliament
New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody

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TransLink responds to UBE criticism in the Buzzer blog

Just a quick update on the controversial United Boulevard Extension plans for you: The Buzzer’s Jhenifer Pabillano took many of the questions and criticisms raised in your comments here, on the New Westminster Environmental Partners website and on NWEP President Pat Johnstone’s blog, Green New West (great commentary btw, Pat) to TransLink’s Director of Roads Sany Zein. In a lengthy blog post on The Buzzer, Sany provides TransLink’s perspective on the following questions:

  • What is the United Boulevard Extension and why is it considered a priority for the region?
  • Why is TransLink interested in this road project – shouldn’t TransLink be investing only in transit projects?
  • Why is it such a high priority?
  • What are the potential benefits of this project?
  • There are four options currently presented for the United Boulevard Extension. Will we only consider the one option (the T option) that New Westminster council has endorsed? Why would we even consider the other three options we have presented?
  • Could you address the concerns raised about the public consultation session held in New Westminster on November 18?
  • When is the actual deadline for the federal money to go away? How does that work?
  • What happens next?
  • There may be property acquisition needed as part of this project. Can you talk about the process involved with that?
  • How does this project fit into the big picture of the North Fraser Perimeter Road?
  • How much is this going to cost?

Read Jhenifer’s interview with Sany on the Buzzer blog for the answers.

I remain skeptical that the UBE is good for New West, and wish that TransLink would focus its efforts on building the Evergreen Line rather than invest more on widening roads in and around Coquitlam. Still, I have to say I am impressed that TransLink has taken the time to respond directly to New Westminster’s concerns, both by adding another public consultation session (Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Justice Institute of British Columbia) and through the Buzzer blog.

No matter how this turns out, I’m proud of the citizens of New West for pressing for answers to their questions. Too often apathy is our worst enemy. I’m proud of the folk of New West for showing up to those consultation sessions and speaking up online and through other channels so that City Council and TransLink could hear and consider their concerns.

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Pedagogy Toys to offer art & science classes for kids at River Market

River Market's Mark Shieh and Pedagogy Toys' Karen Smecher make the agreement official. Karen hopes to open the new Pedagogy Toys in River Market in early 2011. Photo: Pedagogy Toys

River Market's Mark Shieh and Pedagogy Toys' Karen Smecher make the agreement official. Karen hopes to open the new Pedagogy Toys in River Market in early 2011. Photo: Pedagogy Toys

New Westminster toy store Pedagogy Toys has been saved from closing thanks to a show of support from the community and a well-timed offer of skookum new digs in River Market at the Quay. Like so many other New West parents, I’m a fan of Pedagogy Toys, and so I wanted to find out more from owner Karen Smecher about the move from Sapperton to the Quay. Karen kindly agreed to answer a few questions via email:

How will the ‘new’ Pedagogy be different from the ‘old’? (or will it?)

Pedagogy will be better, it will be bigger and housed with like minded businesses in a fantastic setting. We will have the same retail features in a larger space which will allow as to branch out into larger products. In addition we will have a full classroom where Pedagogy Art will host Kim Chiem (registered art therapist) to work her magic on children of all ages. In addition we are going to have science drop-in classes and seasonal workshops for children. We are also launching fantasy Birthday Parties and this is just the beginning!

You said before that you planned to close the store. What changed your mind?

Since the news went out that we were scheduled to close, we have had such an overwhelming response from the community that it fully recharged my solar panels. Further more after being approached by Mark Shieh of River Market, we knew that here was a great opportunity to bring more into the community and Craig and I decided that we had to make it work!

When will you open the new store at River Market?

We hope to open Pedagogy Toys in Mid January and Pedagogy Arts in February. (fingers crossed)

On another note, have you got any tips for parents on what to buy their kids this Christmas?

Since children are very specific as to what they like at different ages all I can recommend to parents is:

1- Always look to see where the product is made,

2- Look for certification such as C E (stands for European Conformity meaning that a product in one of the controlled product categories cannot legally be sold in the EU unless it has passed the tests to receive the CE marking.) European standard EN 71 specifies safety requirements for toys. Compliance with the standard is legally required for all toys sold in the European Union. ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials. CHPA – Canadian market toys standard and ISO – Australian market toys standard

3- Be aware of the recent report concerning PVC levels in toys, primarily branded lines. These companies spend all their money on the brand and very little on the quality of materials.

4- MOST important, if you like the toy, you are drawn to it and it engages you, then you will spend more time playing and communicating with the most important people in your life.

Pedagogy toys will be open in Sapperton during the Christmas season, at 424 East Columbia St., in New Westminster. You’re also welcome to join us for our Tenth to the Fraser Exclusive Shopping Night at Pedagogy Toys, Saturday, Nov. 20 from 7-9pm.

If you haven’t been to Pedagogy, this video made by BCIT Magazine might give you an idea of what kind of toy store to expect:

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United Boulevard Extension Open Houses

If you’ve ever wondered why Skytrain has a dip in the guideway along Brunette, it isn’t to create a roller-coaster experience, but was designed to accommodate an overpass connected to United Boulevard in Coquitlam with Brunette Avenue.

Translink has been offered matching Federal stimulus money to complete this project as part of the Pacific Gateway Project, and told they must commit to this project by the end of the year or the money will be reallocated elsewhere. As part of the design process Translink is asking the two affected communities, New Westminster and Coquitlam, to approve moving in to the design phase (and committing to build the project) before year’s end. Hence the rushed public consultation occurring now. However like in so many projects, the devil is in the details.

Before heading to NWEP’s Urban Transportation Forum last Thursday night (I was on the organizing committee), I spent an hour at Translink’s by-invitation-only stakeholder meeting about the United Boulevard Extension (which it’s important to note the media was explicitly told they weren’t invited). There are two public open houses for this project coming up, the first being this Thursday November 18th from 5:30-8:30pm at the Justice Institute.

At the stakeholders meeting four designs were presented, each costing between $152-175 million dollars. It should be noted the federal money being offered is only $65 million. This leaves Translink to come up with $87-110 million to complete the project. At a time when Translink is strapped for cash and can’t even bridge the Evergreen Line funding gap, the decision to fund up to $110 million for the UBE is difficult to justify.

Moreover, in Translink’s own materials regarding their 2011 supplemental plan the numbers don’t add up. Take a look at the Municipal Update, page 5. In the funding options being proposed right now to the Mayor’s Council Translink claims the total financial impact of the UBE project to their budget is $53.2 million. That’s no where near the minimum of $87 million Translink would need to build the most basic option for the UBE. Another “funding” gap to fill?

In their own Transport 2040 evaluation, their strategic plan to encourage mode shift and lower pollution, the UBE scores 6.5 out of 10. Far below almost every other project.

So in summary, even with increased revenue from property taxes or a vehicle levy, we can’t afford the project and it doesn’t achieve Translink’s goals. So why do they want to build it? Federal money.

Unfortunately, based on the language used at the stakeholders meeting, the main push to build this project is the federal dollars on the table. Multiple times over the evening there were comments suggesting that if Translink didn’t commit by the end of the year the federal government would take their money and invest it in another project was used.  As you hopefully learned as a 3-year-old, just because someone is offering you something free you don’t have to take it.  What also rang in my head when I heard this justification was, “Evergreen Line?” Sure we’ll take the money, but let us use it where our own regional analysis show it will be most useful. Who knows more about regional transportation issues, TransLink or Ottawa?

And it’s not even the first time a higher level of government has tried to use matching funds as an incentive to build this project, in 2003 the provincial government offered a similar deal and the region turned them down because they recognized it wasn’t in the region’s best interests.

So how does this all relate to residents of New Westminster?

First, the cheapest of the 4 designs shown to us that evening involved expropriating good size chunks of commercial and residential land in Sapperton all the way up to Rousseau Street. One design involved building a new regional truck/commuter route parallel to Rousseau, connecting at Braid and then routing traffic back down to Brunette. The approximate expropriation area for this option can be seen in the diagram below. In three of the four designs (which were also the 3 cheapest, so you can guess which we’re likely to get) there would be some kind of new interchange on the west side of Brunette abutting the residential neighbourhood.

However this isn’t simply a NIMBY issue. While all cities have a role to play in accommodating movement in the region, the UBE does not serve this purpose. Instead, it shifts congestion from regional highways into densely populated residential areas with no significant gain in mobility for drivers stuck in traffic. It also encourages a shift of mode back into cars from the more sustainable alternatives. This project may merit consideration if real solutions for existing traffic problems within New Westminster were put in place first, however we are still waiting to see if solutions for increased traffic in the New Westminster region are affordable or practical. This was illustrated 25 years ago when Hwy 91 was brought to the Queensborough Bridge and no capacity was created to handle traffic within New Westminster.

“So where will the traffic go?” someone at the meeting asked. This is where things got a little vague. TransLink would commit to fix the Columbia/Front Street intersection at some fixed date, but not as part of this project. Which brings up visions of the fixed date set for completion of the Evergreen Line, which was originally supposed to be 2011.

As for the rest of Front Street, TransLink said that would be dealt with as part of the Pattullo Bridge project, however again no commitment on what would be done or when. The city has stated very clear stipulations on what it wants from an upgraded Front Street in this brinkmanship game it continues to play with TransLink and the province. But once the UBE is built and the flood gates are opened, all our bargaining power will evaporate. We’re playing a very dangerous game hoping we can negotiate an unaffordable solution after a piece of the project which makes our traffic congestion magnitudes worse is completed.

The United Boulevard Extension is a potential disaster for traffic congestion in New Westminster. The proposed connector doubles the capacity for traffic to enter New Westminster from the expanded Hwy 1 and Lougheed corridors, while there remains nowhere for it to go except to overflow onto residential streets. The portions of the NFPR through New Westminster remain unfunded, and most proposals aired so far are grossly inadequate to deal with existing traffic volumes. While the NFPR is being advertised as a “goods movement” investment, it is reasonable to expect that a significant portion of the users of will be single-occupancy vehicles, as they are on Front Street today.

Many of these travellers may choose to use the new Evergreen line and greatly improved transit service if such a service were to be provided to the Tri-Cities areas. In this sense, TransLink’s investment in the NFPR directly competes with their investment in the Evergreen Line and other transit services, and delays the inevitable and necessary shift from automobile-dependent transportation to more efficient mode choices for people, a stated goal of TransLink. With a continued “Funding Gap”, and the Evergreen Line still unfunded 10 years later, why would TransLink have a desire to spend $87-110 million on the United Boulevard Extension.

Just because someone offers you free candy doesn’t mean you take it. But this isn’t free candy. This is bitter medicine they know isn’t effective – and we are paying more than half the cost.

This issue affects more than just those whose houses are slated to be knocked down to make way for the UBE. In addition to the environmental and social costs, for the City of New Westminster, the expropriation of more commercial and industrial land to build the UBE means a further dwindling tax base, more congestion on city streets, and more burden on residential taxpayers. For the City, the project is an absolute financial and environmental disaster.

So now the issue is over to you, the citizens and taxpayers of New Westminster. Council is being asked before the end of the year to approve TransLink moving forward with this project. Go to the open house, ask lots of questions, make up your own minds on this project and let our mayor and council know your thoughts, because that is where the fate of this project will be decided. (And remember, next year is an election year.) This project will have enormous implications on New Westminster for decades to come, and we have less than 6 weeks to have a meaningful discussion on the topic.

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