Find astronomy and more in Aldergrove Regional Park

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When is a lake not a lake? When someone pulls the plug, of course. This raises the question: “Lakes have plugs?”

True enough in the case of Aldergrove “Lake”. Fifty years after its construction by a former landowner, Metro Vancouver Parks—which bought the green space in 1969 as one of the original triad of regional parks that today form a necklace of 22 gems stretching from Bowen Island to Abbotsford—drained the last drop from the concrete bowl in 2011.

According to park planner Valerie Richmond, whom the Georgia Straight spoke to by phone, the cost of compliance with updated public-health regulations was simply too high to justify keeping the lake intact. Instead, under a new 20-year management plan, improvements to park trails and the rewilding of Aldergrove Bowl, a former quarry, have taken precedence. “Last summer, the Vancouver Aquarium worked with us to create a shallow wetland in a corner of the park. The Matsqui First Nation, one of whose reserves borders the park, is partnering with us as well under the plan to highlight traditional use of their land.”

Plan a mini vacation and nose on out to Aldergrove, a rural enclave in the southeast corner of the Township of Langley—also known by the hippie moniker Aldergroove, and, in pioneer times, as “the place between”—and see for yourself. Post 2011, Metro Vancouver Parks dropped the word lake and now simply refers to the 280-hectare parcel as Aldergrove Regional Park. As one wag suggested, perhaps it would have been more appropriate to rename it Aldergrove Sandbox Regional Park, as the oval has been filled in and looks more like a beach.

Now it’s a perfect destination for young kids, especially because a grassy, shaded picnic space sits conveniently close by on the opposite side of Pepin Brook, linked by a wooden bridge built of timbers salvaged from Vancouver’s former Cambie Street Bridge.

Aldergrove’s 7.5-kilometre trail network loops through shady stands of second-growth forest, ideal for families with a blend of older and younger siblings in tow, some of whom may wish to speed ahead along the rolling Rock n’ Horse Trail while little ones seek out attractions along the Pepin Brook Trail. Since the trails intersect at various places in the park, there’s little chance of losing sight of one another.

One spot with common appeal is Big Rock, also known as the Aldergrove Erratic. Estimated by geologists to weigh more than three million kilograms, the conglomerate rock was transported here atop the glacial ice that flowed from the Manning Provincial Park region (during the most recent ice age, 15,000 years ago) and deposited on slopes overlooking nearby Washington state.

Richmond cited a reference in A Sto:lo–Coast Salish Historical Atlas that identifies the erratic as Meqsel, meaning “nose” in the Halq’eméylem language. A Sto:lo legend associated with the boulder tells of a man who sneezed constantly, a sign of impending disaster. While travelling through the region, a mythological quartet known as the transformers, or Xexá:ls, turned his nose into stone.

In more recent times, the erratic has undergone some tagging and piercing—a bolted climbing route leads up one nostril—but its massive presence is undiminished, particularly when the leviathan suddenly appears to the surprise of cyclists and trail runners absorbed in negotiating several short, steep hills where Big Rock squats.

First Nations mythology meets Greek cosmology when the park hosts its long-running Meteor Shower Watch and Walk astronomy evening on August 9. Led by members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and timed to take place during the annual Perseid meteor shower, this family event offers a rare occasion to camp out under the stars—specifically, the constellation Perseus, named by the Greeks after one of the founding families of the ancient world.

Although this year’s shower coincides with the full moon—not the best conditions for stargazing—the sight of the celestial phenomenon against a backdrop of North Cascades mountain peaks including the Twin Sisters, mounts Baker and Shuksan, and the Lucky Four Group (in the Cheam Range) will present a show in itself.

Jill Deuling, an interpretive specialist, told the Straight by phone that she expects more than 1,000 meteor-watch participants to pitch tents in Aldergrove Bowl, which, owing to the absence of artificial lighting, is being considered by the RASC for urban-sky-park designation.

“There’s a lot more to the evening than just looking through telescopes,” she said. “We’re lining a 1.2-kilometre section of the Rock n’ Horse Trail with lanterns that will lead to a viewpoint above the bowl. Tents will be set up for astronomers to put on PowerPoint presentations; plus, we offer kid-friendly art activities while everyone’s waiting for the skies to darken around 11 p.m.”

Aldergrove Lake may be history, but no one’s going to drain the Milky Way.

Access: Aldergrove Regional Park lies 60 kilometres east of Vancouver. Take Highway 1 east to the 264 Street exit (#73). Head south to 8th Avenue, then east to reach the park’s main entrance. Information about the park and the Meteor Shower Watch and Walk can be found at the Metro Vancouver website.

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