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The Best of Richmond: People & Places
Best attempt to pretty up ugly
The Canada Line’s abrupt concrete end on No. 3 Road is ugly and boring. It almost looks like the line should keep going. You know, like investing more money into efficient public transportation systems—ones that people would really use and get out of their cars for. But since that won’t be happening anytime soon, city hall has another solution: public art. The idea is to install temporary public art projects at the guideway’s end. They’ll have to be pretty hulking and colourful to notice up there, but since TransLink can’t even afford to send buses to Mitchell Island, art will have to do.
Best place to see a sunset at sunrise
It looks like a giant Lite-Brite board. Except this isn’t some 1967 Hasbro world, it’s downtown Richmond. At Westminster Highway and No. 3 Road, Perpetual Sunset is hard to miss. Made of 40,000 reflective coloured sequins designed to catch natural light, this public art project was designed by the Instant Coffee artist collective last year. The project is essentially a 12-by-24-metre mural that echoes the setting sun—even at sunrise.
Best water view outside of Steveston
Restaurants don’t exactly abound along the riverfront outside of Steveston. But for those water rippled sunset seekers there is another eatery to explore. Seaview Café is off the beaten track, but is perhaps getting noticed more today given its location near the Richmond Olympic Oval. Located at 7080 River Rd., Seaview is easy to miss. It’s upstairs in a plain, boring office building. The restaurant is pretty plain inside too, and the views, well, they’re best outside—particularly in winter when the bare trees cooperate.
Best plural perplexity
St. Alban’s Anglican Church is a wonderful historic place of worship in the heart of Richmond, and its name offers plenty of puzzlement for grammar gumshoes. St. Alban’s Anglican Church is located on St. Albans Road and more accurately known as St. Alban Anglican Church. Apparently, the bishop has nixed the church’s possessive. Brass at city hall, meanwhile, seem content with convention for the long-established road.
Best moot point
The mute swans that nest at Britannia Heritage Shipyard are used to curious onlookers and camera flashes. And since Britannia visitors have been respecting their nest, these rowdy birds are keeping to themselves. Several years ago, wildlife officials captured and relocated some of these stately Steveston birds. The remaining population was told to behave. With no recent attacks reported from swans—known for being particularly aggressive during nesting season—we can safety call these mutes moot.
Best pier for tugboat watching
A small and relatively unknown pocket park off River Road north at No. 7 Road has a spectacular old pier with the markings of a former railroad. The pier juts out into the North Arm, where log booms and tug boats rule. Across the water, visitors can also easily see Vancouver, which has managed to open up some of its former industrial riverside landscape in the form of Riverfront Park. Getting to the Richmond green space just takes a short white-knuckle drive down a narrow strip of River Road popular with semi-trucks.
Best name for a transit station that wouldn’t work today
In the old days of Richmond—really old days—an interurban tram connected Steveston to downtown Vancouver. It made several stops on Lulu Island, including one across from the Garden City lands called Rifle Range. There was reason for the name. In the early 20th century the Vancouver Rifle Range operated on the lands, which are now owned by the city and subject of an Ideas Fair on Saturday. For years gun enthusiasts and soldiers-in-training fired shots. But flying bullets in what is now a growing urban area wouldn’t exactly work today. Neither would the Rifle Range name work for a transit line named after a country known for gun control.
Best name for Steveston real estate
It has long sat in silence, under an undetermined depth of water in Steveston. But unlike the Ogopogo who wouldn’t surface even for a politician, this river monster reared its head earlier this year. The name given to this mysterious creature courtesy of city hall? Lot H. If that boring name wasn’t enough, this two-acre beast has been described simply as “a water covered lot” by bureaucrats. A staff analysis of the site—located outside the boardwalk fronting Onni’s new Steveston development—determined it would take 5,000 dump truck loads and $8.1 million to fill. Our leaders quickly sent the puzzling study to the river bottom. But for all its what’s-going-to-happen-oh-nothing qualities, this creature is deserving of a more legendary name, like the Okanagan’s Ogopogo already has.
Best way to lend a hand
Last year, the Richmond Caring Companies program, which is presented by Volunteer Richmond, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, and Ashton Service Group, launched its first ever Day of Caring. More than 100 volunteers from nearly a dozen Richmond businesses went off to the Sharing Farm in Terra Nova with shovels and hoes in hand, and spent the day digging, weeding and planting. Next weekend, more caring companies will be back at the Sharing Farm for the second annual Day of Caring: Back In Motion, Beavis Wong & Associates, Innovation Networks, Misty Mountain Specialties, Opacity Design Group, Sandman Signature Hotel & Resort Vancouver Airport, and Sutton Group – Seafair Realty. If you wish to be part of the Richmond Caring Companies program, the next one starts in September. Call 604-279-7020 or visit www.volunteerrichmond.ca.
Best way to deter bad drivers
How many times have you seen it? A driver chatting on the phone, and holding up traffic at an intersection light that’s just turned green. Or someone repeatedly changing lanes without signaling, and then speeding away.
These are times when you wish a police cruiser was right next to you to witness this. But there is something you can do about it. If you believe the driver is driving dangerously, simply call 911, and take note of the make and model of car, and ideally the licence plate and location. Richmond Mounties take great pride in the no-call-too-small philosophy of policing.
If they can’t find the car, based on your description, they’ll visit the registered owner at home, and give them a warning, or in cases where they are belligerent, a traffic ticket. If everyone does their part, maybe we can all chip away, one driver at a time, at Richmond’s reputation as having some of the worst drivers in the Lower Mainland.
Best political fumble
Richmond MP Alice Wong’s decision last year to slurp shark fin soup at a press conference to which only Asian media were invited left a lot of locals scratching their heads.The first misstep was the decision to enjoy a serving of the soup despite the growing public outrage about the cruel practice of de-finning sharks—some of which are on the threatened and endangered species lists—and tossing them back into the sea. The second brain cramp was asking only non-English media. Wong and her communications specialist suggest it was simply a mistake to not invite the English-speaking media.
Best place to walk down memory lane with a mouse
For those who miss the days of Richmond Square, Lansdowne racetrack and Grauer Store, the City of Richmond Archives has a great photo search service on its website. It includes photos from the early days of Richmond, fishing boats galore, aerial shots from the 1970s and much, much more. It’s at www.richmond.ca/cityhall/archives/search/datasearch/PhotoSearch.aspx, or better yet, just google “Richmond Archives photo search.” There’s also a popular Facebook group looking back at Richmond lore called “You grew up in Richmond, BC if you remember...” Find it at www.facebook.com/groups/retrorichmond.bc/
Best evidence people vote for the party, not the candidate
The NDP hasn’t elected an MLA in Richmond since 1972 and hasn’t been competitive since 1991. In recent elections, last-minute candidates and neglect from party headquarters didn’t help the party’s fortunes in Richmond, especially since many of the Liberal candidates were cabinet material. This election seemed different—there were a lot more resources on the ground, leader Adrian Dix visited and the NDP even had two candidates declared or nominated well in advance—Gian Sihota and Scott Stewart. Stewart in particular impressed a lot of people with his campaign—he worked hard and did a lot of door knocking. However, when the votes were counted on election night, the NDP barely improved its vote total over 2009 in Richmond-Steveston.
Best acronym the legislature could have enjoyed
On the election trail this spring, Gary Law emerged with a unique campaign slogan. Law ran as an independent in Richmond Centre after being bounced from the Liberals in favour of Teresa Wat.
Wat ultimately won the seat with 49.9 per cent of the vote, while Law finished well behind with 8.5 per cent. But Law had a clever gimmick, which, unfortunately for him, never took off. At an all-candidates meeting early in the campaign, he urged voters to remember his name L-A-W: Loyal, Accountable and Wholehearted.
All that was good enough to give the RCMP officer the most votes of independents, but that’s about it. With two letters in common with Wat, perhaps now Law could counsel the rookie MLA to arrive at an acronym of her own.
Best use of a backyard
If there was any doubt Hamilton residents have character, take a look at Ron Mercer. The father of three built the ultimate bicycle motocross ramp course on his rented half-acre property. All this BMX blessedness is sandwiched fence-to-fence in the home’s backyard—about the size of a hockey rink. It took three years of long days to build the so-called Woodyard, and it’s still a work-in-progress. Mercer used salvaged wood to construct the masterpiece he described as “Leonardo da Vinci stuff.” It’s a playground like no other, especially since the small dirt bike park at the south end of No. 2 Road is being lost to redevelopment. But the city is moving ahead with a new dirt bike park in Garden City Community Park to give BMX riders another place to practice an activity that’s now part of the Summer Olympics.
Best final destination
Tram No. 1220 has had quite a history. Built in 1911, it began operating in 1913. Originally one of the trams that operated on the Steveston-to-Vancouver interurban line, it was decommissioned in 1957 when society decided that travelling in Ford Skyliners made more sense than transit. The tram wound up with the Royal B.C. Museum and was purchased by the Steveston Interurban Restoration Society in 1993 (for $1) and was moved to Steveston Park in 1995. The society began restoring the tram, but in 2001, threatened to move the tram to Surrey, much to the city’s ire. Threatened lawsuits ensued. Next, developer Dana Westermark proposed building a tram barn in his London Landing development and a proposal was floated to have the tram run between said barn and Steveston. Those who had moved into the recently redeveloped B.C. Packers site were alarmed at the prospect of having a tram run across their front yard and the proposal was ultimately turned down, amid more drama between various parties. In 2006, the city finally gained undisputed ownership by buying the tram for $400,000 (it was in much better shape than it was in 1993 by this point). And finally this year, the tram was moved to its new home, a brand spanking new tram barn in Steveston Park. Total cost for the tram barn plus new restoration: $2 million. It’s been quite a journey for Tram No. 1220, but this one piece of history has had an incredible survival streak.
Best obscure park
Ever been to Fedoruk Kartner Park? We bet a lot of Richmondites never have. It’s a small park located at the corner of Fedoruk and Kartner in East Richmond, off of Westminster Highway not too far from No. 7 Road. It features a small playground for kids. The surrounding neighbourhood is cute and serves as a reminder of what a lot of neighbourhoods in Richmond used to look like.
Best retro road name
Back in earlier times, Richmondites had a simpler, less poetic method to naming our roads. There was No. 1 Road. And No. 2 Road. And just to show the settlers weren’t being scatological, along came No. 3 Road. And so on. Roads were also named after settlers and memories of the Old World. There were other concepts: Let’s use the suffix ‘mond. Let’s use the prefix Sea. How about sea birds? But when approaching the magnificent Richmond Olympic Oval, it’s nice to see the city recalling the days of yore by naming the road to the underground parking lot Road C.
Best sand dunes this side of Oregon
In recent years piles of preload have become ubiquitous in City Centre. But crews are creating veritable sand dunes in the Capstan area, where developers are promising to raise an entirely new neighbourhood from land that once contained some of Richmond’s oldest houses. With all these sand piles of preload just sitting there waiting for the earth to compress, how developers have overlooked the revenue potential of dune buggy racing is beyond us.
Best signs that Old Richmond is disappearing
If anyone needed more evidence that Richmond places once familiar are disappearing, they needn’t look beyond a couple informal sports fields around Cambie Road. Honda Field and Cambie Field are both being lost to development. Honda Field is known to highway commuters, who could spy this green space just north of the Richmond Auto Mall. It’s private land, but an agreement with the city opened it up to public use. Closer to No. 3 Road is Cambie Field. Towers will be built on it, but the public is promised a new park on the same block, at Cambie Road and Hazelbridge Way. We could lump the Garden City lands in here too, but just if and when that landscape will change is anyone’s guess.
Best little plumber from Broadmoor
Brian Williams grew up in Richmond as “the little plumber from Broadmoor.” Today he owns Ashton Service Group, and more importantly, the friendship and respect of many in his hometown. Williams is spearheading a project to help rebuild the lives of the de Boer family. “Project Emily” is building a new house for the family, whose lives were turned upside down when daughter Emily lost the use of her legs. Williams has managed to get 60 companies involved in the project, along with 250 volunteers. It’s a massive undertaking, but for Williams’ company, it’s just the beginning. Ashton has since formed the Ashton Caring Team—volunteers who are committed to taking on community projects big and small. Project Emily is in need of donations—to help, visit ashtoncaringteam.org.
Best unexpected visitor to Richmond
Last June a slippery belly-scratching visitor graced the docks of an East Richmond float home community. A ribbon seal stopped in our fair city to take a break—a mere 4,000 kilometres away from its home in the Arctic. It’s believed to be the first sighting in B.C. Spending most of their lives in the icy waters off Alaska and Russia, ribbon seals aren’t known for coming ashore. But given this guy was just a tad off-course, a rest in Richmond is entirely understandable. Too bad the animal swam away before Charlotte Diamond could arrive on scene to share her song “Slippery Fish.”
Best forest to ferret out fungi
Mushrooms abound in the boggy soils of the Richmond Nature Park. A quick trot through the park’s Study Centre, across from the Richmond Auto Mall, will undoubtedly result in some fungi finds. Interesting ones have sprouted elsewhere too, including city boulevards. But other than admiring these clever creations from Mother Nature, we’re not sure if they have any more practical uses. But the Nature Park is here to help. Its annual mushroom show in the fall lets visitors know which ones could be safe—and which ones not so safe.