Take a walk on the Fraser River Trail Greenway which is the perfect thing to do on a brisk spring day. You can start at the south foot of Blenheim Street, and you can go west where the private Point Grey Golf Club has worked with the City to create a publicly accessible trail along the Fraser River.
There was one section of the Fraser River Trail Greenway south of the Point Grey Golf Course that was inaccessible due to a large stream embankment. The Simpson Family in Southlands who had lost a son in an accident in the armed forces chose to honour his memory and paid for the public bridge which is accessible to walkers, rollers, cyclists and horse back riders. You can continue on that trail that proceeds west through the ancient territory of the Musqueam First Nation, and that trail joins up to Pacific Spirit Park at Southwest Marine Drive.
But let’s say you choose to go east on the City of Vancouver’s Fraser River Trail which was approved by Council in 1995. There is a footpath on city public lands, and you then can follow the Fraser River beside the city’s McCleery Public Golf Course. It’s a wonderful walk beside the Fraser. And then you run into this:
And there is the obnoxious, anonymous signage:
You have just met the signage of the privately owned Marine Drive Golf Club that is refusing to allow public access along its share of the waterfront, despite the fact that the privately owned Point Grey Golf Club and the McCleery Golf Course has.
Of course there should be public access along the water. The City could also simply go ahead and open up a few street rights of way through the Marine Drive Golf Course to provide the public access on closed street rights of way, which I suspect would change the golf course’s attitude about access along the foreshore.
Instead the Marine Drive Club has chosen to ignore doing the right thing and even has refused to respond to inquiries on this matter. Instead they have barricaded access and left threatening signs with no phone number or reference.
No other property owner along the entire length of this Fraser River Trail greenway does that.
This curiously antique sense of private golf club entitlement was discussed in the Vancouver Sun by Douglas Todd. Mr. Todd followed this up with another article that said the descendants of the person that sold the property to the Marine Drive Golf Club would be appalled at this denial of public access. Highly regarded former Premier Michael Harcourt has also suggested that an elevated boardwalk could be built slung over the foreshore.
How is it during a pandemic, when outdoor access is such a premium that a privately owned golf club would deny the use of ten feet of foreshore to complete the Fraser River Trail greenway? Something that is clearly in the public interest, and theirs as well?
The Marine Drive Golf Club from 2004 to 2008 tried to keep areas of the private club for male members only. Court records indicate that male members intimidated female members who wanted to use that space. After women members won a court decision to have access to all parts of the Marine Drive Golf Club, the men in the club went to the British Columbia Court of Appeal to have that decision on equity overturned. The men won.
As Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail wrote in 2007: “the B.C. Court of Appeal, no less, had ruled unanimously that the men could play their cards and tell their off-colour jokes without having to share their tables with members of the opposite sex. The lounge’s no-women-allowed policy was not, in the court’s view, a violation of the B.C. Human Rights Code.”
There are people that are committed to doing the right thing for the citizens of Vancouver, and retired engineer/planner David Grigg tried to contact the Marine Drive Golf Club to “gauge their current interest in establishing the trail along the Fraser River fronting the golf course.”
As Mr. Grigg recounts
“After two months, during which time the club held their AGM, and receiving no reply, I started phoning. Eventually, I made contact and was politely told that I would not receive an official reply as the club’s policy was not to engage with the public directly, or through the press, but only through the city.”
So there you have it. But Mr. Grigg is not deterred:
“While I respect the club’s right to their “quiet enjoyment ” of their fee simple land and not having to worry about a trail user on their property who may be struck by an errant golf ball or cause a distraction I really believe, that given goodwill on their part their fears could have been ameliorated… I believe the principal stakeholders of a restored foreshore and trail could be the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) and the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board -for their future role as stewards of the trail as it connects the parks on both sides. Accordingly, I have written a letter to each organisation requesting their active support in bringing this trail project to fruition. I have also made a first tentative contact with the Musqueam, through the First Nations Fisheries Council, requesting their input”.
There has been over three decades of asking the Marine Drive Golf Club nicely to allow for the completion of this part of the Fraser River Trail to no avail.
As Mr. Grigg succinctly notes:
“The new trail would join the Fraser River Park fronting the Angus lands on the east side of the golf course with the trail on the west side fronting the McCleery Golf Course. For historical reference, the concept of the trail was approved by the Southlands community in 1988 and endorsed by the city council the following year. The recent poll reaffirmed strong support -in favour of over 2 to 1 on the east side and overwhelming support on the west side.”
Since it is a city designated greenway, completing this section is something that Vancouver City Council can universally work together and complete in this term. Council should also explore creative uses of city owned unopened streets/rights of way through the Marine Drive Golf Course to allowing public access through the golf course if a more convenient waterfront trail cannot be negotiated. Public art, public washrooms, performance spaces, gardens and benches could be located along these rights of way, and become a unique segment of the Fraser River Trail greenway through this private golf course.
You can see the section of the uncompleted trail in the image below. Let’s get this done.