Journalist Douglas Todd is well known for carefully examining both sides of issues in his writings in the Vancouver Sun. On the weekend Mr. Todd wrote a very topical opinion editorial asking why there was not a continuous path along the Fraser River in the Southlands area accessible to public path users.
Indeed the Greenways Plan that was adopted by City of Vancouver Council 25 years ago envisioned a pathway all along the Fraser River that would be available to residents. When the Coast Mountain Bus Company controversially took acres of industrial land on the Fraser River at 9150 Bentley Street to use for bus parking it was landscape architect Art Cowie and retired biologist Terry Slack that pushed for a walkway open to the public along this part of the Fraser River. It was always intended that as redevelopment occurred along the river’s edge that the city would negotiate a right of way open to citizens.
The City has been successful in that negotiation and public pathways have been provided with two of the three golf courses along the Fraser River west of the Oak Street Bridge. Both McCleery Public Golf Course and Point Grey Golf Course have provided a public easement along the Fraser River. With the redevelopment of Deering Island a public pathway was also installed along the water, and a public park created on Deering Island.
(And a quick aside-the City in an in camera meeting was offered Deering Island decades ago for one million dollars for park land. At that time the City determined that they had an abundance of park land on the west side, and the land instead was sold to Park Georgia Realty who developed 38 single family lots, with architect Michael Geller.)
There was one section of the Fraser River Trail greenway south of the Point Grey Golf Course that was inaccessible due to a large stream embankment. The Simpson Family in Southlands who had lost a son in an accident in the armed forces chose to honour his memory and paid for the public bridge which is accessible to walkers, rollers, cyclists and horse back riders.
This meant that the greenways trail proceeded west through the ancient territory of the Musqueam First Nation, and that trail joins up to Pacific Spirit Park at Southwest Marine Drive. You can see the exact route for wayfinding here.
But there is the elephant in the room~moving eastward on the Fraser River Trail past McCleery Golf Course, the Marine Drive Golf Club has refused to allow public access along its share of the waterfront. Instead, the club sadly barricaded access with threatening signs, and you can get a sense of the entitlement in the comments section they have left at the end of Mr. Todd’s article.
The Marine Drive Golf Club in this century tried to keep areas of the private club for male members only and as shown in court records intimidated female members who wanted to use that space as well. After women members won a court decision to have access to all parts of the Marine Drive Golf Club, the men in the club went to the British Columbia Court of Appeal to have that decision on equity overturned. The men won.
As Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail wrote in 2007:
“the B.C. Court of Appeal, no less, had ruled unanimously that the men could play their cards and tell their off-colour jokes without having to share their tables with members of the opposite sex. The lounge’s no-women-allowed policy was not, in the court’s view, a violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code.”
Given the rancour of the male members to sharing spaces with women members, you can also well imagine what the Marine Drive Golf Club’s response was over a decade ago when City staff politely requested the consideration of allowing a public right of way at the club’s riverfront.
The City has several closed street rights of way through the golf course that could be used as bargaining chips to get the Marine Drive Golf Club to do the right thing. But changing public attitudes and moral suasion have a stronger impact, and ten years later, Larry Emrick, Jennifer Maynard and Whitney Santos posed for a photo for Douglas Todd’s article. Each of these individuals have advocated for decades encouraging Vancouverites to use the Fraser River Trail.
It is now time for that trail to extend past the Marine Drive Golf Course and to be accessible for all residents of Vancouver. You can see the exact location of the Marine Drive Golf Course’s “missing greenway link” on the dotted Fraser River Trail below.