Coal port planned across from Quay

As you may or may not know, Fraser Surrey Docks wants to build a full coal port on the Fraser River, directly across from the Quay. The coal facility would eventually move ~8 million tonnes of thermal coal from the U.S.  to power plants overseas every year. This is nearly a doubling  of the amount of American thermal coal shipped through B.C. ports.

Photo: David Hadgkiss
Photo: David Hadgkiss

A coal port across from the Quay would not only be an eyesore in an important tourist destination (and a place many New West residents visit daily for recreation), but it will also contribute significantly to global climate change and local air pollution. Exporting coal overseas while attempting to meet province-wide climate targets is duplicitous and hypocritical.  Health concerns about breathing in toxic coal dust and diesel fumes are serious and real. Vulnerable groups like kids and seniors spend time on the Quay everyday (including mine, pictured above).  The Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities and the province’s chief medical officer have all called for a comprehensive health impact assessment, but it hasn’t happened to date

There is no benefit to BC from this coal port aside from maybe a few dozen jobs. If approved, our communities would bear the health and environmental risk while the profits will accrue to the US companies that own the mines, rail companies and Fraser Surrey Docks. On top of that, it’s likely to become a stranded asset: demand for imported coal in China is tanking as the country is getting serious about cutting down on pollution from coal-fired power plants.

My objection isn’t just a knee-jerk NIMBY response as a parent who lives in downtown New West. I don’t think this coal port should be built in anyone’s backyard.  We should not be making any investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. If we start building now, Canada could get 100% of our energy from renewable resources by 2035. As a parent, I think opposing this coal plant is just as important as the decisions I will make about where to put our kid into daycare. The more fossil fuels we let burn, the more different our kid’s future will be, and the evidence is strong that that future will be worse.

Despite local opposition and lacking a proper assessment, the proposal so far has the approval of Port Metro Vancouver,  an unaccountable decision-making authority with no local representation. But the Fraser Surrey Docks still needs additional permits before operating, so all is not lost. Our City, at least, recognizes the coal port is not in the interest of New Westminster (or any community). New West City council officially opposes the proposal and has signed on as intervenors in a court challenge.  Ecojustice is taking Port Metro Vancouver to court on the grounds of procedural fairness and failure to consider climate impact.

This video from the event held in New Westminster in the spring nicely summarizes what’s at risk, and why you should care:

The official link to the proposal is here. I recommend this FAQ if you want to learn more, especially for more detail on the status of the proposal. How to get involved:

Biggest one-day food truck fest in Canada comes to New West Aug 22

The Columbia StrEAT Festival is the biggest one-day food truck festival in Canada

Canada’s largest one-day food truck fest is back in downtown New West this summer.

On Saturday, August 22 from 4-10pm, The Third Annual Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Fest will bring over 70 food trucks, beer gardens and free entertainment to downtown New West.

Tacofino, Johnny’s Pops and DougieDog Hot Dogs will be back by popular demand. New vendors this year will include Culver City Salads, Cheeses Crust, Taters – The Baked Potato Co., and many more.

Many Downtown New West restaurants will also set up food tents to sell street food. RainCity Juicery and Old Crow Coffee are among the New West restaurants who will join the party on Columbia Street for the event. Boston Pizza is hosting a pizza-eating contest, featuring star contestant Mayor Jonathan Cote!

I spoke to Downtown BIA Program and Events Coordinator Maddison McKitrick to ask a few questions about the event:

Q: What has been the impact of this festival on downtown New West businesses?

A: We actually polled our membership and Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Fest ranked very high with our members regarding BIA initiatives. The impact has been amazing, bringing crowds of over 50k in 2014 provided great exposure for our Downtown businesses. We are expecting crowds of 75k this year!

Q: How many beer gardens will you have? Who is running them?

A: Four! The Heritage Grill, The Columbia Theatre, The Met Bar & Grill and Anvil Centre will be set up inside but their large window/doors will be open to the street. These beer gardens are technically liquor license extensions, basically a large patio for the establishments. The Met Bar & Grill will have Growers serving up samples in their beer garden.

Q: What entertainment are you offering? 

A: Huge variety! The Arts Council of New West will be hosting two festival tents of amazing acts, including Roland and Emma Nipp, Old Mare, The Alvair Trio, Bryan Michael and more. The Royal City Swing will be set up, dancing away and even offering intro lessons to attendees! Emily Harder, a local singer/songwriter, Six String and a Saxophone, a local New West jazz duo. We are expecting more to join the event as well. A full list of entertainment can be found on our website’s event listing.

Q: Is this a kid-friendly event? 

A: As our event runs from 4pm-10pm, it’s tailored to an older demographic but we definitely encourage families to attend and had tons attend last year. There are lots of yummy treats that are very kid friendly! Plus the Brick & Mortar Living girls will be presenting the Chalk Spot, a sidewalk chalk area for artsy kids on McKenzie Street at Columbia from 4pm-7pm.

A full list of participating food trucks is available on the New West Downtown BIA website. There is also a Facebook event you can join if you want to be updated with the latest info.

The Food Truck Fest is organized by the Downtown New West BIA, with support from RiverSky by Bosa Properties and Vancity.

Photo: Technomonkey Media, used with permission of the Downtown New West BIA.

 

 

The ill-defined line between ‘sexy’ and ‘seedy’

Sex & Our City

It sells, it titillates, it outrages. Sex, or the promise of it, is a primary motivator for a tremendous amount of human behaviour from baby-making to bar fights. From the moment that puberty rears its hormone-y head, only asexual folks seem to be immune to the madness; busying themselves with far more sensible things than those of us caught between surging desire and a spinning moral compass. Few things on earth are as heavily contested as sexuality – be it the concept as a whole, or the individual experience and expression thereof.

Even within Metro Vancouver, New West is hardly first on the list of scandalous locales, but our little city does a fine job of demonstrating the strange and ill-defined gulf between what is culturally acceptable sexuality and what is taboo. Continue reading “The ill-defined line between ‘sexy’ and ‘seedy’”

Give Peas a Chance: Looking for Vegetarian Options in Downtown New West

I love downtown New West. I’ve been working and playing here for more than two years, and even in that short time I have seen it become an increasingly attractive, modern, and hip area that is luring droves of young people and families to its friendly streets. Yet even with the growing number of new shops, restaurants, and amenities popping up around downtown, I still face the daily struggle of finding a decent vegetarian meal when lunch or dinner time rolls around. Considering how well-stocked the area is with cafes, restaurants, markets, and food trucks, this is a surprising (and frustrating) problem.

I’ve been fully vegetarian for years, and these days it’s dead easy to shop and eat out in most places. Grocery stores are well-stocked with meat and dairy alternatives, and most restaurants worth their salt offer at least a few intentionally vegetarian items. What do I mean by “intentionally vegetarian”? This refers to options that were crafted to be vegetarian from conception, not a meat-based meal with the animal products removed upon request (which can often be of inferior quality). With vegetarianism, veganism, dairy-free, and other alternative diets at an all-time high, there is simply no excuse for a modern restaurant not to have a few solid veggie entrées.

That’s why I’m consistently surprised and disappointed by how few great vegetarian and vegan options there are in downtown New West. At the River Market on New West Quay, most of the restaurants have limited vegetarian entrées, and many have no vegan choices. Wally’s Burgers‘ only “meatless” option is a fried egg on a bun (off-limits to vegans and egg-free vegetarians), and some establishments are actually reducing their vegetarian options rather than beefing them up (pun intended). In fact, my initial inspiration for this post stemmed from a recent depressing lunch break in which I was informed by a staff member at Re-Up BBQ that their delicious vegetarian chilli is now made with bacon fat. Ignorance is bliss… (Editor’s note: Re-Up BBQ responded via Twitter after this was published to say that the veggie chilli with bacon fat was a test item on the menu, but the chilli now on the menu “and for the foreseeable future” is vegetarian – BT)

The Shops at New West have a somewhat better selection of vegetarian fare, mostly because the establishments tend to be larger regional or national chains. Yet even the gastropub Hub, where I enjoyed a relaxing patio dinner with my S/O recently, offers only 2 vegetarian options out of their 12 entrées, and 2 of their 5 salads have meat ( sorry vegans – all of them have cheese). For a large restaurant with a seemingly hip and modern vibe, I was once again disappointed.

So where can a hungry veggie get a tasty and reasonably-priced meal in downtown New West? In the River Market, Pamola has a delicious mushroom burrito (although with a generous helping of cheese it’s not vegan-friendly), and the spinach and feta quiche at Tre Galli is a lunchtime staple of mine. Downtown also has several Japanese restaurants with vegetarian options, but my personal standby is Togo Sushi with their tasty wakame salad and yam tempura rolls.

At this point you might be thinking that us vegetarians are too demanding – after all, nobody forced me to go meat-free. Why should everyone have to cater to my personal choice? Yet there are so many more reasons why restaurants ought to offer good vegetarian and vegan options. Firstly, not everyone is meat-free by choice; many people need to be for medical or religious reasons. Secondly, vegetarian and vegan entrées can be great healthy alternatives for those looking to watch their salt, fat, or calorie intake, or those simply looking to boost their daily servings of fruit and veg. Thirdly, intentionally veggie dishes are delicious and unique. Removing protein staples such as chicken, beef, or fish from the kitchen arsenal can inspire chefs and home cooks alike to think outside the box and create exciting new flavours. Finally, vegetarian and vegan dishes are inclusive; they are usually more affordable, and are suitable for most diets, from the most restrictive, to the diehard carnivore. As a vibrant, multicultural, and forward-thinking neighbourhood, I think downtown New West deserves more vegetarian options.

What are your favourite vegetarian/vegan spots in New West? We would love to hear your suggestions!

Stay cool, New West: Summer fun at spray parks, splash pools, and beaches

Summer heat came early with a May that was one of the driest on record, and it’s only getting hotter. Thankfully, New West has a pretty great list of spray parks, splash pools and even a couple beaches where you can suntan on hot sand.

Spray Parks: Open from 10am-7pm, Victoria Day to Labour Day

  • Queens Park – A classic spot for summer fun, the thick trees of the park make it easy to find a shady spot to cool down. The spray park features a water table feature for toddlers as well as a varied collection of sprinklers for older kids and adventurous tots to run through. The spray park is next to the Queens Park Petting Zoo (open 10am-5:30pm), a concession, and the Rainbow Playland playgrounds.
  • Moody Park – Located Uptown at 6th Ave. & 8th St. next to the playground, this older spray park is earmarked for an facelift soon. Water lines were recently upgraded in preparation for the new spray park. I’m not sure when the new spray park is due to be installed, but this could be the last summer to enjoy the tree-stump sprinklers in the old park.
  • Ryall Park – Next to a toddler playground, an all-wheel park, and the Queensborough Community Centre. The community centre includes a small branch of the New Westminster Library – a good spot to step out of the sun for a while to check out a book or do a puzzle with your kids.
  • Sapperton Park – Blessedly close to Starbucks and a short walk from Sapperton SkyTrain, this smaller spray park at Sherbrooke & East Columbia is a great spot to meet up with friends. I often find at larger parks like Queen’s, the kids run off to play in different areas. It’s hard to keep up a conversation while you’re chasing them to opposite ends of the playground! At Sapperton Park, the kids are always within eyesight, which makes it easy for the parents to enjoy their “playdate” too.
  • Old Schoolhouse Park – Not a true spray park, but this Queensborough park includes a playable water feature for kids where they can get as wet as they want to. At Ewen Ave & Derwent Way.
  • Hume Park – Resurfaced in May/June 2015, this is now open for business! Really nice re-do of the splash park, that uses recycled tires for the surface – non-slip and a bit squishy on the feet.  Located off East Columbia Street in Sapperton.

Outdoor pools – Open from the last weekend in June until Labour Day

  • Moody Park – The newest pool in New West is conveniently located in leafy Moody Park. Changerooms are clean and spacious, and while the pool isn’t the biggest around, it is a beautiful spot to cool off in summer. Open for public swim from 1:15 to 7:55pm in July & August. Adult swim from 8-9:25pm on Tuesdays & Thursdays; youth swim from 8-9:25pm on Wednesdays.
  • Hume Park – Pair your swim with a walk through the trails in Lower Hume or take the kids to the new adventure playground next to the pool. Hume Park is great fun. Open on fair weather days from 1:15pm-8pm.
  • Grimston Park wading pool – Open from 12-4pm in July & August, this is one of the few remaining free, public wading pools in Metro Vancouver. Staffed by a lifeguard, who often brings water toys and may offer face-painting if you are lucky. Grimston is a lesser-known park in New West, located in the West End a short walk from 22nd St. SkyTrain.

Free admission to Moody Park Pool & Hume Pool on weekends, and just $2 for adults / $1.50 for kids and seniors during the week.

Beaches

  • The not-so-“secret” beach in Queensborough is a lovely and quiet little patch of sand. You probably don’t want to go swimming in the fast-moving Fraser River, but you can cool your feet at the river’s edge and benefit from the cool air off the water and surrounding shade trees. Located off the Port Royal Riverfront Walk, on the Poplar Island side.
  • The Pier Park Urban Beach is accessed via the Quay boardwalk and a new pedestrian overpass at 4th Street (via the Parkade). While you can’t go swimming here, it’s breezy and beautiful, with trees and sun umbrellas for shade and even hammocks to relax in. The City is adding new water ‘misters’ to provide some relief from the heat (should be complete in the second week of July).

Further afield: 

When a beach where you can swim is the only thing that will do, you have to settle in for a bit of a drive or public transit adventure. Here are a couple of favourite ‘field trips’ from New West:

  • Our family’s favourite swimming beach near New West is Centennial Beach at Boundary Bay Park in Delta, which is about a half-hour drive away. It’s a long, sandy beach with shallow water that heats up to the temperature of bathwater. When the tide is in, you can go out wading until you are just a tiny speck on the horizon and still not be more than waist-deep. When the tide is out, the area is full of tidepools to explore. There is a playground and concession near the main parking lot, but if you are willing to walk a ways you can usually find a quiet spot in the seagrass where you can spread a picnic blanket. Just remember to bring lots of sunscreen and your own shade: it’s mostly scrub bush and grass out there rather than trees.
  • Sasamat Lake’s White Pine Beach is 40 minutes away and features a beautiful beach surrounded by mountains and tall evergreens.
  • English Bay Beach in downtown Vancouver is 40 minutes by car or an hour by public transit. The beach is gorgeous, and you can pair your visit with a walk around the Stanley Park Seawall or a bit of Robson Street shopping in the West End.

What about you? Where do you go to cool off on a hot summer day?

Food Truck Festival – Let’s Go Eat

The good news is the first ever Food Truck Festival is coming to New West, and it is already shaping up to be amazing. The bad news, for me, anyway, is I can’t make it! But you should be putting August 10 on your calendar and head to Columbia Street and make sure you go hungry.

Kaboom BoxThe first ever Food Truck Fest here in our city, dubbed Columbia StrEAT, will feature beer gardens (woohoo #brewwest!)  live entertainment, and 15-20 food trucks on a closed Columbia Street between 4th Street and 6th Street from 3 pm to 9 pm. Food trucks confirmed include Guanaco Truck, Casalinga Carts, Beljam’s Waffles, Aussie Pie Guy, Holy Perogy (who some of you might remember from Summerfest a few years ago – oh my!) and Kaboom Box.

With New West quickly becoming a bit of a food hot spot, a Food Truck Festival – long considered to be some of the best portable restaurant incubators -makes perfect sense.

Aussie Pie Guy

We all know that Robert Fung, of the Salient Group and developers of the anticipated Trapp +Holbrook, has committed to New West. He’s the lead sponsor for this Saturday’s Pecha Kucha Volume 3 (and seriously, you should be coming to that if you aren’t already – it’s free and open to all!) is signed up as a sponsor. “Downtown New West continues to catch people’s attention as a great urban neighbourhood and dynamic place to live. There’s a strong sense of community here that is filled with the energy that comes from people sharing the knowledge that they are part of something special,” says Fung.

JJ's Trucketeria“The Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Fest is an amazing testimony to how progressive this town is, and how ready it is to blow the culinary and entrepreneurial doors off! Salient is really excited to be a part of this event and, with Trapp+Holbrook, to be part of the Columbia Street evolution. If you don’t already live here, get used to coming to Downtown New West for great food and a great sense of belonging. This event is a wonderful example of the atmosphere and excitement people can expect in Downtown New West.”

Check out the BIA’s Facebook page for more info.