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:

It’s A New West Thankgiving Thanks-Fest!

Well, it’s the Thanksgiving long weekend. And I thought that it might be a good idea to look around me, and take stock of all of the things that I have to be thankful for, particularly here in my adopted home of New Westminster.

Here in Canada, our Thanksgiving is based around the Anglican calendar, a liturgical festival that quietly mirrors the pagan Harvest Festivals in Britain, and those festivals celebrated very similarly by First Nations peoples who engaged in harvest festivals for many thousands of years. Over the centuries, the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving has come to mean many things to many people .

What does thanks mean to me, here in New West?

Like many things in life for me, it’s the details, the simple pleasures for which I give thanks. I don’t have to face hypothermia, typhoid, fighting off a bear with a skinny branch, or injuries sustained in clearing a patch of land to build a log cabin like our early Canadian forebearers did (and for which I also give thanks).

But, thanks are thanks, no matter what era in which one finds oneself. And here are some of mine.

***

The Library

New Westminster Library
Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd

Libraries are a sure sign that civilization is alive and well. At the risk of sounding like a very, very old man, libraries democratized information long before the Internet came along to claim the crown. And they’re still important, you young whippersnappers.

Ours is a five minute walk from my apartment. I have celebrated the New Westminster Library here before, of course, as have a number of writers here on Tenth To The Fraser. But recently I’ve discovered yet another treasure it provides me – classic movies on DVD! Netflix this!

Public Transit

Tranlink public transit New Westminster
Photo: Nathan Pachal

Although it’s been under attack recently, public transit in New West still kicks all manner of butt, and was one of my reasons for moving here. Then, I was without a car. I am therefore in favour of, and thankful to, any city that empowers its citizens to choose not to own a car if they don’t want one, or can’t afford one.

Since my little girl lives in North Delta, and it’s such a big deal to cross a river around here (with only 3 buses crossing a river, only one of which stops at a SkyTrain Station during regular service hours), I’ve since had to buy one. If only New West was looked to as more of an example of how public transit should be integrated into a community.

Moody Park

Photo: Robert John Davies Jones

Toward the end of the summer, I got off the 155 bus on 6th Street, between 10th and 9th. It was fresh, sunny day. There was a gentle breeze. The bus pulled away, and I looked across the road into Moody Park. The trees cast cool shade onto the grass, awash as it was with cheery sunlight. Dogs played. People gathered, laughing around picnic tables. It was life! And people were out in it, enjoying it together. It made me feel grateful to be here.

Rainbow Market

Photo: RJDJ

Rainbow Market on 8th street at 4th is the convenience store very close to my apartment – even closer than the Library! When there’s no milk for coffee, it’s been there for me in a pinch. But, it’s not just about the convenience. It’s about the time my daughter got a free candy (with my permission) when it was noticed that she was feeling a bit disappointed that day by the chap behind the counter. That kind of stuff counts.

9th Street

Photo: RJDJ

Some of the oldest houses that I’ve seen in New Westminster are just around the corner from me here on the Brow-Of-The-Hill. There is something about a house that is over a century old that really makes one feel very connected to a place that celebrates such an illustrious history, existing in a form that is both wonderful, and somehow alien too across the span of decades. It feels, at times, when walking in historic neighbourhoods like this one (as I’m wont to do), that time itself is something of an illusion.

I suppose too, I am in a state of constant admiration of those who live in those houses along 9th street. I am amazed at how devoted they must be to have made themselves so actively a part of that ongoing history just by taking care of a house like that, preserving that shared history for us all.

Drink Urban Lounge

Drink Urban Lounge
Photo: Raul Pacheco-Vega

I consider Drink Urban Lounge on Columbia Street to be my local, with a fine selection of beers, great food, and friendly wait staff. There’s something that is both cozy and sophisticated about it that I noticed the moment I stepped in there. I know The ‘Drink has been compared to a Yaletown place, but I actually think it’s its own thing.

When they played David Byrne on the box, along with some cool jazz, a spot of Bob Dylan, a touch of Wilco, they really had me. And one time recently, our hostess made us nachos even after the kitchen was closed. How great is that? Great enough to at least say “Thanks!”

Angelina’s

My favourite meal of the day is brunch. And when I crave it, Eggs Benedict is the first dish that leaps to mind, with strong coffee, fried potatoes, and freshly-squeezed orange juice – comfort food. All of this is mine at Angelina’s, a breakfast and lunch place down by the Quay (115 – 960 Quayside Drive ) which has become a fast favourite, for which I’m thankful is here in our city. It’s owned by a couple who are extremely friendly and know their trade. It feels kind of like a B&B without the first B. But, show up early, ’cause it’s cozy.

The Quay

New Westminster Quay
Photo: Stephen Rees

I believe that human beings draw a strong psychological lift being near water. And to have a place to walk near it, with greenery, a pub, a playground, a River Market, and grocery store along the way, that lift is made all the more a thing for which to be thankful.

Army & Navy

Photo: RJDJ

This is one of my favourite places on Columbia Street, not just because of the wide range of fashions and household items at very reasonable prices. But, because it reminds me of my childhood in the 1970s, when all department stores were set up like this. The soundtrack helps. When you’re in the Army & Navy on Columbia Street, your soundtrack will be pop music of all kinds, as long as it was released between 1956 to 1976. It’s like being a kid again! Well, for me it is.

Queen’s Park and surrounding environs

Photo: RJDJ

Like I touched on when speaking about 9th street, history fascinates me, and with many homes dating from the early 1900s in this extraordinarily pretty neighbourhood, there is plenty to soak up. In addition, quiet, tree-lined streets in a neighbourhood that still passes the pint of milk test (15 minutes to buying a pint of milk without climbing into a car) once again shows me a big part of what makes a great place to live, and how neighbourhoods should be planned.

Really, I just enjoy walking around this neighbourhood, admiring the individual beauty of each house, admiring the aesthetics of another age, and once again being made aware of how important history and a sense of continuity is in New Westminster, and how I feel I’ve been invited into it.

Friends

Friends, of course.

I sure have made a lot of friends in this town, ones I love to chat with, to hoist pints with, to share stories with. There is nothing quite like a support network, with “support network” perhaps sounding a bit too clinical for what it actually means to me.

As we grow up and get older, our relationships become more selective, perhaps. And being Canadian, we’re a bit more guarded as to who we let in than perhaps our American cousins are. But, like our other cultural cousins, the British, once you’re in, you’re in. How can you not be thankful for something like that?

So, I am.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

***

5 Songs About Thanks

Get your thrift on at Saturday’s Quayside Boardwalk Festival & Sale

The 4th Annual Quayside Boardwalk Festival & Sale is this Saturday, August 21 from 10am - 3pm. Photo: eych-you-bee-ee-ahr-tee (via Flickr)
The 4th Annual Quayside Boardwalk Festival & Sale is this Saturday, August 21 from 10am - 3pm. Photo: eych-you-bee-ee-ahr-tee (via Flickr)

New West gets its thrift on this weekend at the 4th Annual Quayside Boardwalk Festival & Sale. On Saturday, August 21 from 10am to 3pm, the boardwalk at the Quay will bustle with bargain-hunters seeking their treasures.

And boy, is there ever treasure to be found. At last year’s event I bought a sock monkey from a crafter who became my son’s most-beloved stuffed “friend,” artwork that still hangs in my living room, five pre-loved “action men” for Wesley (Spider-Man, GI Joe, Superman, Batman and Bob from Reboot), some orphaned china pieces that started a new collection for me and an awesome $2 lamp. In my experience, the Quayside Sale has better booty than the Queen’s Park sale, and it’s easier to shop because the tables are right next to each other along the kilometre-long sale.

Organizers expect 5,000 people to come down and shop over 150 tables of “deluxe junque.” There will also be fundraisers such as raffles and hot dog sales for various charities, food for sale from Royal City Farmers Market vendors, the Lion’s Club BBQ and others, live music, a kids’ zone with bouncy castle and slide, and more. There will also be a sidewalk sale along Columbia Street in partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement Association.

The event is rain or shine, so don’t let the chance of showers on Saturday dissuade you from dropping by.

Jen and I will be there too, as vendors, so if you come by please say hello!

10 noteworthy places in New West

This is a guest post by Rob Jones, who shares some of his first impressions of New Westminster as a new resident of our city. You can read more from Rob on his blog, The Delete Bin, and also find him on Twitter @clippernolan.

There are elements of every city that makes it unique, makes them feel like home.

My experience with big-small towns is well established, even if I am a recent resident of New Westminster. Like New West, my hometown of Oakville Ontario was founded next to a busy waterway; it was a shipbuilding centre when it was first founded in the 1800s, nestled against the expanse of Lake Ontario.

There are other similarities of course – the high streets, the parks, tree-lined streets, the cozy community feel, and even certain idiosyncrasies that don’t appeal to everyone, but help to make the place what it is.

So, with this in mind here are 10 places of noteworthiness that I’ve discovered in my first few months here in New Westminster. There are some you know, and maybe a few you haven’t thought much about. Yet, if its true first impressions you’re after from a New West newbie such as myself, you’ve come to the right place.

1. 6th and 6th

In living on the other side of the Fraser for the last few years, I really missed the old-fashioned high street, the main drag that is within walking distance of home. Having done time in the land of big box stores, malls the size of the Death Star, and traffic-clogged main streets that seem to be excuses for big brands to plaster their names all over everything, coming to a place where this is less the case was a welcome change.

6th and 6th.  Image courtesy of Dennis Hurd
6th and 6th. Image courtesy of Dennis Hurd

This is not to say that there aren’t big name stores along this intersection and surrounding area – there certainly are. But, somehow, the signs seem like less of a crass branding exercise, and more of a vital centre of small town commerce, even if this really isn’t a small town. This is one of the strengths of this area – maintaining that balance between the two solitudes of small town coziness and the convenience and energy of the city. 6th and 6th , and the surrounding area from the Library down to 4th avenue, epitomizes this for me.

2. Moody Park

Named after Colonel Richard Clement Moody (born in Barbados, where my dad was born and raised, coincidentally…) who founded New Westminster in 1859 , Moody Park rests between 6th Avenue and 8th avenue, and 10th street and 8th street. My daughter and I take walks there, conveniently located as it is just up the street from my apartment. It is a wonderland of monkey bars, slides, sporting fields, and soon enough, a pool too . The squirrels dart from tree to tree, hoping for alms from those walking their dogs or their kids. It is a place of innocence and good clean fun – by day at least.

My Daughter AKA 'The Girl'. Image courtesy of Adrienne Theissen of Gemeni Visuals

It’s also been the site of many awkward exchanges for me with other parents, while our children are busy becoming instant friends in the playground. Strange how that works; that certain things that are insurmountable as children are conquered with the experiences of adulthood, yet with some things lost, too. I’m talking about the ability to make instant connections, and to hitch one’s imaginations to those of another without a second thought, and without much effort if any at all.

3. The Salvation Army Store

Where can you get a blazer, a set of towels, a comforter, a Spider Robinson novel, and an old-fashioned bona fide Faerie Queen china doll in one trip for less than twenty bucks? It’s the Salvation Army superstore on Columbia street, right at the foot of 8th street, of course, with the promise of ‘1000s of items arriving daily!’

Salvation Army Store, Columbia Street New Westminster.  Image courtesy of Starksilver.com
Salvation Army Store, Columbia Street New Westminster. Image courtesy of Starksilvercreek.com

Recently, I’ve had the occasion to go hunting for housewares, which I could do at a WalMart I guess. But with a treasure trove of cheap and charitable goods right off of New Westminster Skytrain, I can’t think of why I would. In other communities, many of these items can be found in various box stores. But, that’s just shopping, isn’t it. I’d rather go on a treasure hunt any day. And in the Salvation Army store, that’s what it feels like every time.

4. ‘Wedding District’

I’ve never seen anything like it. All along Columbia Street are a collection of wedding dress stores and tuxedo rentals, parked right next to each other as if there aren’t any other places to get this sort of thing for miles around. Also, with the selection of florists along here, one could practically source everything one needs a wedding, including specialty items. Want a vampire theme? No problem – they’ve got a dress for that, and quasi-medieval menswear to match. Name it, and you can probably get married in it.

Image courtesy of Image in White, 554 Columbia Street, New Westminster
Image courtesy of Image in White, 554 Columbia Street, New Westminster

And with the Paramount theatre just down the street, where athletically-figured women remove their attire for the benefit of male patrons to the strains of yesterday’s hit parade, the Groom can have his stag while the flowers are decided upon – all in one district! That’s convenience! And I haven’t even mentioned the tattoo parlor, which (if they have any sense) must have an ongoing two-for-one lovebird special. It gets you to the church on time, kids!

5. 8th street hill

Before I moved here, I had the occasion to climb the hill in order to pick up my car from Artman Automotive. The shop, actually run by a knowledgeable and honest guy called Art, and is on Royal Avenue near Douglas College. This is roughly at the crest of one of the steepest hills I’ve ever had to climb, just shy of ‘Historic Brow of the Hill’, where I now reside these many years later.

And here is the station at the bottom of the hill - the place of decision-making: bus or walk?  Image courtesy of  Fujitariuji.  Click image to view Flickr stream
And here is the station at the bottom of the hill - the place of decision-making: bus or walk? Image courtesy of Fujitariuji. Click image to view Flickr stream

During my ascent, being reminded of my mortality the whole way, the best adjective to describe me on achieving the crest of Royal avenue from 8th street was ‘vincible’, as in the opposite of invincible. But, once I caught my breath, I found that the view is incredible – the river, the expanse of downtown New West and the shores of North Delta, and the fatigued Douglas College students climbing the hill from New West Skytrain Station as if searching for Enlightenment itself. Yet, do I climb this hill everyday on foot, or do I take the trusty 123 bus, even if I have to wait without shelter, knee-deep in cigarette butts, and within earshot of multiple one-way teenaged cellphone conversations? I’ll let you guess, but the answer is as easy as 1-2-3.

6. The Quay

This is another locale for me and my daughter; for walks and talks, lots of questions for her part, and few answers for mine. The quay is our place for paying homage to the world’s tallest tin soldier, the tugboat (courtesy of Expo ’86, and moved to New Westminster Quay the following year), the beautiful gardens, and the ducks and other waterfowl who walk the same routes as any quaysider in a living example of interspecies respect and understanding.

From New Westminster Quay.  Image Courtesy of Intelligent Calcium.  Click image to view Flickr Stream
From New Westminster Quay. Image Courtesy of Intelligent Calcium. Click image to view Flickr Stream

The quay has been the host of many an event since I’ve been here, from Philippines Independence Day celebrations to Canada Day Fireworks. It is a vibrant gathering place for the community, young and old. If only they’d open the Market again! What’s up with that?

7. Queen’s Park

One has to respect a town who celebrates the traditions of blowing sh*t up so enthusiastically. I am of course talking about my first trip to Queen’s Park during the Hyack Festival Anvil Salute, which occurs every year on the occasion of Victoria Day, the day in which we honour of the monarch who named this town of ours.

Image courtesy of CanadaGood.  Click image to view Flickr stream.
Image courtesy of CanadaGood. Click image to view Flickr stream.

Queen’s Park is a shady environs where monkey bars and slides live along side an honest to goodness petting zoo – goats, sheep, and rabbits, not to mention non-pettable peacocks. But, when we were there, it was all about the gunpowder n’ noise in Queen’s Park Stadium . The combustibly-derived racket in question is perpetrated by guys dressed in some sort of period garb that might be described as Special Forces British Morris Dancers with demolition expertise. These flamboyantly attired fellows blow up anvils using very long fuses to the delight of a significant crowd. Where else are you going to get to see something like that?

8. Antique Alley

Right along the railroad tracks on Front Street is Antique alley, a series of storefronts under the shade of the parking garage built above the road, supporting the parking requirements of shoppers and tourists that frequent Columbia Street and the Quay. There are antique shops along here of course, but also specialty clothing stores including a goth boutique, which is adequately rife with shadows, spacious as a cathedral crypt, and haunted by a very affectionate cat called Merlin.

Antique Alley, from Columbia avenue.  Image courtesy of Silly G Wailo.  Click image to view Flickr Stream
Antique Alley, from Columbia Street. Image courtesy of Silly G Wailo. Click image to view Flickr Stream

What’s most striking to me is how full of character this strip is, yet how underdeveloped it is too. So many of the storefronts are seemingly abandoned, and some which aren’t just look like they are. Maybe this area is too closed off from the high street to be accessible, or profitable. Yet, it is charmingly seedy, and bursting with potential for more speciality stores, and in my imagination, a series of small music venues within stumbling distance of the Skytrain and bus services.

9. The Waffle House

Three of my favourite words in succession have to be ‘all day breakast’. And waffles are comfort food, loaded with life-shortening, yet exceedingly life-affirming, butter and syrup, washed down with cup after cup of coffee. The Waffle House on 6th street provides all of this, plus free newspapers and (otherwise) no frills, and all in the commercial shadow of the IHOP, mere meters away. Yet, where else can you order something called a Jiffy Wiffy Waffle with a straight face?

I have hosted two female friends at this establishment at different times in recent weeks, which make me think that the staff there, if they remember me at all, must think of me as the kind of guy to use waffles in some kind of low rent seduction tactic, or possibly as a means of recompense for not living up to seduction’s promise. Where this is of course not the case (both women are good friends of mine), I think the tactic might have legs.

10. 22nd Street Station

One of the first Skytrain stations I’d ever used was this one, dropped off after having visited a girlfriend of mine many years ago. I remember thinking that it was a commuter hub that was randomly plunked in the middle of nowhere. Yet 6th avenue and the Queensborough Bridge seem to draw significant traffic into it. I’ve come to know it as the ‘buses graveyard’, or ‘the land of apologizing buses’ – Sorry Not In Service. I wish they wouldn’t say ‘sorry’. But, I guess we are in Canada, aren’t we. Personally, I think ‘Out of Service – Deal With It’ would be more apropos.

22nd Street Station - busy, yet dead at the same time.  Image courtesy of FreakyChick.  Click image to view Flickr stream.
22nd Street Station - busy, yet dead at the same time. Image courtesy of FreakyChick. Click image to view Flickr stream.

Having come to use this station more and more, I think it really needs a reboot – maybe a bookstore, a café, even a convenience store. It needs something there where commuters, parents, and antsy teenagers heading into Richmond, can spend their time while their buses contemplate how sorry they are over the sin of being out of service. Perhaps the commuter traffic, and the revenue-generating traffic to any establishments placed there, might make that sin easier to forgive?

***
Here it is: I feel at home in New Westminster.

I like that it is community-based and there are a lot of places to take my daughter without having to drive. I like that it’s a bit weird too, like the time a guy yelled at me from across the street, asking me if I wanted to buy his radial arm saw – cash money, natch. I like that I can get Wifi in any number of retail locations within walking distance. I like that historic locations are treasured here, and that this town has memory – so many don’t. And I like that Stephen King’s IT was filmed here, perversely perhaps.

As a new resident, do I feel that there is room for improvement? Sure I do. But, it’s character that I most value in a place where I call home. And New West certainly has character. It has light and dark tones, civic pride, and urban decay. Yet, it is the spririt of the place that counts, defined as it is with a sense of history, blemishes and all.

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Circus classes now offered at the Quay

I knew the new owners of the Quay market were looking to do things differently, but I never expected this. 

The River Market at the Quay is now offering classes from the Vancouver Circus School in Aerial Silk, Swinging Trapeze, and Aerial Arts. The circus director is Aaron Johnson, who was an acrobatic coach for Cirque Du Soleil, and (according to the River Market newsletter) has “strong roots in New West.”

The Market’s renovations are still ongoing, and are not expected to be complete until late 2009. Holding on through the renos are:

  • Top Gun Sushi
  • Paddlewheeler Pub
  • Paddlewheeler Liquor Store
  • Paddlewheeler Boat Tours
  • Laguna Blu Restaurant
  • Riva Cafe
  • Imperial Pharmacy
  • Vancouver Circus School
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