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Belcarra historical book launches Sunday
Belcarra's long-serving mayor loves his community and has been entranced with its history for years, so much so that Ralph Drew thought one day, someone should write a book.
So he did.
A decade in the making, Forest and Fjord: The History of Belcarra is equal parts historical reference and well-illustrated coffee table book. There are 350 black and white and 200 colour photos, plus another 200 graphics, making the book an even split between writing and illustrations.
Coming in at 544 pages, the fully referenced tome would be a good addition to the collection of anyone who is interested in local history. The book has 14 chapters with topics ranging from pre-contact to early land development to the incorporation of the village.
The impetus for the book happened about 15 years ago, said Drew, when he began penning historical columns for the village's newsletter.
"I thought, 'Somebody should write all this down,'" he recalled with a laugh.
Ten years ago, Drew began working on the book, spending days in the Vancouver Public Library, archives and interviewing people. Each fact he learned or story he heard began to expand the scope of the book.
"I just have a love of Belcarra and a general fascination with Lower Mainland history, especially in the 19th century," he said.
In particular, his research lead to an understanding about how much of the community's early foundational moments and events were shaped by the federal government's decision to build the railway across the nation.
"[The railway project] was very controversial in the 1870s," he said. "In 1879 the federal (Dominion) government said we'll commit $25 million and 25 million acres to Canadian Pacific Railway to make it happen."
Most interesting to Drew was the fact that due to the Railway Belt and local geography, Belcarra is the western terminus. The Railway Belt followed the main CPR line and extended about 20 miles on either side of the railway. While this land was originally provincial, the federal government took control of it as a condition of B.C.'s entry into Confederation. Simultaneously, an increased level of land speculation arose, prompting the government of Canada to freeze land sales starting in 1887.
"It wasn't until 1905," said Drew, "that people were able to purchase Crown land from the federal government."
The newly-monied people of Vancouver then started looking east for a place to purchase summer homes, leading to an influx of interest in Belcarra.
In addition to the hundreds of hours pouring over documents, Drew spent three years going out on a boat to photograph the pictographs that dot the surrounding area's rock faces. He acquired photos taken by Doris Lundy in 1972 of the same pictographs and noticed how many have weathered significantly.
"They're now preserved. I feel good about that," he said.
• The official launch of Forest and Fjord: The History of Belcarra is this Sunday, Oct. 20 at Belcarra village hall from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be a short presentation at 1:30 p.m., after which the author will sign copies of the book, which will also be available for purchase.