After more than a century, Maple Ridge is a city, with promises that its future is bright.
Premier Christy Clark announced Wednesday at the ACT that the district’s official designation will change to that of a full-fledged metropolis on Friday, Sept. 12 – the 140th anniversary of the incorporation of the community.
It becomes B.C.’s 50th city.
“The men and women who founded Maple Ridge 140 years ago had a vision of a strong, beautiful community,” said Clark, as a rally in support of striking public school teachers drowned out her voice.
“They’d be proud to see their legacy live on in the city they founded – one of the best places in British Columbia to live, work and raise a family.”
For thousands of years before European settlers called Maple Ridge home, the area was a haven for First Nations of the lower Fraser River, known collectively as “Halkomelem,” for their shared language.
They were expert boatmen who travelled the rivers, creeks and sloughs still cherished by many who live here.
Fort Langley was the source of the municipality’s earliest non-native settlers. From the Kanakas, who rode the Hudson’s Bay Company ships seeking adventure, to the Royal Engineers, who were mustering out for a private life, everyone who visited the fort looked in awe across the Fraser to the forests and mountains of the north side.
According to archives from the Maple Ridge museum, settlers from the impoverished parts of Europe were amazed to see all that wild, unclaimed land. Many of Maple Ridge’s earliest settlers were young Scots from the Orkney Islands, who had always felt “land-poor”.
Two men – Samuel Robertson and John McIver – were the first non-native settlers in the district.
The museum notes it seems most likely that Robertson was first by several months, taking up land on the Albion flats, east and south of Kanaka Creek. McIver looked to the west to the land which is now the Maple Ridge Golf Course in Hammond.
Premier Clark recounted how a group of early pioneers met at McIver’s farm on Sept. 12, 1894 and made a momentous decision that day.
“They decide to create a township and they decided to name this community after that beautiful grow of maple trees,” said Clark.
“What better way to mark 140 years of progress than becoming a city.”
As protestors shouted loudly, Clark told the small group of dignitaries and community members gathered in the upstairs lobby of the ACT, she looks forward to seeing what the future holds.
Maple Ridge began with “small, hardy, tenacious group of pioneers and now we are in the midst of a thriving and very – vocal – urban centre,” she said, to laughter from the audience.
“Maple Ridge, I have no doubt is going to play a very important role in building the future of our province. You have shown the courage and the tenacity of which the pioneers that founded this township would be very, very proud.”
Maple Ridge is the sixth oldest community in B.C. and was established just seven years after Canadian Confederation. The coast-to-coast railway and the abundance of natural resources were the catalyst for the community to form in the 1800s.
Over time, the intense logging activity transitioned to agriculture and the community became famous for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that were shipped around the world.
Today, says Mayor Ernie Daykin, with a billion dollars’ worth of new bridges and traffic infrastructure, the community is transitioning once again with a focus on attracting manufacturing, high tech and post-secondary education to the community to support a growing, well-educated population.
Maple Ridge began the process become a city in January. Only three voters objected to the idea.
For Daykin, whose roots run deep in Maple Ridge, the day – and this week – will always be special.
Daykin’s great grandfather, William Hampton, arrived from Colorado in the late 1870s, and the Daykins in 1915.
“Those early pioneers would hardly recognize the Maple Ridge that exists 140 years later,” said Daykin, who has spent his entire life in Maple Ridge.
“Like many communities in the Fraser Valley, Maple Ridge is a community in transition as greater density and urban development emerge in the historic centre of the community. The City of Maple Ridge is 140 years in the making, with a whole new set of exciting opportunities that will ensure the future is bright.”
After the official celebration, Daykin admitted the raucous rally wasn’t something he pictured at his hometown’s birthday celebration.
“We deal with the realities of the day,” he added, as the crowd yelled “arbitration.”
“We are celebrating 140 years of a great community and everybody is part of building our community, including those folks that are teaching our kids.”
Maple Ridge’s provincial representatives helped speed the process to change its designation, delivering the deeds in a span of six months in time for its birthday, which takes place Friday and culminates in a two-day celebration.
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton believes the city will always keep its rural perspective.
“I’ve got bears and deer and coyotes in my neighbourhood,” he said.
“We are always going to maintain the agricultural, rural flavour, especially the mountains out here. But at the same time, we are growing up as a community.”
For Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Dr. Doug Bing, whose ancestors helped build the railway that drew people to the community, becoming a city is a significant milestone.
“The early pioneers saw Maple Ridge as a pastoral setting to set down roots and raise their families,” said Bing.
“Maple Ridge has grown into a dynamic community, with unique industries that contribute to our local economy. We are privileged to have so many people who are dedicated to growing our community. We look ahead to a promising future.”
Maple Ridge will mark its 140th birthday with a two-day celebration beginning Friday, Sept. 12 and continuing through Saturday, Sept. 13. The events include a free community concert, historic drama presentation by the Emerald Pig Theatrical Society, police, fire and engineering vehicle display on Friday night and a Haney Farmers Market enhanced with special historical displays coordinated by the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives.
Friday, Sept. 12
• 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. – free concert in Memorial Peace Park, bring a lawn chair. Tusket, DaniElle and the Maple Ridge Concert Band, Wendy LeVan, James Thorhaug, Ivan Boudreau, Simon Jarrett, Chris Rollins and Steve Ranta will play.
• 7 p.m. – a historical drama presentation by the Emerald Pig Theatrical Society. The actors from this local group will take us on a journey through the 140 year history of the community. The city’s artist-in-residence Kat Wahamaa will sing “Happy Birthday.”
Saturday, Sept. 13
• The Haney Farmers Market takes centre stage from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Winners of the “Tweetable Poetry” contest will be announced.;
• The Port Haney Wharf becomes an outdoor theatre for 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. the film ‘A Shark Tale’ will be shown after the sun sets on the Fraser River. There will be free popcorn for the kids, and face painting.
• For more details, visit mapleridge.ca.