Wayfinding: China Creek Ravine/MOP @ 6th & St.Catherines

This is the first stop of the Walking, Weaving and Wayfinding: The False Creek Fibreshed tour from Means of Production Garden to Trillium North Park.

(above left: False Creek (near Clark Drive?) circa 1904, Archives, found on https://www.straight.com/news/698461/celia-brauer-revitalizing-false-creek-flats-more-paved-over-human-development-or-place

above right: slough near Garry Point Park, Steveston, in 2018. Photo credit Rebecca Graham

At the northern end of St.Catherines in Vancouver, the land falls away on your right into the playing fields of North China Creek Park; farther on are some parking lots, the Broadway campus of Vancouver Community College, a sliver of co-op and other residential housing; across Great Northern Way down below you’ll also see the VCC Clark Skytrain station and newer commercial real estate developments. People around you are wearing a mix of man-made and synthetic fibres made into clothes that may have been designed at head offices within sight of you right now! The fibres themselves — cotton, wool, hemp, silk; nylon, polyester, spandex — have been grown or extruded, processed, and finished at factories overseas; and most of the garments were manufactured there as well.

Ahead of you, where St.Catherine’s veers hard to the left and turns into E 6th Ave, the whimsical shapes of sculpted willows and slightly wild fruit trees, rough garden fences around mostly unusual plants and a very large, very dense block of granite inhabit the top area of the Means of Production Garden. This beloved bit of tended wildness provides shade, wildlife habitat, and, for its artist-gardeners and community members, a spot to grow and harvest plants for dyeing and weaving. Plants grown at Means of Production have been used to make everything from installations and baskets to pan flutes and fu-horns. If you see some folks working in the garden, they may be wearing things that they have knitted or woven themselves from wool from local sheep, or linen they grew and processed themselves; or cloth that they dyed with plants from the garden.

Going back in time…

On August 21, 1951 work started on the construction of China Creek Park. An article on the creek by Randolf Kjorrefjord, published by Vancouver Community College, has this: “The China Creek system was the largest drainage basin in Vancouver, with over 60 kilometres of creeks that converged at Clark Drive and 11th Avenue. Its name originated from a Chinese pig farm in that vicinity during the early 1880s. If the four creeks that fed Trout Lake are included, a total of nine creeks made up the entire China Creek system, which had the task of draining the district lying between Victoria Drive and Knight Road as far south as 45th Avenue.


“This great drainage system also had a rather impressive ravine, about 200 feet across at street level where it crossed Broadway, and north towards 7th Avenue. The ravine’s depth varied between 30 and 40 feet, over a distance of some 2,000 feet. During the 1920s and 30s, the City used China Creek ravine as a garbage dump. Eventually, local residents complained of the smell and potential health risk. In 1951, the mighty China Creek that had flowed for so many years and functioned as home to fish and young boys alike, was finally put to rest in a pipe. Apart from giving its name to the nearby park, it would be forgotten until the construction of King Edward Campus in the early 1980s.” Coho and chum salmon once swam here. Incidentally, the land on which the park sits was given to the city to settle an unpaid tax bill in 1923, though construction of the park did not begin until the date shown above.


So all that water is still flowing, more or less; it’s just encased in pipes beneath our feet. The salmon runs and all the other life that was there formerly are gone, though — all the fish, shellfish, berries, birds, elk, porcupine and squirrel; all the tule and cattail, alder and cedar that provided foods and fibres. Bruce MacDonald’s book Vancouver: A Visual History records that there was a midden known in the North China Creek Ravine, so there was probably a little village or seasonal camp site there at some point before contact. Since the soil seemed to be rich (the Chinese farmers were also market gardeners growing vegetables, according to another source), the place probably looked like a cross between the western banks of Richmond and Serpentine fen, with reeds and grasses growing above muddy tide lines.