When the first settlers started eyeing the land on the north side of the Fraser River over 150 years ago, the general impression was “bush, bears, and mosquitoes.”
The flats often flooded and marshes and ponds were home to thousands of waterbirds. The many little creeks had been a rich source of ooligans during the annual runs, and trout and salmon returned to most of the streams to spawn. As development moved forward, many of these streams, a boon to early farmers, seemed to disappear from the landscape.
One of those is Lane Creek. Flowing south from the heights of Cedar Valley, it made its way toward the downtown, past the railway tracks, and eventually out to the Fraser. As streets and housing took the place of farmland, most of the streambed was channeled into culverts, and paved over.
Today, two areas along Lane Creek have been set aside for recreation and parkland.
The area at Grand Street north of 11 Avenue was first proposed as a park back in 1962 when Ethel Ogle was mayor. The Rotary Club donated $250 toward the cost of the study, and committed $1,500 for park work. The first plans included 24 acres that could contain two ball fields, a lawn bowling green, an outdoor theatre, spaces for “quiet recreation” including horseshoes and shuffleboard, and a large “Pioneer House” where visitors could rest and enjoy the view. The initial report warned “the development of this park may take a generation or more.”
From 1962 to 1967, municipal planners, local service clubs, and private citizens became involved led by park project chairman E.W. Willis and Jack Davidson, Centennial committee chairman. On June 28, 1967, B.C. Lt.-Gov. George Pearkes planted a pink dogwood at the official opening of Centennial Park. Local Boy Scouts formed an honour guard, also attended by Soap Box Derby queen elect Pat Blackstock and a company of cadets under Cpl. Willie Kohler.
Although many of the plans didn’t materialize, Centennial Park quickly became a community gathering place; over the years a lacrosse pitch, tennis courts, children’s playground and walking trails were added. The proposed “outdoor theatre” took the form of a small cement stage area, with people sitting on surrounding hill slopes to enjoy musicians, pow wow dancers, and skits.
In the early 1990s, the Mission Garden Club created a mini-garden at the entrance to the park, in memory of Lil Ulmer, an active and talented member of their group. Recently, part of Centennial Park has been designated as an off-leash dog area.
Although Lane Creek disappears under the streets and Leisure Centre grounds, it re-emerges just south of the fire hall and continues to the library parking lot on Second Avenue.
Next week: Remember the old swimming hole at Second Avenue? The Kinsmen Outdoor Pool where the library now stands? Contact Sharon at 604-615-6082 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have information to pass on.
Sharon Syrette will be writing a number of columns on Mission parks and trails history in recognition of BC Heritage Week’s theme of parks and nature preserves.