My Family's Oral History and Vancouver's Lost Streams

Sharing this story in honour of my dad who would have celebrated his 80th birthday this week. We lost him just over a year ago.

Over the years my Dad often spoke of a creek he fished at in South Vancouver when he was a boy. As a child I didn't believe him - I found it difficult to imagine that the city had any creeks at all. Fast forward several decades and I discovered an Old Creeks Map created by the Vancouver Aquarium in collaboration with UBC. Sure enough the map showed that there was a creek in the exact spot my dad had claimed. This, in part, has fuelled my passion for creek daylighting - a process that you may have guessed involves uncovering creeks buried to accommodate urban infrastructure.

Creek bed, South Vancouver circa 1948. Image: Terry Pollard

Creek bed, South Vancouver circa 1948. Image: Terry Pollard

Annotated map showing the creek  in relation to my dad’s childhood home.

Annotated map showing the creek in relation to my dad’s childhood home.

Awhile after I discovered Vancouver’s Old Creeks Map, my Dad produced a photo taken around 1948 of his childhood friend standing in the creek bed, showing that even in the more recent past, parts of Vancouver’s creek system were still visible. According to my dad, the wooden bridge visible in the background of the photograph was where East 62nd Avenue crossed the creek. The map is a part of the larger Old Streams map my Dad annotated to show the creek location in relation to my his childhood home. My dad’s brother adds: “Access to this creek started about 52nd and Main. We used to walk along it and through the many tunnels on our way home from school. At 63rd Avenue it was quite a stream, my friends lived on either side of it on the south side of 63rd. The cut was quite deep there, at least 20 feet down and in heavy rainstorms it could be quite dangerous. We would catch little fish, mainly sticklebacks. Two streams ran under our house and the lot next door. These were true underground streams but the joined together across the street and came to the surface. Originally the park was all bush but the stream formed a pond that we used to swing over on a rope hanging from a big tree The first stream we could follow all the way to Marine Drive. The second disappeared where the park now ends.” My uncle also added that he think the bridge in the background of the photo is where 63rd Avenue crossed the creek.

You can learn more about creek daylighing and its many benefits in my upcoming workshop at Trout Lake Community Centre the first Sunday in February. Registration has begun and is through the City of Vancouver’s Parks and Recreation online registration service.