March 15, 2022

The Last Needed Link for Fraser River Trail Greenway: Private Golf Club Shuns Completion & Why a Locked Secret Historic Site should be the Showcase

There has been much discussion about golf courses in Vancouver. Along the Fraser River there is the Marine Drive Golf Club which is holding up completion of the Fraser River Trail Greenway linking the historic First Nations settlement in Marpole with the current Musqueam First Nations territories.  This is simply access along the riverfront, that other golf courses along the trail willingly provided.

The photos below show how the Fraser River Trail winds along the foreshore. The photo on the right shows the small uncompleted section of the trail along the frontage of the  Marine Drive Golf Club which has not allowed foreshore access to the public for the completion of this citywide greenway. You can also see the trail through McCleery Golf Course to the left of the images.


Sadly Marine Drive Golf Club is also the private club that from 2004 to 2008 went through a legal challenge when it refused to allow women to access parts of its club house.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. You can read about that in this article in the Globe and Mail by Gary Mason entitled “Cavemen keep playpen after golf club wins ruling”.

The Marine Drive Golf Club has erected signage to stop walkers from accessing the uncompleted section of the Fraser River Trail foreshore in front of their property, even though Point Grey Golf Club and McCleery Golf Club has allowed access on their portion of the foreshore. The Marine Drive Golf  Club  has also refused to talk to the public about this, and just hopes that eventually Vancouver residents will give up on their right to the completion of the Fraser River Trail, and let the private golf course’s foreshore remain behind chain link fences and warnings.

You can take a look at the curiously antique sense of entitlement in this article 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, and retired engineer David Grigg has been following through on trying to get this link completed. This trail was approved and endorsed by Council thirty years ago, and recent polling shows strong support throughout the city for its completion.

But there is another reason to push for the completion of this Fraser River Trail even though it is the right thing to do, as the historic pathway of the local First Nations, and for the future interpretation of this culturally important river.

There is a very important and secret settlement site, which includes a historical  industrial shipyards tucked in Southlands that should be part of this greenway, with a long and very poignant history. It is closed off by the current developer owners and even the tenants are not aware that Keltic Development owns the property, suggesting to one visitor that it was the City of Vancouver who owns the site.

At the foot of Balaclava and Blenheim Streets this eight acre waterfront parcel in Southlands  used to be called the Celtic Cannery. As Kerry Gold writes in the Globe and Mail this was home to 25 Japanese -Canadian families that lived here next to the Fraser River from the late 1890’s to 1942.

In 1942 these Canadians had their fishing boats taken by the Federal Government and they were incarcerated in the interior of the province under the War Measures Act during World War Two. They were not allowed to return to the coast.

When they finally returned, their houses, boats and belongings were gone.

There used to be Japanese Canadian owned  houses on Deering Island (now a subdivision of large residences) and on the Celtic Cannery site. Children walked 2.5 kilometers to school at Kerrisdale Elementary.

And on the  Celtic Cannery site is the Celtic Shipyards, built in 1927 to build and repair ships used in the fishing industry. It is one of the last vestiges of this type of building in the city.

Ms. Gold spoke with Roy Uyeda who was born on the site and is now in his late 80’s.  Mr. Uyeda spoke of going to trade with the Chinese farmers on Sea Island (now the airport) and with the Musqueam First Nation for sweaters and socks.

Last spring Tom Hollett visited Celtic Shipyards  to photograph it, and kindly allowed Viewpoint Vancouver to use his photos.

The site  is now an artists colony and has a lumber yard. This land is classified as agricultural and is in the Agricultural Land Reserve. It is also on a flood plain, and subject to flooding. Despite this the property which was assessed at six million dollars sold for 25.8 million dollars in 2017, near the height of the real estate market.

The developer proposed an 18 upscale large luxury home development on this site to the City of Vancouver.

It’s no surprise that City staff opposed the plan as did Council.  You can take a look at the rejected plan here. The RA-1 zoning in Southlands on the floodplain allows three lots not eighteen on this parcel, and there is no rezoning policy on agricultural land to allow more  intensive subdivision on this floodplain foreshore location.

The Council report also recognizes the important culture and historically significant location for the Musqueam First Nations as well as for Japanese Canadians. It is likely the site also contains artifacts of archaeological importance to the Musqueam First Nations.

Heritage Vancouver has placed this site on its endangered list in 2017.


This however is Vancouver, and even on an environmentally sensitive, historically important and culturally saturated site, real estate profit  is perceived as paramount. But in the context of the Fraser River Trail linking this important site and allowing the interpretation of it through the First Nations, Japanese Canadian and early industrial fishing lens is also important.

The completion of the Fraser River Trail can be done by dealing with  two factors. The first factor is surpassing the  obstinance of a private golf course that wants the citizens of Vancouver  to obey their trespassing signs on the foreshore and  just go away, instead of allowing foreshore access. The second factor is the reimagining and revitalizing of  the Celtic Cannery site  as a historically significant site on the Fraser River Trail.

This site serves to weave in  First Nations” rich cultural history, the importance of the Fraser River for fishing and shipbuilding, and the treatment of Japanese Canadians in the last world war. It is a site of great collective synergy that should be interpreted and honoured as part of the reconciliation process, as important culturally as the Fraser River Trail itself.

Below is a YouTube video of Terry Slack talking about the Fraser River Trail.

At the start of the video Mr. Slack   talks about the Celtic Shipyards and the Japanese Community. Terry Slack was raised in a house floating on the Fraser River’s North Arm jetty, built upon salvaged logs. His family were log salvagers.

As a kid he had to scramble from the Fraser River  up the cliffs to attend school at Southlands Elementary.  He has worked on tug boats, is a retired gillnetter and interested in history and biology.  He also maintains several stretches of the Fraser River Trail Greenway as a personal commitment, and as part of his lifelong attachment to the Fraser River.

There is so much to be gained for pushing for the completion of the Fraser River Trail.



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  1. The following companies have personnel who are or have been on the board of Marine Drive GC. Make your own decisions but I vote with my wallet.
    McDonald Realty
    Jericho West/Jericho Energy/JWResearch
    Bowra Group
    Add others as you see fit.
    IN addition Enactus BCIT had Cam Laker past President of MDGC as it’s keynote speaker. Enactus claims to be “an international, non-profit organization consisting of teams of post-secondary students building businesses and projects that improve the social, economic, and environmental health of our communities.”
    Next time you talk to someone from BCIT ask them how denying access to the foreshore fits with the social, economic and environmental health of *our* community.

  2. Publish the names and photos of the current cavemen standing in the way of these much higher priority considerations and uses. Don’t let them hide behind the name of the golf club. Shame may be the only leverage sane people have left.

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