Sidewinder: The loss of more than just innocence

Maple Ridge's social planning department powerless against social problems

A loss of innocence is the price we have paid for our growth into a sophisticated urban centre, but we still have lots of small town charm.

You just have to look hard to find it.

I can remember swimming at Davidson’s Pool in the Alouette River in the 1950s and 1960s. We also used the rope swing located almost directly across the river from the concrete diving platform at Davidson’s Pool. The rope was attached to a branch of a large tree on the north bank of the river.

The diving platform and rope swing are both long gone, but, in their place, we have a modern award-winning Leisure Centre downtown. It’s a great facility, but somehow lacks the adventurous nature and soul-building qualities of the outdoors.

Sadly, liability issues and nature combined to remove the attractions that helped Davidson’s Pool remain a top outdoor draw in Maple Ridge for many years.

I can also remember riding our local bus system, owned by the Trerise family.

The Maple Ridge Bus Company fare during the 1950s and 1960s was 15 cents and there were sensible bus schedules to all the neighbourhoods in Maple Ridge, including Whonnock, Ruskin and Webster’s Corners.

Gerry Trerise, a former Maple Ridge mayor, sought a $25,000 annual subsidy to continue the valuable service, but that request was turned down by the municipal council of the day.

Now we have an inefficient transit system operated by TransLink, which is hugely subsidized and has a confusing multi-zone fare system and offers almost no service to Whonnock, Webster’s Corners or Ruskin.

I can also recall dipping  oolichans from slippery perches on the log booms above the Hammond Cedar Mill on the Fraser River. The mill is still there but the oolichans, those small silvery fish, have all but disappeared .

We are left with a struggling commercial fishery, which once thrived all along the Fraser. Most of the fish that are now caught are processed elsewhere and in other countries before returning to our local markets.

In the past decade, we have witnessed the demolition of the Albion Hall and the loss of other community facilities, such as Sampo Hall. Those facilities provided a heart and soul for the communities they served.

Those losses cannot be recaptured, but we do have emerging facilities, such as the new casino, which will provide a different type of ‘community heart.’

As part of the price tag accompanying rapid growth in most areas of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, we have attracted too many of the negative aspects of urban living. We now bear tragic witness to frequent serious and violent crimes that were virtually unknown only a few decades ago.

We also have thriving street level prostitution, illicit drug activities and dozens of homeless people that are spreading out from the downtown area to surrounding residential and apartment districts.

Of course, we have a social planning function at municipal hall, but that has done little, if anything, to help solve any of the problems, which are a festering sore on our social fabric.

As I stated at the outset, we still have areas that retain many of the small-town charms that once made Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows great places to live and great places to raise young families. The growing problem is that, nowadays, you just have to look real hard to find them.

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.

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