A Case For Keeping Space and Air

In the late 1890’s, Professor Edward Odlum stood at the site of Woodland Park. He must have caught his breath at least once as he stood among tree stumps and pulled in the smell of lumber, mountain air, ocean and the season. At that moment, in that place he said, “Oh, but this is a grand view!” The historic preservation of that moment has become the heritage of this place where we live. In a later political move, the name of this place was changed to Grandview-Woodland. But the woodlands had long since been desecrated and nearly forgotten.

In a recent article, developer Daniel Boffo was quoted as saying that the 12-15 storeys above ground at Commercial Drive and Venables is “not being used. Is nothing but air.” I had such a strong response to his comment. I knew that our community was being misperceived and dismissed as inconsequential. That was some weeks ago. I can’t shake the dissonance that wells up in me when I consider his sentiment.

At the northernmost tip of the diversion at Commercial and Adanac Street, there is a stand of trees, sort of grubby trees, but they provide good shade and some shelter from the gentler rains that fall on us. At the base of one of those old trees, a rose bush has made a home for some years. As rose bushes go, it’s rather pitiful. It’s leggy and doesn’t leaf much. But it does send up mighty, tremendous branches that reach the top of the tree. And there, each late spring, giant pink roses appear in the treetop, grinning up at the sun. They appear to have some claim to be there. They do not fail.

If I, or anyone, is standing at that same place at the right time of early evening, we can see the rooks gather and convene their parliament for the trip back to Burnaby.   They do that, and they permit us to watch. Every evening.

At that intersection, cool breezes come down the slopes on the North Shore, across the inlet and along Commercial Drive. That air and the path it travels cools us on summer days that can be too hot. We can see The Sisters/Lions from there. We watch for snow on the mountains, see if fog is rolling in or out; we can feel the seasons change. And later we witness the baring of trees and nests in their branches. The smells of fresh-baked bread and coffee roasting are carried through that air.

This is to tell you that the space, the empty air above Astorino’s and the diversion, is occupied. It is being used. It is more than air. It is an extraordinary inheritance. It is the gateway to the grand view and I believe we have a right to speak for it. It is purpose built. We speak to preserve it as an integral part of our heritage.

— This is a Guest Editorial from A Woman of A Certain Age

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One comment

  1. Thank you so much, for your eloquence in describing the confluence of life in what was portrayed as unused air.

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