Best of Vancouver 2011 communities: From bike trails to penny candy, Lynn Valley thrives
Having grown up in Lynn Valley, Scot Kissinger ended up living in other parts of Metro Vancouver and B.C. for work mostly related to the fish and wildlife studies he did at BCIT. As circumstances would have it, the supervisor of the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre ultimately ended up moving back to his North Vancouver childhood home. Now that the father of three lives and works amid towering Douglas firs, western red cedars, and Sitka spruces, he doesn’t miss other neighbourhoods one bit.
“For a while I cycled downtown to work at a bank; I much prefer this,” Kissinger says in an interview outside the ecology centre, looking up at the trees and greenery surrounding him. “When you grow up somewhere, you can forget all the cool things about your community. But visitors here are a constant reminder of what we have.”
More than 100,000 people come to the ecology centre yearly from all over the world: Vietnam, Australia, India, Iran, Greenland, and other far-flung regions.
“What’s amazing here is that you can get off a bus and in five minutes forget that there’s a city of two million people nearby,” Kissinger says.
Lynn Canyon Park, with its spectacular suspension bridge, is the area’s most jaw-dropping attraction. (See more about Lynn Canyon and its hiking trails in Jack Christie’s story.) But there’s more to this family-friendly neighbourhood than its beloved picturesque park.
With highway access to the Second Narrows and Lions Gate bridges nearby, Lynn Valley is conveniently located: barring rush-hour traffic, you can leave home and be sitting at Ambleside Beach or sipping a latte downtown in less than 20 minutes. You’re surrounded by stunning scenery and a sense of community-mindedness—consider the annual Lynn Valley Days parade—that bring to mind smaller mountain towns like Jasper or Nelson.
Lynn Valley, where Bryan Adams spent some of his childhood, as did Jason Priestley, started out as a logging centre, sometimes called Shaketown because of its cedar-shake buildings and export of cedar shingles.
Named after John Linn, a British engineer and early settler, the area has its challenges, and not just when it comes to spelling: with sky-high real-estate prices, it lacks rental accommodations, multifamily dwellings, and sufficient affordable housing for seniors, first-time home buyers, and young families. Traffic is getting worse. Transit service could be vastly improved. And the poorly designed parking lot at the Lynn Valley Centre is a disaster waiting to happen. (Adjacent to the Village Plaza, the mall is home to Winners, Zellers, a government liquor store, and other shops.)
But with community centres (including one named after figure-skating champion Karen Magnussen, with an ice rink and wave pool), local shopping, and breathtaking natural surroundings, it’s a place that thousands are stoked to call home.
Best mountain-biking trails
The entire North Shore is a mecca for mountain bikers, but there’s no denying Lynn Valley’s Mount Fromme is the area’s “crown jewel”, as local pros Wade Simmons and Sharon Bader put it in their book, Locals’ Guide to North Shore Rides (mtbtrails.ca/ ). Access requires riders make it all the way up to the top of Mountain Highway before even reaching the winding switchbacks of Mount Fromme, which was named after Lynn Valley’s first homeowner and head of the Lynn Valley Lumber Company, Julius Martin Fromme.
With names like Executioner, Upper and Lower Crippler, and Pile of Rocks, trails here are as technically demanding—and in some cases as treacherous—as they sound. “You get the idea, all the trails on Fromme are steep!” Simmons and Bader exclaim.
Best place to host a kid’s birthday party
Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre
3663 Park Road
Admission to what little ones like to call the “nature centre” is by donation, and a visit here is well worth a few bucks: toy dinosaurs, snakes, and spiders are just some of the creatures kids can play with in this environmental-education centre, which is run by the District of North Vancouver parks department and appeals to all ages.
The small building, which is designed in the shape of a dogwood, B.C.’s provincial flower, also has interactive exhibits on the relationship between plants, animals, people, and the environment, as well as programs for kids and adults alike on everything from forest mushrooms and animal tracks to birdcalls and vegetable gardening.
An unbeatable deal is kids’ birthday parties. Children get to learn about fossils, creek critters, or temperate-rainforest plants and animals and do related crafts. At $125 for a 90-minute program run by a knowledgeable ecology-
centre leader, this is a bargain by today’s over-the-top celebratory standards. Groups of up to 10 kids, including the birthday child, can use the program room for 45 minutes afterward too to have cake and open presents.
The ecology centre itself is celebrating a birthday this year: Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40.
Best commercial nod to history
The End of the Line General Store
4193 Lynn Valley Road
In 1912, trolley cars ran from Lower Lonsdale to upper Lynn Valley along Lynn Valley Road, which back then was called Pipeline Road. At Dempsey, the conductor would supposedly call out “End of the line!” Hence the name of this little red store.
The shop stocks a bit of a mishmash: old-school penny candy (well, they’re seven pennies each, or 35 cents for the big ones), fine Italian olive oils, freshly made sandwiches and pastries, gelato, espresso, some produce, and dairy items, as well as paintings, textiles, photo cards, jewellery, and other wares by local artists.
But the place has an undeniable, easygoing charm. Stop by here at 9:30 on a weekend morning, when people in other parts of the city are just pouring their first coffee, and you’ll find scores of cyclists, hikers, and dog-walkers enjoying a post-workout java in the store’s outdoor seating area.
Best reason to leave the car at home
Lynn Valley Village Plaza and Library Square
Lynn Valley Road and Mountain Highway
Located smack-dab at the intersection of Lynn Valley Road and Mountain Highway, this newish pedestrian-friendly hub has much to offer: LEED–certified buildings with big cedar columns and copper accents; an airy 40,000-square-foot library; Delany’s Coffee House; YYoga; Nourish Market, an organic grocery store (complete with shopping carts for kids); Zazou, a hair salon and spa; and, soon, Browns Social House, among other shops and eateries.
Come summer, the 12,000-square-foot courtyard is home to a farmers market every Thursday plus free Friday-evening concerts, featuring everything from swing to folk. When you see toddlers and nonagenarians alike dancing outdoors, you can’t help but be chipper.
Across the street from the plaza, on Mountain Highway, are favourite local businesses like Lynn Valley Bikes and Tommy’s, a catering company and teeny café that’s famous for its “traditional and twisted” eggs Benny. A stone’s throw away in the opposite direction is the Black Bear Neighbourhood Pub.
Best place to learn how to fish
Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve
Utterly serene, Rice Lake, which can be accessed by foot from the End of the Line, is a former drinking-water reservoir. The Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery stocks the man-made lake with thousands of fish each year, and the dock is wheelchair-accessible. Neither boating nor swimming is allowed.
Every summer, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. offers its Learn to Fish program here. Kids aged five to 15 can drop in for a two-hour class that covers fish identification, rods and reels, proper fish handling and ethics, casting and retrieving, and hands-on fishing, with all equipment and tackle provided, for a suggested donation of $5.
Best place to buy a bear-proof garbage can
District of North Vancouver
355 West Queens Road
Like so many North Shore neighbourhoods, Lynn Valley is no stranger to black bears. Besides parks, they regularly visit back yards and carports and have even been spotted strolling down culs-de-sac at 11 a.m. on weekday mornings.
The draw, obviously, is garbage, the stuff residents are supposed to store indoors, in a garage, or in a bear-proof bin. Inexcusably, many still don’t.
One meal from a garbage can is enough to draw a bear back again and again; from there, the bear’s likely to scope out all the bins on the same street. As the North Shore Black Bear Society points out on its website (northshorebears.com/ ), more than 1,000 bears are killed every year in B.C. because of conflict with humans.
To help keep bears away from residential areas crawling with kids, the District of North Vancouver is selling animal-resistant garbage cans. Made by Schaefer, the 140-litre wheeled carts have clasps on the lid and cost $199, including tax.
The district also recommends that residents pick fruit from trees as soon as it’s ripe, clean barbecues, keep pet food and freezers inside, and remove bird feeders during bear season.
Can’t hurt to remind those stubborn neighbours where to stuff it, either.