Opinions on Hammond’s future

District planning process seeks input on development of historic area

The way Jack Fournier and Ken Watts remember Hammond, it was a thriving little corner of the world anchored by a huge cedar mill on the banks of the Fraser River.

There were little shops of all types, creating almost an independent community sandwiched in a triangular piece of land between Lougheed Highway, the CP railway and the river.

“Hardly anybody had cars, so we did all our shopping here,” said Fournier, who grew up in Hammond.

During lunch hours in the 1940s and 1950s, workers from the sawmill traipsed into Hammond Cafe and Rooms, the old Jorgy’s Cafe and Shield Cafe for lunch.

“All those places were jam packed at lunch time,” said Watts.

Both were at the Hammond area plan process Thursday as the District of Maple Ridge creates a way to develop the area in the future.

What lies ahead though is uncertain. Council is influenced by “real estate pimps in their back pockets,” said Fournier, whose grandparents owned the Hammond Cafe and Rooms on Maple Crescent. The building is now known as Maple Crescent Lodge and is supposed to be torn down, replaced by a drug treatment centre designed in the same style.

Both Fournier and Watts grew up in Hammond and want the past preserved somehow, as does Bill O’Laughlin, who’s lived in the area since 1933. He’d like to see some shops come back.

“When we were first married, we did all our shopping here.”

But there were limits.

“Haney wouldn’t allow us to expand,” O’Laughlin said of the downtown core area. “You had to build there.”

Watts pointed out that while it was all one district, “It was not called Maple Ridge.”

People instead used the community names, such as Hammond, Haney, Ruskin.

About 200 people visited Hammond community hall to give their ideas about how the future should look and to scribble their points on to Post-It Notes stuck on to a display board. They’ve also e-mailed in their comments and posted photos on the District of Maple Ridge Facebook page.

One comment made a plea: “Keep the heritage feel of the Port Hammond area. New homes should have front porches.”

James Rowley, with the group Hammond Neighbours, wants the same thing as the old-timers. He wants that to happen through a heritage conservation area that will apply to the core area of Hammond. Any new buildings, including condo or apartment buildings, would have to preserve the form and content of the area’s heritage, he explained.

According to the Maple Ridge Museum, two brothers with the last name of Hammond bought land along the Fraser River and applied for townsite status for Hammond in the late 1800s.

At the time, Hammond and Haney were separated by treacherous river bank, the museum says.

Once the CPR was completed, people took the train between the communities.

“When Port Hammond was first developed, it was thought it would be both the terminus for the CPR and the major deepwater port for the region. The port soon moved to New Westminster and the terminus to Vancouver,” says the museum’s website.

With the first stage of community input just complete, district planner Jim Charlebois said it’s too soon to guess the future. First, the reams of comments and photos and e-mails have to be sifted through to see what people actually want.

“We don’t know what we’re going to hear yet, so we’re not pre-determining anything.

“We’ll respond to what we hear,” he added.

Once that process is complete, Maple Ridge council will get an update in the fall, followed by a draft area plan next spring.

At a time when it’s difficult to overcome apathy, 120 people took time out to give their thoughts.

“The enthusiasm is fantastic,” said Frank Quinn, public works general manager.


Hammond images

Part of seeking input was the Hammond Community Character Photo Project. By searching #MyHammond on the district’s website, people can see more than 300 photos of the area that people think depict the area’s character.

Or you can go directly to the page at http://www.mapleridge.ca/794/MyHammond-Hammond-Area-Plan-Process to see the photos.