Everything I learned
I learned from a river
It was early spring
and the Skeena was a snaking wall of muscle --
miles of shimmering silverbacks
and a thousand year old body memory
ploughing through the impossible
No one told me anything
No one said a word
There was only
the deafening weight of water
the glean of resilience
- Elyot MacRae
This public art installation was a collaborative project that unfolded over the course of three months with the support of the Canadian International Dragonboat Festival, Creekside Community Centre, poet Elyot MacRae and visual artist Rachael Stableford. The display was up for a duration of thirty days, beginning during the Vancouver Dragonboat Festival and ending mid summer. As a group of flatwater enthusiasts in Vancouver worked diligently to participate in a conversation with the City of Vancouver about public water access, we cultivated conversations with stakeholders at all levels. We folded paper boats with people on the seawall, residents, visitors and paddlers while talking about the future of the site and listening to people's opinions. The paper boats became an anchor for a larger conversation about public waterways and inclusive access. False Creek is the most eastern ocean access point within the City of Vancouver, so this public boathouse is a natural location for anyone in East Vancouver to paddle, SUP or sail from. Currently, the last two undeveloped sites are under consideration for residential buildings. Each artist gave a statement during the public hearings at City Hall, along with many other residents who spoke for and against the public boathouse facility. The resulting policy decision was a community amenity funded by a False Creek developer, to build a permanent public water access area outside Creekside Community Centre. This boathouse serves paddlers of all ages and abilities through Dragonboat BC and will grow in capacity to serve many others in it's lifetime.
We came to understand that blue space and green space are not equal in urban environments. Our conversations revealed that people in Vancouver do not necessarily view beach and water access as a basic right for all, regardless of income.
"Wild: An Elemental Journey," by Jay Griffiths. May 1, 2008. Penguin.
"The Columbia River Treaty: A Primer," by Robert William Sandford and Deborah Harford. November 14, 2014. Douglas & MacIntyre.