The Riverview Grounds: Green Heritage Space in a Drive Thru

The BC government has begun an eleventh hour discussion with citizens about what fate should befall the huge Riverview grounds in Coquitlam, British Columbia. Quite likely the government has already made up its mind to sell the land to developers. The consultation process seems like window-dressing. It has been poorly advertised, and rushed. It seems to be contrived in such a way that when the government announces its sell-off  of the land to private developers, it can employ the phrase “after careful consultation with the public…”. Besides the built-in inefficacy of the process, another reason to believe that the process is disingenuous is that up to now, the current Liberals’ record on public assets has been one of sell-offs to private interests. It’s simply too much to believe that the appointed premier, Christy Clark will change course from her predecessor’s perfect track record of privatization, despite her “family first” election mantra. And a final piece of evidence is the neglect of the buildings themselves on the site, many of them long empty.

Riverview is a strange pastoral oasis in tucked into the hillside above Lougheed Highway.

I took a walk through the old Riverview grounds tonight. They are unique in a city like Coquitlam – a city that grew up as a bedroom community for Vancouver and New Westminster, a city that was conceptualized around automobile commuting. Coquitlam is a sprawling series of residential neighbourhoods on two hills, with commercial pockets added as what seem to be an afterthought. As Greater Vancouver sprawled further and further east along the Fraser River, Coquitlam became a drive-thru, with three major highways and a major rail corridor thundering through its heart. It is an extremely diverse city that is trying to define itself. It boasts much green space with a rivers and creeks cutting swaths through it, but it has little developed parkland, and almost no heritage land, Riverview, being the exception.

Despite the neglect suffered by the many buildings in Riverview, one can see signs that this was once a place where many people lived and worked. The grounds were well landscaped, and the foliage diverse. There remain on the site magnificent trees and lush green foliage. Nestled amongst the buildings and cut into the hillside is a lovely sports field. I don’t own an expensive camera, and I’m certainly not a photographer, but what follows is a short photo essay of my walk through part of the grounds on a very rainy evening. What I hope for Riverview is that it will be endowed to Coquitlam as a designated parkland and heritage site; developed, renovated and preserved.

This dirt road begged me to explore.
A path through a thicket of trees beckoned.
What’s this? A bench along the little trail – a sign that the place was designed for people.
An open field at the end of the trail. Still well groomed.

Magnificent trees are everywhere. As I get older, I find it harder and harder to contemplate cutting down such wonders.
Even in the rain, this tree seemed to fluoresce, as if spotlights were trained on it.
Nothing made by human hands can touch the perfection of a simple leaf.

A monkey puzzle tree, 60 ft high if it’s an inch.

Riverview’s buildings are eclectic in design, a collection of drab institutional cinderblock and wood-framed Tudor styled buildings.
Unit 8 is an awful building.

In contrast to the Edenic setting, the abandoned Unit 8 is a stark reminder of a time when the mentally ill were institutionalized in prison-like buildings. The structure of this building conjured images of misery and brutality. I can only imagine the terror of a patient being delivered here. This too should be preserved.

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