Mayor Richard Walton

The Lynn Canyon suspension bridge has been part of Lynn Canyon Park ever since the District opened it as a public attraction in 1912. NVMA 5216

North Vancouver District was created on August 10, 1891, with the incorporation of lands stretching from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. Our human history here begins much earlier, however, with the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, whose traditional territories extend far beyond our modern boundaries and whose ancestors made their homes here thousands of years before European explorers arrived in 1791.

At that time a series of tidal flats stretched from the mouth of the Capilano River, at the First Narrows where the Lions Gate Bridge now stands, eastward to the Mosquito Creek estuary at the foot of today’s Bewicke Avenue. The clear waters from the North Shore Mountains flowed into Burrard Inlet through nutrient-rich marshlands. East of Mosquito Creek, steeper terrain and deeper waters extended across what was then the sawmill community of Moodyville (now the City of North Vancouver waterfront), to the next set of tidal estuaries where Lynn Creek and the Seymour River flow side by side into the inlet at the Second Narrows. Within this area, the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area is now the last remnant of the once-extensive tidal flats.

With the arrival of industry on the North Shore in the 1860s, and the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway a generation later, life and the landscape changed at an ever-accelerating pace. Within fifty years railway berms and dredged infill created man-made shorelines that damaged the tidal estuaries. The skies darkened with pollution from sawmills and unfettered wood-waste burners, and the North Shore mountainsides were stripped of their original old-growth trees. And yet, over the years, a growing realization spread that this place is a living paradise. Although we cannot turn back history, the past few decades have seen the emergence of a culture of environmental awareness, stewardship and balance that is very encouraging.

Today North Vancouver’s vibrant waterfront and port facilities ship and receive more goods than any other city in Canada. And while the river mouths have been channelled and the normal flood cycles of mountain creeks have been altered to facilitate bridge abutments, dry basements in our homes and the protection of vital municipal infrastructure, recent positive human intervention has seen the salmon return to our streams and a community celebration of our natural heritage. The early perception of the North Shore forests only having value for loggers and entrepreneurs has shifted over time. In 1889, the first Capilano Suspension Bridge, which would become one of Canada’s major tourist attractions, got its start hosting visitors and residents already waking up to the natural beauty on their doorstep.

Recently we have come to realize that the landscape of the North Shore largely defines how we see ourselves: close to nature with a vast wilderness at our doorstep, with the benefits of being part of a large adjacent urban area. And over the years we have shifted from being a bedroom community of commuters facing south, to a community of wilderness lovers on the edge of a metropolis looking north.

The North Shore consistently ranks among the healthiest regions in Canada to live, work and play, and we are among the best educated and safest communities as well. International companies locate here because this is where key employees wish to raise their families. The resurgence of shipbuilding ensures the continuance of well-paid waterfront jobs, located in a community that appreciates and supports industry.

And we will continue to be vigilant as a community, as newer local and global challenges related to housing affordability, transportation congestion and climate change face us. We can celebrate the good things we have achieved while we plan carefully for the future. Although our initial economic prosperity brought along with it environmental compromises, we are well on our way to achieving the careful balance that healthy communities achieve.

Our community is unique: we have subalpine highlands located only minutes away from world-class port facilities and industry; we have wildlife in our backyards, yet are only a short bus ride from downtown Vancouver. The North Shore is the interface between the urban core and the wilderness, and that is the magic that defines our community and who we are.

Where Mountains Meet the Sea tells our story. What better way is there to celebrate our 125th anniversary than sitting down with a good book to learn about ourselves? And learning about our past provides a great foundation for getting involved in the future. Our natural shorelines may be forever changed, but the community’s love, respect and appreciation for our natural heritage and way of life continue to grow.


Next: Introduction