To China & Back

5 June 2021 – In a manner of speaking. More precisely, to China Creek North Park & back — only a few kilometres from home, so a post-breakfast loop I can walk & still be back in time for a 10 a.m. Zoom with friends in the East.

Approach from East 7th Avenue, and it looks like Park-in-a-Bowl: steep slope with some 3 hectares of parkland below.

Not even all that interesting, right? A baseball diamond and a whole lotta grass. Yawn. Except that grass covers a lot of history, including the now-invisible China Creek.

In 1888 settler Charles Cleaver Maddams bought 5 acres of land on what was then still the south shore of False Creek, which was then still being fed by a lesser, but powerful creek that drained a whole watershed of tributaries through the ravine into the Flats and ultimately False Creek itself. Maddams called this waterway “China Creek,” because of a nearby Chinese hog farm. (There are other stories; this seems to be the one most widely accepted.)

In the 1920s, Maddams sold the land to the City, which didn’t develop it until the 1950s. Meanwhile, this final bit of False Creek was being filled in, China Creek was buried, and the ravine was being used as a garbage dump. Oh yes, it became one of those stories.

But then, it all got turned around. Today China Creek North Park sparkles in the immediate after-effects of its latest (2019) refurbishment. The slopes have been / are being naturalized, and the kiddy playground has bright colours and fun equipment atop the gentle surface of munched-up used tires.

So let’s look again. There are people in every direction, of all ages, doing all kinds of things, very happily. Five of those people appear in that first photo above, on this near edge of all that boring grass.

Guy on left chinning himself on the exercise equipment; another guy watching; guy on right coaching two young female boxers.

And if you turn your head to the right & look south, it’s even more interesting.

Down there bottom of the slope, turquoise stripes mark the playground; between up here and down there, the fast-naturalizing slope, shaggy with flowers & grasses & surely full of unseen little critters as well; and, visible here and there amidst all that exploding nature, a spiral pathway up/down the slope.

When they used to cut the grass, it was just a boring path; now that it plays peek-a-boo with nature, it is irresistible.

Of course I’m going to walk it, down & up again. I head that way at a clip, but stop long enough for a brief conversation with the gentleman on that bench at the right edge of the photo. It’s just one of those magic moments: we’re both delighted with the day, with the park, and want to share it with somebody. So we do. We also share some how-to-be-a-senior-citizen thoughts, largely about gratitude, qi gong and tai chi; then we nod pleasantly at each other and I’m off to walk the path.

Poppies, clover and cornflowers!

Grasses!

Beserk buttercups!

Perfect spheres of dandelion fluff!

And lupins! (“Your life or your lupins,” I growl, channeling Monty Python, and then soften into memories of wild lupins filling ditches and hedgerows in the Maritimes.)

As I spiral gently to the bottom of the slope, I see one of the female boxers doing it the hard way — full-tilt, straight line.

Meanwhile, her partner is sparring with their coach (while Onlooker Guy from my very first photo is here again, doing a few stretches).

As I head back up the path, I stop to watch a father tuck his son between his legs and set off from the top of the slide to the soft-landing playground below. Father & son laugh as they go, in baritone-soprano duet. I listen, and admire the red poppy here by my foot.

Then I check my watch, and see it is seriously time to make tracks for home!

Hoof-hoof-hoof.

(I make it in time.)

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10 Comments

  1. Nice that most of the area is returning to its natural self. Thanks for the walk. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • A natural self for sure, and a big improvement over garbage dump, but not the original natural self, which was major creek draining a whole watershed — but I’m not complaining, what’s happening is very positive

      Reply
  2. So Zoom has claimed you as well!!! What a lovely story of how that area has come back to life. As always look forward to your posts.
    Ventured out recently across the ferry to Quay arts on the Isle of Wight. This was to see my daughter’s exhibition…… on Line and entitled Razzle Dazzle

    Reply
    • I have such happy memories of visiting “honorary family” on Isle of Wight! Wonderful to know you’re able to move around a bit more freely again

      Reply
  3. Blane Hogue

     /  6 June 2021

    As a local historian I love all your posts Penny, and found the China Creek history particularly fascinating. Thanks for all these!

    Reply
  4. I’m so glad that most of the area is being restored to its natural state! Fascinating tour, Penny!

    Reply
    • Hi — restored to a natural state, but not its original one, which was as a creek draining a watershed, but still very welcome; I love the evolution there

      Reply
  5. What a terrific place! I’m glad about the naturalizing. And about your conversation. πŸ™‚

    Reply

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  • WALKING… & SEEING

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