Looking Back: Why our two cities are apart

At the beginning of the 21st Century, there were talks about the amalgamation of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

The dikes in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows remain today popular among recreational users.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, there were talks about the amalgamation of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

However, talks remain just that.

The historical development surrounding the geographical differences between the two municipalities will always keep them independent from each other.

Here is why.

Pitt Meadows had always been site to frequent seasonal flooding from both the Fraser and Pitt rivers.

The Katzie established only temporary settlements in the flooding area for hunting purposes, then moved back to their permanent settlement.

Although Pitt Meadows’ soil is fit for agriculture, the frequent flooding of the Pitt River made it not arable.

As Governor James Douglas once toured lands along the Fraser River in the 1850s, he outright rejected the possibility of any agricultural development in Pitt Meadows because of the flooding.

Indeed, the majority of the crown lands in Pitt Meadows were only sold to speculators who wanted the area diked.

The only farms were on the central highland, now the area around Harris and Ford roads.

That was where Mr. Harris started his dairy farm in the early years of the city.

The demands of the landowners and a growing population of resident farmers then led to the increasing need for a reliable dike.

However, since Pitt Meadows’ amalgamation into Maple Ridge in 1874, this question had been largely ignored by the rest of the municipality, which had less such concern due to a higher elevation.

The diking efforts in Pitt Meadows began as soon as the district broke off from Maple Ridge in 1896.

From then, the farmers and speculators formed local diking districts and worked with the provincial government to reclaim the farmlands from floods.

However, even the highest level of human endeavors couldn’t successfully combat the forces of nature.

Until the end of the Second World War, floods overflowed the dikes in Pitt Meadows and some of the farmers and speculators went deeply in debt.

The job was especially hard in northern Pitt Meadows, where the altitude was lower.

Numerous pioneers, including Mr. Rannie and the Mennonites, attempted settlement in the area, but were all driven out by the seasonal floods.

It was not until a Dutch investor, Jon Blom, and his group of associates accepted the challenge in the 1950s that any progress was made.

With their Dutch ingenuity, the polder was finally diked, eventually providing a good example for the diking of southern Pitt Meadows.

Nowadays, Pitt Meadows residents enjoy their lives without ever worrying about floods.

However, we should never forget that it is the result of people leaving the convenience of cities and starting new lives pioneer-style even in the 1950s.

Hardship and endeavors are what have held us together as a community.

 

Mark Chen is an assistant at Pitt Meadows Museum.

 

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