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Over the past year, as Free the Fern volunteers have removed invasive weeds and replanted native plants along the Red Alder Trail in South Vancouver, we have also unearthed a collection of garbage artifacts. Some of them date from the 1920’s or even earlier.

Prior to the late 1970s (when co-op and strata townhouses were built), the neighbourhood of Champlain Heights was primarily a second growth Douglas Fir forest. Sappers from England who had helped clear neighboring New Westminster for development in the 1880’s, were offered plots of land in undeveloped areas, such as South Vancouver. They could have the land for free as long as they “improved it” by removing tree cover.

Marine Drive, near McCleary Farm 1900’s (south of where our Red Alder Trail is today).

On the Red Alder Trail, where there is now a small children’s playground, there was once a farmhouse and barn. From the information I have found on line, this house dated from as far back as at least the 1920’s. In old maps the area where the playground stands was also referred to as “Cromwell Park”.

Map of Vancouver from 1949. You can see “Cromwell Park” and the house marked on the above map
(trace your finger down, starting from the west side of Central park)

Residents in the area today recall that, until well into the early 1980’s, there were still the remains of this house, until the playground was built. One resident told me that she once did some research through the Vancouver Archives and discovered that the house had been the home of a doctor in the area. She said that the doctor had served the local area via horse and cart. I have not been able to find any further information online or in the history books that would verify the identity of this doctor. Eventually, a trip to the Vancouver Archives would be necessary to find out more details.

Aerial photograph from 1952, with area of farmhouse on current Red Alder trail circled.
South Vancouver Map – 1963 – with farmhouse circled

Neighbouring Everett Crowley Park had been the city garbage dump from 1944-1966 (and prior to that it had been a beautiful forested ravine, with a waterfall and salmon-bearing stream).

Images of the Kerr City Dump, 1960’s, VPL Special Collections, 41890, 44758, 47770

Prior to the garbage dump forming, local settlers simply dumped their household garbage into the forested areas adjacent to their homes.

So, as our Free the Fern volunteers have been removing invasives, we have come across some old garbage that dates to this pre-garbage dump period. Other items (such as old beer bottles, coca cola bottles etc.) indicate how the forested trail area was used later, in the 1960s-1980’s, as a party hangout for young people.

We will be displaying these garbage artifacts at Everett Crowley Park Earth Fest on April 23, 2022, 11am-3pm.

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