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Ravine walk reveals urban secret
Dale Darychuk has a secret.
On Saturday he's going to share it.
Darychuk's secret is the walk he takes with his seven-month-old flatcoat retriever, Romeo, four or five times a week.
Together they navigate the labyrinthian sidewalk behind the town homes on Ginger Drive, then duck through a hole in the chain link fence and descend down a muddy path into the Glenbrook Ravine.
The leafy ravine is like a green oasis in the middle of New Westminster, says Darychuk.
The buzz of traffic from nearby McBride Boulevard is hushed. A woodpecker rattles a tree trunk. Birds chirp, a brook babbles. Occasionally a coyote ambles by, says Darychuk. But rarely does he see any people.
"This, from an urban forest viewpoint," says Darychuk, "is the best it can be."
And while the ravine may already be a treasure to those in the know, Darychuk wants more people to know about it. On Saturday he'll be leading one of 11 Jane's Walks scheduled around New West May 2-4.
The walks, which take place in more than 100 cities and towns across Canada, are named after urbanist Jane Jacobs who believed in the power of cities to build community, if they're designed right. That includes creating plenty of opportunities for people to walk, explore their neighbourhoods, meet their neighbours.
The Jane's Walks in New West range from a stroll through the historic Fraser and St. Peter's cemeteries, led by local historian Archie Miller, to a walk led by the New West Environmental Partners along a route once followed by a streetcar that traversed the city.
This is the second year Darychuk has guided a walk through the Glenbrook ravine. Of the 15 participants who showed up for his walk last year, none had hiked its trails before.
But improved trails and access points, including a zig-zagged switchback that descends off Glenbrook Drive and more than 100 steps that climb up to Blackberry Drive, mean more people are discovering its shady tranquility.
As Darychuk discovered when researching the ravine's history so he could add some colour to his walk, the trail also has heritage value. It's proximity to the site of the old BC Penitentiary made it the final resting place for prisoners who died when they were confined within its walls. The cemetery is long overgrown and barely discernible.
And, according to a story told by Evelyn Benson in her recently-published oral history of the city, A Century in a Small Town - One Families Stories, a couple of kids fishing in the stream that runs through the ravine may have had a close encounter with notorious stagecoach bandit Billy Miner shortly after he broke out of the prison.
The ravine is still popular with kids seeking adventure; at least two wooden forts in various stages of construction cling to tree limbs halfway up the ravine's slopes.
Darychuk's walk through the Glenbrook Ravine begins at 11 a.m. at the entrance to the Canada Games Pool on 6th Avenue. For more information about other Jane's Walks in the city, go to www.janeswalk.org. There's also a display about some of the walks at the New Westminster Public Library's uptown branch.