Homeless in Vancouver: Visiting the island of kids, cars, and Canada geese

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      Granville Island fairly hums with activity from dawn to dusk but I was honestly surprised by the complete absence of honking when I ventured down under the Granville Street Bridge to visit the peninsular shopping and tourist destination, early Saturday evening.

      So many cars, so many people and so many Canada geese—yet the whole place seems to run as smoothly as a favourite old watch!

      The Festival season starts here

      Billboard for the Variety Children's Charity near the entrance to Granville Island.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      I was on Granville Island to see someone about a one-day gig with the Vancouver International Children’s Festival, which runs from Monday (May 25) to Sunday (May 31).

      The popular annual kids event started way back in in 1978, the same year as the equally iconic Vancouver Folk Music Festival, which will run later in the summer, from July 17 to 19 at Jericho Beach Park.

      East of the Anderson Street entrance: an abandoned 2010 Olympic Line streetcar station.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Many (if not all) of the Children’s Festival tents were already pitched along the south side of Cartwright Street, beginning in the area of Sutcliffe Park. And even though the festival wasn’t due to open for two days, the tents were already drawing curious children.

      My business with a festival organizer only took about two minutes so most of my time on Granville Island was spent marvelling at the steady streams of traffic, the orderly crush of crowds, and the not-so-wild wildlife.

      A mallard in Alder Bay, after dabbling (tipping its head into the water after food).
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      There were ducks aplenty, either splashing around in Alder Bay or dozing on the grassy banks but it was clearly the dozens of Canada geese that stole the show, not to mention the hearts of adults and children.

      All the adulation but none of the diva behaviour

      A Canada goose uses its head to make a clean breast of things.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Every pair of Canadas had a little gaggle of pale yellow powderpuff goslings under their care. They went about rearing them in the public eye like equable reality TV stars, perfectly accustomed and accepting of the public scrutiny and adulation they were receiving.

      I watched awestruck children drawn slowly, as if by magnets, to within a foot of the irresistible goslings, with none of the ruffled feathers or hissing on the part of the watchful parent geese that you might expect.

      All kind of idyllic, if you ask me.

      Back to the future of urban planning

      Three Canada goose goslings being nurtured within feet of busy traffic.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Two of the many things that always strike me about Granville Island are the high densities of everything—of pedestrians and cars and urban and nature—and the way that everyone and everything flows and circulates and shares the space.

      Granville Island’s carefully dense, yet low-rise, pedestrian-friendly design fringes a centre of work spaces and shopping amenities with multi-unit residential housing, all shot through with dollops of rolling nature. This once looked to me like it might be the future of city planning but that was 35 years ago, when downtown Vancouver still had European-style pedestrian-only stretches on both Granville and Robson streets.

      Now, on the rare occasions when I venture onto the “island”, I know that I’m stepping back into a bygone 1970s vision of Vancouver and I find that it leaves me curiously homesick for what might’ve been.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.