Monday, 19 October 2015

Lions Gate Bridge. Vancouver Postcard Series.

Lions Gate Bridge. Image ©Luke Potter

Huge maple leaves scatter the pathway as you near the causeway overpass approaching from Prospect Point.
The green trees are beginning to yellow. It’s that time of year.
The noise of the causeway traffic gets louder.

Standing atop this rumbling overpass you are now aligned with the bridge.
What a sight it is.
Just stand and stare.
Tall and majestic the bridge arcs towards the North Shore Mountains.
Pulling your gaze to the wilderness beyond.

In the advancing darkness the bridge’s illuminations, like fallen stars suspended, gain definition against a cold night sky.
Steady streams of traffic motor in either direction.
Vehicles of every shape and size zip beneath your feet.
White lights heading to the Downtown core and red lights ablaze, doing their utmost to escape the city.
Swift, silent cyclists, and there are many, travel smoothly along lanes adjacent to the roadway.
Unlike the heavier transit they don’t create the rhythmic two-bump thud when hitting the join where the bridge begins. The Lion’s beat.
A solitary runner, whose reflective backpack alights with each passing car, strides towards the bridge on the homeward leg of their daily commute.
The immense cast lions sit proud on plinths looking down on all who pass them on northward journeys.
The traffic roars suit these chiseled beasts.

Behind me passing cars, stop.
Engines left running. Exhausts left billowing. 
People are quick to the edge of the overpass to snatch their own Lions Gate Bridge.
Some glance at me. Unmoving. Studying the northern view.

“Yes, I’ll be here a while.”

Lions Gate Bridge. Image © Luke Potter

An engineering contractor and industrialist Alfred J.T. Taylor envisioned the bridge as a means of connecting the downtown city core of Vancouver with the development potential of the north shore.

Due to the depression, governments had no money to build another bridge in 1930 so Taylor whom Taylor Way in West Vancouver is named, developed a scheme to save the municipality from bankruptcy and build a bridge. The British Guinness brewing company acted as the primary financier for the project.

The Lions Gate Bridge, originally known as the First Narrows Bridge, was the longest suspension bridge in the British Empire when it opened in 1938.

The term "Lions Gate" refers to The Lions, a pair of mountain peaks north of Vancouver. In January 1939, two great Art Deco lion figures, which were the last public work of Vancouver’s most prominent sculptor Charles Marega, were placed at the entrance to the south side of the bridge.

Lion Statue by Charles Marega. Image ©Luke Potter
The provincial government purchased the bridge in 1955. It ceased to be a toll bridge in 1963. Overcrowded for decades, the bridge narrowly avoided demolition in the 1990s, instead being refurbished by the provincial government. Its retention indicated the city was beginning to move beyond the automobile age.

In 1986 the Guinness family, as a gift to Vancouver, purchased decorative lights that make it a distinctive nighttime landmark. In July 2009, the bridge's lighting system was updated with new LED lights to replace this existing system of 100-watt mercury vapour bulbs. The switch to LEDs is expected to reduce power consumption on the bridge by 90 per cent and save the Province about $30,000 a year in energy and maintenance costs.

The main bridge deck was replaced in 2000 and 2001 – the first time a suspension bridge's deck had been replaced. This was facilitated by a series of separate nighttime and weekend closures to replace one section at a time. The old section would be lowered to a barge, and the new one raised into place and connected. The change allowed the two pedestrian walkways to be moved to the outside of the structure and the road lanes were accordingly widened. Also, the main structural elements were moved to below the bridge deck, thus giving a much more open appearance. The entire suspended structure was thus replaced with little or no interruption in daytime traffic.

Alfred Taylor died in New York City aged 57 in 1945. According to his wishes, he was cremated and his ashes scattered from the Lions Gate Bridge.

There is a blue plaque fixed in place to the causeway bridge in Stanley Park, which tells of the Guinness family’s involvement with the bridge but there is no mention of the visionary behind the project Alfred Taylor. Now that’s a shame.

Information and References: 

Friday, 25 September 2015

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. Vancouver Postcard Series.

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, Vancouver BC. Image © Luke Potter

On approach, crunching stones under foot, you can hear the rushing waters of Lynn Canyon. Soon you pass wet picnic benches set on pine needle carpeted ground. The sound of the canyon waters is ever increasing.

Well-worn wooden edged stairs lead you down towards the suspension bridge that crosses the canyon.

Once on the bridge, if you take those steps, your first few strides begin to make the bridge shake and wobble. The floor of the bridge is a cold metal set with evenly spaced wooden rungs. Some are broken or now missing after attempting to steady years of nervous stepping. Your hands are chilled by clinging tight to the cold steel rope railings as you slowly approach the center of the bridge, suspended some 50 metres above the gushing waters below.

Looking left over the side of the bridge you can see deep blue and dark green waters contrasted by the cascading white water dropping into the 30 foot plunge pool.

Beyond the pool the water rushes its way downstream between immense river rocks. Huge trees rise up from the steep cliff edges of the canyon to tower over all who traverse the bridge.

The sound of the water is powerful as you make your way towards the opposite side. Nearing the far side of the bridge you can feel the gradient steepen under foot. The bridge moves and bumps against its moorings before you step off and onto a secure wooden platform leading to a choice of forest trails.

Immediately to your left you pass a sign that reads “Warning. Extreme danger. Do not go beyond this fence. Area is extremely hazardous and has claimed several lives.”  

Along the trails you notice ferns and moss covered stumps and rocks. “Old mans beard” hangs thick from many tree branches, usually dripping with rainwater or dew from morning mists; it is an ecosystem unto itself.

The green colour spectrum is well represented from canopy of the darkest green to leaves of an almost yellow hue. You’ll see saplings thriving atop the charred stumps of giant trees felled in times past. 

Breathe deep the freshness of the forest and allow your senses to explore.

Lynn Canyon Park, Vancouver BC. Image © Luke Potter

Lynn canyon was one of the first places I visited when I made my initial trip to Vancouver in 2002 and has been a regular haunt since living in Vancouver. 

On arrival at Lynn Canyon Park, the towering Douglas fir and Hemlock trees that surround the car park welcome you. 

The park opened to the public in 1912 and according to the official website is now home to 617 acres of beautiful forest having grown from it’s original 12 acres in it’s early years. 

Lynn Canyon Park contains second growth forest and the majority of the trees are aged 80 to100 years old. The park offers an abundance of walking and hiking trails that connect to other parks in the region such as Rice Lake, Inter River Park and Lynn Headwaters.

The Lynn Canyon suspension bridge gently sways 50 metres above the canyon. It was built privately in 1912 when the park first opened.

The suspension bridge attracts many visitors year round being especially popular in the summer months. I’ve visited the park in all weather and for me when there is rain and mist in the air the park is at it’s most stunning.

The ‘postcard’ image atop this post was created early one wet Sunday morning with the help of a family member.

Lynn Canyon Park, Vancouver BC. Image © Luke Potter

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Thinking about Vancouver Postcards.

Ah, England.

Being a recent visitor to London and knowing my time there was short had me feeling like a tourist - ‘An Alien in London.’ I spent some time in Greenwich a regular haunt for me while I was growing up, now Royal Greenwich since the London Olympics of 2012.

When it comes to people traffic I’m now quite accustomed to and thankful for the relative calm of the comparatively small population of Vancouver, BC. London’s population on the other hand reached a record level of 8.6 million people in February 2015 and I think the majority were day tripping in Greenwich during my stay. It was teeming!

There is plenty to do in Royal Greenwich: peruse the indoor market, sneak a pie and a pint at one of the many pubs, take a stroll beside the River Thames, wander the Royal Naval College, hop on board the Cutty Sark ship (which is a replica as the original burnt in a fire some years ago, shame.) for a history lesson and wile away the hours taking in the lush Greenwich Park.

Atop Greenwich Park is the bomb scarred bronze statue of General Wolfe. The statue was “a gift of the Canadian people” as the inscription reads. The General, who died at a very young age in a battle just outside of Quebec now keeps watch over an excellent view of the city of London.

General Wolfe statue, Greenwich Park London.

So much of this visiting experience was familiar yet the city skyline view has changed and will keep changing year on year. Evident is a new London skyscraper dubbed the "Walkie-Talkie" and it was blamed for reflecting light which melted parts of a car parked on a nearby street! What a great story. The 37-storey office block has since gained a new sinister reputation: the fryscraper or the Walkie Scorchie. Ha!

Cameras were clicking, phones and Ipads recording ‘selfies’. It was sitting at this point beside the General and taking in the stunning view feeling like a part of the tourism crowd where I got thinking about postcards.

View from General Wolfe statue, Greenwich Park, London.

A picture postcard says, “I am here, I am here” or “I was here and it was great”. This city view I am sure would have adorned many a picture postcard over the years. Picture postcards are almost consigned to the past now with digital technology moving our images around the world to be shared with family and friends. Who needs another photographer’s image when we can so easily send one of our own?

Vancouver has all the attributes of a picture postcard city and is generally nominated as one of the world’s top 10 desirable cities in which to live - though exactly how they equate this is unknown to me. With desirability in mind I thought I’d better shoot some of those postcard images of Vancouver for myself. It’s something that I haven’t done to date.


Images ©Luke Potter

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